I've always loved flaxseeds for their delicious flavor and texture, but their many nutrients and health benefits are even more impressive. Below, I've listed flaxseeds most important nutrients and explain the health benefits of each.
- (Measurements are per 1 ounce / 28 grams, serving)
- Calories – 150
- Protein – 5.1 grams – 10% RDA
- Fat – 11.8 grams – 18% RDA
- Saturated fat – 1.0 gram
- Monounsaturated fat – 2.1 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat – 8.0 grams
- Fiber – 7.6 grams – 31% RDA
- Omega-3 (ALA) – 6,338 mg
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) – 0.5 mg 31% RDA
- Vitamin B6 – 0.1 mg – 7% RDA
- Manganese – 0.7 mg – 35% RDA
- Magnesium – 110 mg – 27% RDA
- Phosphorus – 180 mg 18% RDA
- Selenium – 7.1 mcg – 10% RDA
- Calcium – 71.4 mg – 7% RDA
- Iron – 1.6 mg – 9% RDA
- Potassium – 228 mg – 7% RDA
- Copper – 0.3 mg – 17% RDA
- Zinc – 1.2 mg – 8% RDA
Like all seeds, flaxseeds are relatively high in calories, but they are also rich in high value nutrients. A single ounce of flaxseeds contains more than 5 grams of protein, nearly 8 grams of fiber and 6,338 mg of alpha lipoic acid (ALA) in the form of omega-3 fatty acid.
Everyone knows how important fiber is to a healthy digestive system, but did you know that flaxseeds contain a special fiber called mucilage? Mucilage is a water soluble, gel-forming fiber that's very beneficial to the intestinal tract. According to Dr. Axe, “One of the most extraordinary benefits of flax seeds is that they contain high levels of mucilage gum content. ... The mucilage can keep food in the stomach from emptying too quickly into the small intestine which can increase nutrient absorption. Also, flax is extremely high in both soluble and insoluble fiber which can support colon detoxification, fat loss and reduce sugar cravings.”1 So, eating flax seeds helps you absorb more nutrients from foods and makes you feel fuller longer, decreasing hunger and promoting weight loss.
The ALA fats in flaxseeds are beneficial to both good health and beauty. “The ALA fats in flax seeds benefits the skin and hair by providing essential fats as well as b-vitamins which can help reduce dryness and flakiness. It can also improve symptoms of acne, rosacea, and eczema. This also applies to eye health as flax can reduce dry eye syndrome.”1 And, as you can see the nutrient list above, flaxseeds also contain saturated fat, but that's not a bad thing. As I stated in 'The Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds', “our bodies actually need saturated fat for good health.”2 It plays a key role in cardiovascular, liver, lung, brain and immune health.
An ounce of flaxseeds contains nearly one-third of the Vitamin B1 (aka thiamin) one needs per day. Vitamin B1 plays a key role in metabolism, helping our bodies turn food into energy. Flaxseeds also contain more than one-third of the manganese we need each day. Manganese is extremely important to bone health. It's needed for bone metabolism, bone structure, and manufacturing the enzymes needed for bone formation. In addition, “[Manganese] also acts as a co-enzyme to assist metabolic activity in the human body. Apart from these, there are other health benefits of manganese including the formation of connective tissues, absorption of calcium, proper functioning of the thyroid gland and sex hormones, regulation of blood sugar level, and metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.”3
Magnesium and phosphorus are both important to bone health and energy metabolism. In addition to energy production, phosphorus is an essential structural component of cell membranes and nucleic acids, and indispensable to several biological processes. “Phosphorus is needed for bone mineralization, cell signaling, regulation of acid-base homeostasis, as well as the aforementioned energy production.”2 Magnesium is an essential co-factor for hundreds of enzymes and our bodies could not properly utilize calcium (which flaxseeds also contain), to build and maintain strong bones, without it.
Most of calcium's bone, muscle and cardiovascular health benefits are well-known. Unfortunately, many also believe that milk and other dairy products are the only way to get sufficient amounts of calcium in one's diet. Not true. Just one ounce of flaxseeds contains 7% of the RDA, and flaxseeds are not even considered among the best vegan sources of calcium! There are at least 30 other whole foods that contain more calcium than flaxseeds. Something to keep in mind.
