Be Heart Healthy and Lose Weight!

Flaxseed – Whole Seed vs. Ground

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 8, 2008

Let’s start with what you should know about flaxseed to make sure you are getting the most from this supplement.

Flaxseed is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to decreased risk of developing heart disease.  Most American’s consume a diet high in omega 6 fatty acids (corn oil, beef, and chicken).  The goal is not to switch completely to omega 3’s only, but to improve the ratio by increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.  One option to do so is by adding flaxseeds to your diet.

You can buy flaxseed two different ways – whole seed or ground.  In order for the body to utilize the omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed must be ground.  If the flaxseed is not ground it passes straight through the body without being absorbed.  Flaxseed is high in fiber, so by ingesting whole flaxseed you have increased your fiber intake, which is beneficial, but if you grind your flaxseed you will have the added benefit of increasing your omega-3 fatty acid intake.  Using a coffee grinder is a simple way to grind your flaxseeds.  Another option is to purchase flaxseed already ground.  Flaxseed has a tendency to go rancid, for this reason keep ground seeds refrigerated.  You can increase your intake by adding flaxseed to foods during preparation, such as spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, chili, hot cereal, muffins, pancakes, and yogurt.


12 Responses to “Flaxseed – Whole Seed vs. Ground”

  1. Steve said

    We get so many of our emails around flax seed that it has overwhelmed my editors. For such a small little seed it packs a powerful nutritional punch. We will continue to learn more about this wonderful gift from mother nature.

    The number one goof with this seed is people are taking it WHOLE. It must be ground up. We have found that 45-60 seconds in the coffee grinder is just right. Then apply it to your recipes….

  2. Carol Rodriguez said

    Can ground flax seed be taken with flax seed oil? If so, what amounts
    of each should be used on a daily basis?
    I usually take one fish oil capsule 1,000mg (wild caught small fish)in the morning plus an organic flax oil capsule 1200mg in the evening. Can it be over done?
    Carol Rodriguez.

  3. Carol Rodriguez said

    I’m back. It worries me that the French have banned this product because it is derived from linseed. In their report it says that flax seed when heated becomes toxic. Here you recommend it as an ingredient
    in many recipes that require cooking. Would you please elaborate on that? As much as I want the benefits, I want to know that I’m not harming myself.
    Thanks again,
    Carol Rodriguez.

  4. Hi Carol,

    I want to double check on the effect of heat on flax before giving you an answer to that question.

    As far as amount, there is controversy regarding how much omega 3 is beneficial and where to draw the line.

    Here are the recommendations of The American Heart Association:

    The AHA recommends that individuals without heart disease eat a variety of fish twice a week, use heart healthy oils (flaxseed, canola, soybean oils), and consume flaxseed and walnuts.

    For individuals with heart disease, the AHA recommends 1 g of EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) + DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) daily, preferably from fatty fish.

    The AHA recommends 2 to 4 g of EPA + DHA daily, under physician’s care only, for individuals that need to lower triglycerides. High doses, > 3 grams/day, can result in excessive bleeding. (Do not self medicate! Talk to your MD before supplementing greater than 2 grams.)

    It’s the excessive bleeding risk that is controversial. Some studies show a link between omega 3’s and increased bleeding, others show not link, and some actually show a decreased risk.

    I’ll get back to you on the safety of heated flax.

    All the best,

  5. Hi Carol,

    I’m glad you asked this question. It was good to do a little more research regarding the safety of flax seed.

    From the research I completed, it appears that France has banned flaxseed oil. The country still allows foods fortified with flax, such as pastas, eggs, etc. Flaxseed oil when heated is a concern and it’s best to add the oil to a food after cooking prep is complete.

    Ground flaxseed is not as unstable as the oil. However, if you want to play it safe, add the ground flax towards the end of the cooking cycle, such as sprinkle in your chili after you’re done heating. However, I did not find any studies reporting a danger related to heating ground flax seed, only the flax seed oil.

    I hope this helps.

    All the best,
    Lisa Nelson RD

  6. lisa said

    I recently purchased ground flaxseed and was so excited because of the benefits. I was on birthcontrol for several months and have fibroids. The BCP were doing a great job controlling my bleeding. On the evening I began taking 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed I began bleeding. After a few days it slowed and hoping it wasn’t the flaxseed I took it again. I began bleeding again that day. It has not stopped for over 4 weeks. Has anyone had similar experience. Any thoughts on how I can control the bleeding. I have not had good luck with doctors having a vested interest in finding solutions to my issues so I would appreciate the advice. My current gyno says because the fibroids aren’t larger than a quarter and are a great quantity that my only alternative is a hysterectemy at 39.

    • Carol Rodriguez said

      Can’t help with the bleeding issue, nor do I have any experience or knowledge I can pass on. I’m hoping you already have children. At your age I had a hysterectomy. I had never borne any children. I had recently adopted a child when I had an ectopic pregnancy which caused internal bleeding. The hysterectomy was an emergency procedure. I opted to take hormone replacement because I didn’t want early onset of brittle bones etc. Today I’m 69 and celebrate my 70th this year. I still take my hormone (premarin). I do not look my age, 50ish? I put a full days work in, I’m always busy and feel pretty damn good.
      I WOULD suggest you seek a second opinion from another GYN.
      Should a hysterectomy be your only option don’t fear it because of your youth. Whatever you’ve heard I’m here to tell you I had no adverse health problems. Not even weight gain.
      Hopefully, there will be another alternative.
      I wish you ‘All the best’.

    • Hope said

      Flax like chia, like soy, like the Chaste Berry contain phyto estrogen which is the reason why you probably started bleeding again. I would stop doing flax seed and do some other form of omega 3 product that isn’t plant based. I can’t do any of the above without it causing me to have issues with my monthly so I don’t do those forms of Omega 3’s. Every supplement isn’t for everybody. You need to listen to your body when you start taking new supplements.

      I hope you have already stopped taking it.


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  8. Hope Conner said

    Flax like chia, like soy, like the Chaste Berry contain phyto estrogen which is the reason why you probably started bleeding again. I would stop doing flax seed and do some other form of omega 3 product that isn’t plant based. I can’t do any of the above without it causing me to have issues with my period so I don’t do those forms of Omega 3’s.

    I hope you have already stopped taking it.

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