Dietary fats are a mandate. Without them, your hair wouldn’t be as healthy, your eyes wouldn’t function well, and your immunity would go for a toss! Here’s one popular form of good fats – flaxseed oil.
Flaxseed oil is extracted from the seeds of flax. Its unique nutritional profile might make it an alternative to fish oil. From alleviating dry eyes and diarrhea to protection from cancer and treating colitis – flaxseed oil can benefit you in several ways. Curious? Read on and enjoy the surprises!
Table Of Contents
What Makes Flaxseed Oil Good For Your Health?
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the answer.
Flaxseed oil is one of the richest sources of ALA (about 7 g/tablespoon). Flax seeds (Linum usitatissimum L.) are a bounty of essential fats, lipids, and fiber. The highest concentration of flax fats is in flax oil. This oil has active cardioprotective, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and laxative properties (1). It is more bioavailable in the oil than in the milled and whole seeds (1), (2).
This oil also has other fatty acids like linoleic, palmitic, stearic, and oleic acids. Here are their proportions (1):
|Fatty acids||Percentage (%) (Range)|
|Palmitic acid (C16:0)||4.90–8.00|
|Stearic acid (C18:0)||2.24–4.59|
|Oleic acid (C18:1)||13.44–19.39|
|Linoleic acid (C18:2) (?-6)||12.25–17.44|
|a-Linolenic acid (C18:3) (?-3)||39.90–60.42|
The flaxseed ALA is the precursor to the pivotal omega-3, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) – Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A fraction of dietary ALA (about 10% -15%) can get converted into these two long-chain PUFAs (3), (2).
This is why flaxseed oil is becoming popular as a vegan substitute for fish oil. Though fish oil is rich in EPA and DHA, the amount of converted EPA and DHA and the energy you get from flaxseed oil is much more (1), (2). This replacement comes with some ambiguity and apprehension.
What is important is that ALA helps in the transport of DHA to the brain cells (neurons). It might also be involved in the functions of skin and fur in mammals (3).
There is a long list of benefits that ALA has. Let’s take a look at what flaxseed oil offers in detail.
In What Ways Is Flaxseed Oil Beneficial To You?
1. Gives Young, Clear, And Supple Skin
Ayurveda and Chinese medicine use flaxseed oil to control the aging process. Flaxseeds can balance the pH, lighten blemishes, heal wounds, fight skin dryness, and improve the elasticity of your skin (1).
According to Ayurveda, the essential fatty acid deficiency could be treated with flaxseed oil. It can improve the moisture holding capacity of your skin, leaving it supple, hydrated, and lustrous (1).
In a randomized study with female groups, it was observed that flaxseed oil supplementation decreased skin sensitivity. Moreover, transepidermal water loss and skin scaling were found to be lesser in these females when compared to those treated with other oils (4).
Thus, flaxseed oil supplementation could improve your skin barrier function and fight signs of aging (4).
2. Relieves Inflammation And Related Disorders
The predominant active principle of flaxseed oil happens to be alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This ALA gets converted to EPA and DHA, which are potent anti-inflammatory molecules in optimum conditions.
EPA and DHA interact with C-reactive protein (CRP) (a pro-inflammatory compound) and reduce its serum levels. This way, flaxseed oil indirectly controls the inflammation in your body (5).
Flaxseed oil can mitigate inflammatory diseases like chronic kidney disease (CKD), rheumatoid arthritis, GERD, colitis, psoriasis, eczema, asthma, atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis, and other inflammatory disorders (6), (1).
However, the rate of conversion of plant-ALA to EPA/DHA is low. So, this anti-inflammatory effect of flaxseed oil might not always be pronounced (1).
3. Lowers Cholesterol And Prevents Heart Disease
Hypercholesterolemia is one primary cause of cardiovascular diseases. A study involving hemodialysis patients reported the positive effects of daily flaxseed oil intake.
The patient group on flaxseed oil supplementation (6 g/day) showed about 23% reduction in serum triglyceride concentration when compared to the control group (9).
This oil might also lower the LDL (bad cholesterol) and boost the HDL (good cholesterol) levels in hypercholesterolemic individuals (10).
A few studies demonstrate the anti-hypertensive and anti-atherosclerotic activity of flaxseed oil. But some studies report the ineffectiveness of this oil in altering serum lipids (11).