Flaxseeds have a relatively high content of copper per serving. Copper is one of the reasons flaxseeds are great for cardiovascular health. Copper strengthens the arteries and helps them to maintain their structural integrity. It also improves the look and feel of skin, by strengthening collagen in the body. “Dry, brittle hair and premature graying, as well as varicose veins, growth plate arthritis, low blood sugar and liver cirrhosis have all been associated with a copper deficiency.”2 Many Americans are not getting enough copper in their diets, and flaxseeds are a simple way to get more.
Flaxseeds don't contain as much selenium as sunflower seeds, but 10% of the RDA is nothing to sneeze at. Selenium is essential to our immune health. It's been proven that a deficiency of the mineral makes one more susceptible to illness. “[Selenium] stimulates the production of white blood cells – also known as leukocytes – and improves natural killer cells' ability to respond to viral and bacterial invasion.”4
Flaxseeds aren't particularly rich in iron, potassium and zinc, which are in the 7-9% RDA range, but for a one ounce serving of seeds that you'll be eating with other foods, it's more than good enough. Also, these are all nutrients than many people are deficient in, so every little bit helps.
Iron is essential for strong bones and teeth, as everyone knows, but it's also required for the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. “Hemoglobin is the substance that makes red blood cells red, it also transports oxygen from the lungs throughout the rest of the body. Without iron, we could not utilize the oxygen from the air we inhale, we would suffocate.”2
Potassium is one of the seven essential macro-minerals that we cannot survive without. It's also an electrolyte important to many key bodily processes that keep us alive. Potassium (along with sodium) regulates the body's fluid balance and controls the electrical activity of the heart and other muscles, keeps blood pressure in check. And, according to Medical News Today, “High potassium intakes are associated with a 20% decreased risk of dying from all causes, a reduced risk of stroke, lower blood pressure, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.”5
The essential trace mineral zinc is now considered the go-to natural remedy for sore throats. It's available in lozenges and drops and, from what I hear, it's very effective. I'm not surprised, as zinc is necessary for proper immune system functioning. “According to the National Institutes of Health, your daily diet should include between 8 and 11 mg of zinc from the foods you eat each day. This amount of zinc encourages proper wound healing. There is evidence that zinc can also prevent colds or reduce the severity of an already existing cold. MayoClinic.com notes that zinc lozenges or syrup may reduce the duration of your cold by one day. MayoClinic.com does not necessarily recommend that you take zinc for your sore throat though, because there is no definitive proof that it really works or what dosage would be the most effective.”6
There's no downside to consuming flaxseeds, even it's fats are healthy and beautifying. Years ago, before I knew better, I use to eat them whole, in a bowl of Cream of Wheat every morning, but that soon lead to stomach pains. Do not eat flaxseeds whole! They taste more delicious whole (to me anyway), but the pain was not worth it. Also, they pass through the body whole and undigested, their nutrients wasted. So, grind your flaxseeds before eating or buy them ground. They'll still taste good. And flaxseeds are not just a yummy addition to hot cereal, they taste great added to cold ones as well. I know many people who add them to their smoothies and home-made breads and other cooked and raw dishes as well, and the ones I've tasted were delicious. So, know that however you chose to eat your flaxseeds, you can count on both great taste and great nutrition.
A guest blog by holistic writer Andrea Lewis.
1 “Top 10 Flaxseeds Benefits & Nutrition Facts”. Dr. Axe, n.d. Web. March 2016
2 Lewis, Andrea. “The Health Benefits of Sunflower Seeds”. Daily Juice Cafe, March 2, 2016. Web.
3 “Health Benefits of Manganese”. Organic Facts, n.d. Web.
4 Lewis, Andrea. “Whole Foods for Cold & Flu Prevention”. Daily Juice Cafe,
January 8, 2016. Web
5 Ware, Megan, RDN LD. “Potassium: Health Benefits, Recommended Intake.” Medical News Today, December 14, 2015. Web. March 2016
6 Ipatenco, Sara. “Zinc Tablets & sore Throats”. Livestrong, September 6, 2011. Web. March 2016
“Nutrition Facts and Analysis for Seeds, Flaxseed”. SELF Nutrition Data <nutritiondata.self.com>, n.d. Web. March 2016
“Health Benefits of Calcium”. Organic Facts, n.d. Web