Last updated: August 27, 2021

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Flaxseed is an extremely nutrient dense plant, often ground and made into a powder that is then mixed into different meals many people eat on day to day basis. This superfood contains high amounts of many key vitamins and minerals humans need, including: omega-3, magnesium, mucilages, vitamin E and many more. Have you ever heard of this natural food supplement and all the benefits it can offer?

Most people consume flaxseed in order to improve the functioning of their heart and cardiovascular system, but this superfood has so much more to offer. All the healthy fats within flaxseed work to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduce blood cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of thrombosis (formation of blood clots). Thanks to its viscous, gel-like consistency it takes on in digestive system, flaxseed helps normalise blood glucose (sugar) levels and relieves constipation.

Key Facts

  • Flaxseed or linseed is a simple, inexpensive and effective option for anyone looking to improve heart, intestinal and/or brain health.
  • Flaxseed has a very large nutritional profile. It contains a number of healthy fats, proteins of very good biological value, soluble and insoluble fibre, vitamin E and magnesium to name a few.
  • Flaxseed can be eaten whole, ground or as flour. Concentrated Linseed oil and other variations of flaxseed capsules are also made and sold for convenient consumption.

The best flaxseed supplements

As with most seeds, linseed products are abundant, sold in a multitude of different forms. You can find oils, flours, capsules, as well as whole or crushed flaxseed. The seeds can range anywhere from a dark brown colour to a light gold. With all of these equally beneficial options, figuring out which flaxseed product is best for you can be difficult. To help you out, we’ve selected the best flaxseed supplements available on the market, comparing the advantages and disadvantages that each product offers.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about flaxseed or linseed

The most widespread benefits of flaxseed are those related to heart health. However, the reasons for consuming flaxseed in its various forms a far greater than just cardiovascular benefits. In this section, you’ll learn about all the positive effects that flaxseed can have on your body and the best flaxseed products to incorporate into your diet.

Happy Woman Having Healthy Breakfast. Healthy food

Adding flaxseed to your breakfast is a convenient and effective way to incorporate fibre into your diet.
(Source: Puhha: 45859342/

What is flaxseed exactly?

Flaxseed (often referred to as Linseed) is obtained from the plant Linum usitatissimum. They are small, oval, flat seeds. Their colour can vary from dark brown to light yellow. Some varieties of gold-coloured linseed have only small amounts of alpha-linolenic acids (ALAs) compared to those with brown tones. The ALAs are part of the omega-3 fatty acid family, and offer a number of benefits as a “healthy fat” within the body. There are a handful of other healthy fats present within flaxseed, however omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids are two of the most prevalent compounds.

What nutrients does flaxseed provide?

Flaxseed is part of a small, lesser known group of well-rounded, nutrient dense foods. It’s star components are magnesium, lignin, soluble fibre, vitamin E and alpha-linolenic acids. These compounds are directly related to the rejuvenating and healing properties of this superfood. In 100 grams of linseed we find:

  • 40-41 grams of fat: 23 grams of which are omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It also contains substantial amounts of omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids.
  • 20 grams of protein: This protein provides essential amino acid sources that our body must obtain from food. The quality of flaxseed protein is similar to that of soybean protein.
  • 28 grams of dietary fibre: Flaxseed provides both soluble and insoluble fibre. Each type of fibre has a different function within our body and digestive system, which we will elaborate on in more detail below.
  • Low in carbohydrates: Only 1 gram of complex carbohydrates.
  • Minerals: Magnesium, potassium, calcium and phosphorus.
  • Vitamins: Vitamin E and B-complex vitamins (B1, B3, B5 and folate).
  • Other important nutrients: Flavonoids and lignin.

What are the known benefits of flaxseed?

Flaxseed and all products made from them have nutraceutical properties. This means that in addition to offering us all the necessary nutrients our body needs to function properly, they have the capacity to aid in the prevention and treatment of certain infections and diseases. Flaxseed provides all the following benefits:

Brown flax seeds on spoon and flaxseed oil in glass jug on wooden table. Flax oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acid.

