Flax seeds come from a flowering plant that typically grows in cooler climates. This annual plant in the Linaceae family produces blue flowers and a round fruit. It is within this fruit that numerous brown-colored seeds are found. Flax has been grown for thousands of years with a variety of purposes. Today, the primary aim of commercial production in North America is for the oilseed.
Flaxseed has become increasingly popular due to its nutritional benefits. This seed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fibre. A variety of clinical trials have demonstrated that flaxseed preparations (raw, ground, partially defatted, flaxseed bread and muffins, and flaxseed lignin extract) appear to significantly lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in individuals with normal cholesterol levels and in those with high cholesterol levels.1 Ground flaxseed is considered to have the most nutritional benefit. Grinding the seeds aids with digestion and causes the release of various nutrients. Whole flaxseed on the other hand may travel through our gastrointestinal tract without any digestion and subsequent nutrient release. Flaxseed is also available as an oil. This form, while possessing elevated amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, it has less dietary fibre and protein.
Flax seeds can be added easily to a variety of foods. Sprinkle on top of yogurt and cereal, bake with it, or mix into a smoothie.