Flaxseed is one of many so-called “superfoods” making the rounds on the Internet. The small seed of the flax plant is a soluble source of fiber that can act as a laxative. Many credit flaxseed for easing everything from hot flashes to arthritis pain.
According to WebMD, preliminary studies show that consuming flaxseed may help fight heart disease, diabetes and even breast cancer; however, further studies are needed, and people are urged not to consider it a definitive cure-all.
People may, therefore, consume flaxseed for various reasons, including to get, erm, regular; to ease inflammation; to ward off diabetes; and to help maintain a heart-healthy diet. But because it’s also a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, it’s especially important to vegetarians and vegans who can’t rely on the go-to fish oil. And who wants fish burps, anyway?
You can get flaxseed ground or whole. Since the whole point is to absorb as many of those omega-3 essential fatty acids as you can and maximize the benefits you reap from eating healthy, the Mayo Clinic recommends you stick with ground flaxseed because it’s easier for your body to digest.
Whole flaxseed actually keeps longer than ground, however, so you can also purchase it whole and grind it yourself. Another option is to take the supplement or the oil, of course, but nothing beats the real (ground) thing.
WebMD refers to the Flax Council of Canada regarding daily recommended dosage, which has yet to be officially determined. The council recommends a suggested dosage of 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed per day.
Or you can cook with it. Check out these banana-cinnamon waffles featured on Cooking Light, which are prepared with ground flaxseed. If you want to get really fancy, check out this recipe for California rolls with flax.
The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine lists potential side effects of consuming flaxseed. There aren’t many, but as with everything you take, you should exercise common sense and discuss with your doctor, particularly if you are taking medication for anything.