Linseed and linseed flours must be mixed with other foods or liquids in order to be consumed.
(Source: Geografika: 34736706/
  • Flaxseed acts to strengthen and support our cardiovascular system. In other words, it works to combat heart disease and to keep the heart functioning at its highest capacity.
  • Prevents ischemia and strokes.
  • Decreases blood cholesterol levels.
  • Reduces the risk of developing atherosclerosis and, when the disease has already developed, slows its progression. Atherosclerosis is the accumulation of fatty plaques (and other substances) inside the walls of the arteries. This in turn leads to decreased blood flow and, if not addressed, it can lead to total obstruction of blood vessels.
  • Keeps blood glucose levels stable and, when added into meals, reduces blood sugar spikes after eating.
  • Decreases blood ​pressure in hypertensive people.
  • Reduces the risk of thrombosis and the formation of blood clots. This helps to prevent heart attacks or strokes.
  • Fights inflammation and relieves joint pain.
  • Prevents cancer, primarily breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.
  • Reduces menopause-related ​bone demineralisation and protects against osteoporosis.
  • Enriches salads, yogurts, pancakes, breads, smoothies and soups, providing protein, fibre and high quality fats to these meals.
  • Increases feelings of satiety and reduces appetite for several hours.
  • Helps reverse constipation and contributes to the balance of the intestinal flora.

How does flaxseed protect cardiovascular health?

Flaxseed is considered to have cardio-protective properties because it has the ability to decrease risk factors associated with the development of heart disease. In addition, it contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that protect muscle tissue and blood vessels at a cellular level. Omega-3s, fibre, magnesium, flavonoids and vitamin E all work to improve heart health.

The lignin present in flaxseed is an antioxidant that protects the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals rapidly increase one's risk of developing heart disease. Omega-3’s specifically target cholesterol levels and prevent plaque from forming inside the artery walls. They also help in decreasing inflammation responses, a defence mechanism that at extreme levels, can provoke heart disease.

flax seeds, blue flowers and oil close-up horizontal

Flaxseed oil decreases the risk of thrombosis .(Source: Koval: 30363781/

Because lignin acts as a soluble fibre, it helps lower blood cholesterol by removing “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) from our blood. Magnesium is a key mineral for the proper functioning of heart muscle. Vitamin E has high levels of antioxidants that have actions similar to those of lignin.

Janet Bond BrillNutritionist
"Incorporating just 2 tablespoons of flaxseed into our diet provides about 3.5 grams of ALA (omega 3 alpha-linolenic acid), which exceeds the daily amount recommended by the National Institutes of Health without any harmful repercussions.”

How should flaxseed be consumed to lower cholesterol?

Both whole or ground flaxseed, whether in flour form, oils or capsules, can be beneficial for lowering high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia). Flaxseed capsules and oils consist of pure, completely preserved healthy fats; predominantly omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids.

Whole and ground brown flax seeds or linseeds on wooden spoons, photographed on dark wood with natural light

Flaxseed comes in two main forms, whole and ground.
(Source: Ildipapp: 64425001/

Omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids are not the only hypolipidemic agents present in linseed. The soluble fibre inside flaxseed also plays a key role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. It acts like a sponge in the stomach and intestines that "traps" cholesterol from food and facilitates its storage in the liver or its elimination through the lower part of our digestive tract.

To take full advantage of the soluble fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed must be ground and/or soaked before consumption. Otherwise, the hard outer layer of the seed won’t allow the digestive enzymes to act on the nutrients inside it (fats, soluble fibre, proteins). The flaxseed will simply be eliminated in the faeces, without a chance for its nutrients to be absorbed and utilised by the small intestine.

Janet Bond BrillNutritionist and Dietician
"Packed with soluble fibre, flaxseed works like a sponge that absorbs cholesterol in your digestive tract, facilitating healthy bowel movements."

Should whole flaxseed be "activated" before consumption?

Yes, flaxseed is activated by grinding it and/or soaking it in water for 15-30 minutes before consumption. This process increases digestibility, allowing the nutrients to be taken up by the body. If it’s shell is never broken, the flaxseed acts only as an intestinal stimulus that favours the passage of food through the digestive system. All other potential benefits are lost.

