Does it make any difference if I eat whole flaxseeds or use a flaxseed oil supplement?

As a dietitian I get asked this question a lot and the short answer is, yes. Let’s look at why:

Whole flaxseeds (or linseeds) are one of the most concentrated plant sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a powerful anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid. They contain 50-60% omega-3’s, rich in dietary fibre, B vitamins, protein, potassium, antioxidants and lignans (a group of phytoestrogens). Research shows that when lignan is consume in the diet, it may have the potential to reduce breast cancer and prostate cancer growth and decrease the incidence of hot flashes in women not using hormone replacement therapy. Findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the seeds (not the oil) can reduce total and LDL (bad) cholesterol by a vast amounts, particularly post-menopausal, as well as assist in lowering blood pressure.

In order for flaxseeds to be easily digested and to get the most nutritional benefits from them, they must be ground. Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, contains only ALA but no lignans. Walnuts and soybeans, among many other plant foods, are also rich sources of ALA.

It is important to note that the omega-s fatty acids in flax seeds aren’t taken up as well in the human body compared to the omega-3’s in fish oil, which is why greater levels of flaxseed need to be consumed to meet our omega-3 requirements.

Some of my favourite ways to incorporate more flaxseeds into the diet are buying it in the form of ground LSA (linseed, sunflower seed and almond) mix, which can be sprinkled on your cereal, in your smoothies, porridge, and soups as well as used to coat fillets of chicken breast of fish. Alternatively, you can buy your own whole flaxseeds and whiz them through the blender to make your own meal. Flaxseed meal can also be used as a binder or egg substitute in baking for people who are allergic to eggs. Flax seed oil can be added to smoothies, soups, cooking on a low heat or in homemade salad dressings.

People who may want to be cautious in using high quantities of this super seed may be those who suffer irritable bowel syndrome, due to their high dietary fibre content. Blood-thinning medications, blood glucose-lowering medications, topical steroids, cholesterol-lowering medications and anti-inflammatories may be affected by flaxseeds and flaxseed supplements, so speak to your doctor or dietitian before taking supplements or increasing dietary levels of flaxseeds.

Please call our Dietitian on 9948 2826 or visit our clinic at 9/470 Sydney Rd in Balgowlah servicing the surrounding suburbs of Allambie, Balgowlah Heights, Seaforth, Fairlight and Manly on the Northern Beaches.

Image Credit: Alisha Vargas https://flic.kr/p/6gWLRm