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What are the Pros and Cons of Whole Flaxseed?

Whole flaxseed offers a bounty of health benefits, from high fiber content to omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart health. However, its tough exterior can resist digestion, potentially limiting nutrient absorption. Ground flaxseed may be more digestible. Are you ready to explore how whole flaxseed can impact your well-being and how to best incorporate it into your diet?
Laura Metz
Laura Metz

Flaxseed is the seed from the common flax or linseed plant, and it is commonly sold as a health food. The advantages of eating whole flaxseed are that it is the most nutritious of all forms of flaxseed and that it keeps longer than any other flaxseed type. The disadvantages are that it passes through the body mostly undigested, and the body can’t process the nutrients. Most nutrition experts recommend buying it whole and grinding the seeds immediately before use.

Whole flaxseed is extremely healthy because it contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber and lignan. The omega-3 fatty acids help the body balance hormone production, which lowers the risk of some types of cancer, including breast, colon and prostate cancer. The high fiber content fights constipation and promotes health throughout the digestive tract.

Whole flaxseed can help control weight.
Whole flaxseed can help control weight.

Fiber makes people feel full longer, so whole flaxseed can help control weight. Lignan is a phytoestrogen, a natural plant hormone that acts like human estrogen. It can help ease symptoms of menopause and even pre-menstrual syndrome, in addition to possibly lowering the risk of cancer. Flaxseed also lowers cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.

Flaxseed lowers high blood pressure.
Flaxseed lowers high blood pressure.

Another advantage of eating whole flaxseed is that it has more nutrients than any other flaxseed type. Ground flaxseed begins to lose nutrients as soon as it is ground, because of oxidation. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container for about a week, but it is not as nutritious as whole flaxseed.

Milled flaxseed can last for a few months, because it is ground with as little oxygen exposure as possible. Flaxseed oil is very convenient and can be found in many health stores. One drawback is that flaxseed oil loses many health benefits because it does not contain any fiber. In addition, the oil spoils quickly. Whole flaxseed, on the other hand, can keep for months or even years, without going bad, because of its protective shell.


The main disadvantage is that the human body has a very difficult time digesting flaxseed whole because of that protective shell; instead, it tends to pass through the body with its nutrients, and its shell, intact. In order to get the most nutrients out of flaxseed, experts suggest grinding just enough for that day. That way, the body can digest the seeds, but they don’t have time to lose many nutrients. The easiest way for a person to grind whole flaxseed at home is with a small coffee grinder, food processor or spice grinder.

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Discussion Comments


Flaxseeds are tiny so it doesn't hurt to pass them. However the taste is a little different but not bad.


I like sprinkling whole flaxseed on top of yogurt. It's kind of like eating granola, but I think it's even more nutritious.


I bought some milled flaxseed to use when I made granola and to sprinkle on my smoothies. It tasted great for the first week or so, but then, it started to taste funny.

The next time I bought some, I stored it in a bag in the freezer. It began to taste like freezer burn, even though the bag was zipped shut.

So, I agree with the article that it is best to buy whole flaxseed and then grind it yourself. I have a mortar and pestle at home, and I need to use it.


@cloudel – I think that they are so small that you won't really feel them leaving your body. However, I knew a guy who had painful bloating after eating a bunch of them.

They can collect inside your guts and cause a blockage if you eat too many of them. This is a good reason to use flaxseed oil instead of whole seeds.


I wonder if it hurts to pass whole flaxseed. I'm reluctant to try it, because I don't want to be in excruciating pain during a bowel movement!

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