What foods can flaxseed be incorporated into?

Flaxseed can be used in sweet, salty and bitter recipes. Seeds can be added to yogurts, vegetable drinks, shakes, soups, salads, fillings, quiche doughs, cookies and breads - you name it! When flaxseed is hydrated with water, it forms a thick gel around itself. This makes it extremely useful as an egg white substitute in vegan recipes.

Linseed flour can be mixed with other flours to make breads, biscuits, bread sticks, scones and more. It is also great when used alone or mixed with other oils for salad dressings or other condiments like vegan mayonnaise.

Heating linseed oil can be dangerous, as its fats may deteriorate under high temperatures.

Why is the magnesium present in linseed so important?

The role of magnesium in flaxseed is multifaceted. Magnesium is a major component in our teeth and bones, so deficiencies are related to dental problems, bone demineralisation and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Furthermore, it is an essential mineral for muscle, heart and nerve function. It also helps in the treatment of migraines and hyperactive attention deficit disorders.

Can flaxseed supplementation help you lose weight?

There are no superfood or magical slimming supplements. However, flaxseed can facilitate weight loss as it helps reduces appetite. Mucilages, a type of soluble fibre present in this seed, captures water in the stomach, forming a gel. This slows digestion, increasing satiety and inhibiting hormones that stimulate hunger.

In a weight loss plan, its best to take 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, accompanied by a full glass of water half an hour before any main meal. It is essential to accompany the linseed with plenty of water. While ground flaxseed has the ability to reduce the appetite, capsules and linseed oil also provide powerful effects by others means.

flax seed in spoon on table

Incorporating fibre into our diet is crucial for our overall well-being.
(Source: Florian: 65453831/

How does flaxseed help regulate bowel function?

Linseed contains both types of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre (mucilages) absorbs water, giving faecal matter greater volume and moisture. This facilitates a smoother passing of food and cleansing of the intestines. Insoluble fibre stimulates intestinal peristalsis (contractions) and decreases intestinal transit time.

Together, the soluble and insoluble fibre present in flaxseed promote complete intestinal cleansing without causing pain, discomfort or colics. To treat or prevent constipation, flax seeds should be ingested ground and accompanied by plenty of liquid (water, milkshake, milk, vegetable drink, etc.)

Remember that without liquid, flaxseed is not able to carry out its gentle laxative effect.

Who should take flaxseed supplements?

Those with chronic, daily cases of constipation will benefit greatly from taking flaxseed supplements. Those with a history of breast cancer, osteoporosis or diabetes should take flaxseed to maintain healthy levels of magnesium and reduce bone loss. Diabetics also benefit greatly from flaxseed and its ability to regulate blood glucose. The concentrated oils and capsules are intended for people who need consistent, daily supplementation of omega-3, omega-9 and vitamin E. Below is a list of chronic diseases that can benefit from flaxseed supplementation.

  • Heart disease or a family history of heart disease.
  • Arthritis (disease that involves inflammation of joints) and osteoarthritis (deterioration of joint cartilage).
  • Hypercholesterolemia (above normal blood cholesterol levels).
  • Atherosclerosis (a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries).

Why is flaxseed considered an anti-carcinogenic food?

Flaxseed is rich in lignin and vitamin E, two kinds of antioxidants that neutralise the oxidative cellular damage that often precedes the development of cancer. Lignin is a phytoestrogen, a plant substance that acts on the body through hormonal mechanisms. It is for this reason that it can help prevent postmenopausal breast cancer.

A study of melanoma in mice showed that flaxseed reduced the number and size of tumours and it also decreased the risk of metastasis. Moreover, omega-3 fatty acids help prevent cancer by fighting inflammation. In conclusion, flaxseed consumption has been linked to lower incidence of breast, colon and prostate cancer.

Dr. James DukeChief of the United States Department of Agriculture
"Flaxseed contains 27 compounds that are identified as anti-carcinogenic."

In order to obtain the above mentioned benefits, what is the recommended dose of flaxseed that should be ingested?

For linseed and flaxseed flour, the recommended amount (not to be exceeded) is 2 tablespoons a day (about 15 grams). Young children should not consume more than 5 grams per day, going over these values would cause them to exceed their recommended daily intake of fibre.

Flaxseed capsules should be consumed in doses of 1 or 2 units per day, depending on the concentration.

Are there negative side effects associated with the consumption of flaxseed ?

Adverse effects after moderate flaxseed consumption are rare. In excess, it can generate digestive discomfort (flatulence, swelling or colic). In addition, people with diabetes who use insulin or take insulin sensitisers (e.g. metformin) should not abuse flaxseed in order to avoid hypoglycaemia.

No supplement is exempt from contraindications and flaxseed is no different. Just as they can be very beneficial in preventing certain diseases, they can also worsen others. Flaxseed supplements are usually safe for the general population. However, the consumption of this superfood is not advised in cases of:

  • Diverticulitis: When the diverticula within the intestinal tract become inflamed and bleeding occurs, foods rich in fibre, including flaxseed, should be avoided.
  • People taking chronic medication: Because flaxseed forms a gel-like substance in the stomach and intestines, this may decrease drug absorption. A good measure is to consume flaxseed 2 to 3 hours after taking the medication.
  • Children, pregnant women and infants: As there are no studies to ensure that flaxseed supplements are safe at these stages, these demographics should proceed with caution before incorporating them into their diet.
  • People who are suffering from breast, prostate or other cancers: Flaxseed lignin exerts a slight hormonal shift that can interfere with the onset of certain diseases and their treatment.

What is the difference between chia seed oil, linseed oil and cod liver oil?

While all 3 oils are rich in omega-3s, their healthy fats are not the same. Chia and flaxseed oil are both rich in an essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Cod liver oil on the other hand, is a source of other essential omega-3 fatty acids: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

Linseed oil and linseeds

Flaxseed oil helps prevents cardiovascular diseases.
(Source: Opule: 55245855/

All are omega-3s, but the ALA of flax and chia does not replace the DHA and EPA of cod liver oil. The three types of omega-3 protect cardiovascular and joint health, and contribute to lowering cholesterol. The differentiating properties in DHA and EPA within cod liver oil come down to their functionality in the health of the brain and nervous system.

Cod liver oil prevents neurodegenerative pathologies such as Alzheimer's disease, dementia and Parkinson's disease. It also promotes eye health. However, this oil is not suitable for vegans and may be contaminated with heavy metals if it has not been produced under strict quality control standards.

Flaxseed oil Chia seed oil Cod liver oil
Does it offer cardiovascular protection? Yes Yes Yes
Does it help lower blood cholesterol? Yes Yes Yes
Does it relieve pain in joint disease? Yes Yes Yes
Does it improve brain function (memory and learning)? No No Yes
Does visual health improve? No No Yes
Does it contain phytoestrogens? Yes No No
Toxicity risk Very low Very low Very high (heavy metals and other toxicants). It is very important to be aware of the presence of contamination during production.
Suitable for vegans Yes Yes No
Flavour Mild, Almost neutral. Soft, pleasant, nut-like. Intense, very odorous.

What types of flaxseed supplements are there and which one is the right one for me?

As we mentioned above, there are a handful of flaxseed products and each of them have distinct properties and benefits. Even if a supplement is of excellent quality, it may not be the right one to suit your needs. When buying a linseed supplement you should first choose between:

  • Whole flaxseed
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Linseed oil
  • Linseed oil ​capsules

Whole flaxseed

Whole flaxseed is a source of protein (20%), fibre (28%) and omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids (40%). If it is not crushed or soaked before consumption, it will act only as a laxative and pass through the body without leaving behind its key nutrients: lignin, mucilages, vitamin E, magnesium, proteins and healthy fats.

Ground flaxseed

Ground flax seed provides 20% protein, 40% fat and 26% fibre. When crushing the seed, a small amount of fibre is lost. However, ground flaxseed is highly digestible, especially if soaked in water (germination). The more the supplement can be absorbed by the system, the more likely you are to reap the benefits of this nutrient-dense product.

Flax, hand-painted watercolor set, vector clipping paths included

Ground linseed is perfect for adding it to smoothies and shakes.
(Source: Serova: 53083984/

Flaxseed meal

Once the flaxseed is pressed to extract the oil, a dry mass of plant material is left over. After going through a thorough grinding process, linseed flour is made. Because of this process, flour is more concentrated in protein (38%) and fibre (35%) and lower in fats (23%) than the raw seed. When using linseed meal, it’s recommended to mix it with other types of flour.

Linseed oil

Flaxseed oil consists primarily of pure omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acid chains. The best way to preserve the excellent quality of these fats is to obtain the oil through a profess of cold pressing. Remember that high temperatures alter the chemical structure of the fatty acid chain in the oil, destroying its medicinal properties. So keeping the oil at room temperature or colder is crucial to the preservation of its nutrient properties.

Linseed oil capsules

Linseed capsules are made-up of pure flaxseed oil, encapsulated by a plant-based casing called hydroxypropyl methyl-cellulose, which makes these products suitable for vegans. Like simple flaxseed oil, these capsules provide no fibre or protein, only the healthy fatty acid chains, and vitamin E.

The omega fatty acid chain concentration varies between different brands.

Shopping Criteria

Although the nutritional and medicinal properties of flaxseed are great, there are still many other factors one should consider before making a final purchase. Evaluating every aspect of any new product of interest is your obligation as a responsible consumer, and it is a fundamental step in risk prevention. The main characteristics to consider when purchasing flaxseed supplements include:


Flaxseed has a mild, nutty taste, which should be taken into account when using it in the preparation of baked goods. Flaxseed oil has a more potent, and intense flavour than sunflower oil. However, if the taste has become bitter, this is a sign that the product could be rancid. If you’re looking for a supplement with a more neutral taste, opt for capsules.

Method of ingestion

Whole and ground flaxseed and flaxseed meals need to be mixed with other foods or liquids to be consumed. Remember that the seeds must be ground to allow a full release of their nutrients. Oils can be used as an ingredient in fresh dressings, or drizzled on top of salads alone. Last not least, the capsules are easy to take while on the go, just accompany them with a generous amount of water to swallow them.


All linseed-based products should be stored in a cool, dark place without excessive ventilation. Oxygen, light and high temperatures can deteriorate the integrity of its fatty acids, causing them to be rancid. The smell and taste caused by rancid seeds is definitely something we want to keep in mind and make sure to avoid. The capsules come in a bottle and should be kept there at all times until ready to use to ensure proper preservation.


Linseed and its different supplement formats are one of the amazing plant products that, because of their abnormally high level of numerous vitamins and minerals, have medicinal properties. However, each product should be used for the specific illnesses or areas of the body that they can best target. For example, taking flaxseed oil is useless if you want to normalise blood glucose or treat constipation. The following table summarises the use of each supplement.

Whole flaxseed Ground flaxseed Linseed meal Flaxseed oil Linseed oil capsules
Flavour Mild, nut-like Mild, nut-like Mild, nut-like Mild, but more intense than sunflower oil. Neutral
Percentage of fat 40-41% 40-41% 23% 100% 100%
Presence of mucilages and lignin (fibre) Yes Yes Yes No No
Recommended use If not crushed they are only useful for cases of constipation. To enrich preparations and control and prevention of diabetes. Same use as ground flax seed. Lower blood cholesterol. Reduce inflammation and soothe joint pain. Same as flaxseed oil.


Those who consume only organic products should look for a nutritional label seal that guarantees the absence of agrochemicals and artificial additives. Vegans should double-check the ingredient list that nothing within the product is of animal origin. Coeliacs may only consume products certified gluten-free.


Flaxseed and its supplements offer important health benefits, especially for those who suffer from constipation, high cholesterol or have a history of CVD. Regular flaxseed consumption can have a positive impact on diabetic, hypertensive and overweight individuals.

Linseed is very versatile and adapts to a variety of recipes. Its taste is pleasant and its price is very reasonable. Because of this, it is a valuable tool for improving the nutritional status of both children and adults without involving major changes in budget or in eating habits.

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(Featured image source: ÐлекÑей Резин: 96158191/

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