4. Helps Manage Eye Disorders
Deficiency of dietary fats can cause inflammation in different parts of the eye, including the cornea, conjunctiva, and lacrimal glands. It can also affect tear quality and quantity. One common ophthalmic disorder is dry eye disease (12), (13).
Research says that the oral administration of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can mitigate such a deficiency. This is because these fatty acids are responsible for the synthesis of pro- and anti-inflammatory compounds (12), (13).
Linseed oil counters the inflammatory effects of arachidonic acid and its derivatives. It triggers the synthesis of non-inflammatory mediators, PGE1 and TXA1. These molecules reduce inflammation of lacrimal glands, cornea, and conjunctiva (12).
Oral and topical administration of linseed/flaxseed oil may improve dry eye disease and restore vision functionality in these patients (12).
5. Improves Menstrual Health
Flax seeds also contain good amounts of lignan precursors. The predominant of those is secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG). SDG gets converted to enterodiol and enterolactone (14).
These three lignans are phytoestrogens. They are structurally and functionally similar to the estrogen in your body (15). They can weakly interact with estrogen receptors in your liver, brain, heart, and bones (15).
Flax oil might help relieve menopause symptoms, menstrual cramps, and treat infertility. These compounds can prevent bone diseases (osteoporosis) and cancers of breast, ovaries, and prostate to an extent (15).
Interestingly, flaxseed oils do not typically provide lignans unless ground flaxseeds have been added to the oil (15).
6. Might Possess Anticancer Properties
The high lignan content in flaxseeds might explain their oil’s anticancer and anti-proliferative properties.
Studies also link omega-3 fatty acids to cancer protection (14).
It’s not just the fatty acids. Flaxseed oil is also rich in several other micronutrients – which contribute to these benefits.
But before we proceed, let me clear a doubt that could be lurking in your mind.
What Is The Difference Between Flaxseed And Linseed?
Flaxseed is being cultivated since the beginning of human civilization. Almost every part of it is of industrial or economic importance.
Flaxseed is used to describe flax that is consumed as food by humans. Linseed is used to describe flax that is used in the industry and livestock (1).
Flax was initially grown by the US colonists to produce high-quality fiber, linen, and paper. But the recent times have seen flax growing increasingly famous in the food and health sectors (1).
Flaxseed oil is now a health fad. For those of you looking for the numbers to believe this fact, the next section might seem impressive.
Nutritional Profile Of Flaxseed Oil
|Nutrition Table for Flaxseed Oil|
|Nutrient||Unit||Serving size (1 tbsp or 13.6 g)|
|Total lipid (fat)||g||13.60|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||mg||0.06|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||µg||1.3|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||g||1.221|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated||g||2.508|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated||g||9.227|
|18:2 n-6 c,c||g||1.937|
|18:2 t not further defined||g||0.007|
|18:3 n-3 c,c,c (ALA)||g||7.258|
|20:2 n-6 c,c||g||0.004|
|Fatty acids, total trans||g||0.013|
|Fatty acids, total trans-monoenoic||g||0.006|
Cooking with flaxseed oil is the best way to get these micronutrients. Here are a few ways you can do that.
How To Use Flaxseed Oil In Cooking
You can use flaxseed oil for dressing those lunch salads, upping your yogurt game, or even whipping creamy meal smoothies.
Remember that flaxseed oil rapidly oxidizes because of its abundant fats. So, don’t use it directly for cooking. Instead, add it to pre-heated or cooked food.
Check out a super-quick and lip-smacking recipe using flaxseed oil below.
You may also want to take a look at supplements.
Wondering how much to take? Scroll down!
What Is The Recommended Dose Of Flaxseed Oil?
One tablespoon of flaxseed oil gives 7.3 g of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and about 120 calories. This could mean a lot of piled pounds!
Keeping this in mind, the Institute of Medicine recommends 1.6 g/day of ALA for men and 1.1 g for women. Generally, the amount in a flaxseed oil supplement is about 6.2 grams – this is within the safety limits (17).
However, if you have heart issues, we recommend you consult with a physician for the right dosage. Even otherwise, it is better to use these supplements under strict medical supervision.
This is because flaxseed oil may have mild side effects. You should read the next section to know more.
What Are The Safety Concerns And Side Effects Of Flaxseed Oil?
Flaxseed oil, flax seeds, and their supplements are well tolerated in small amounts. There are not many proven side effects of flaxseed oil.
However, keep the following points in mind while consuming flaxseed oil or supplements (18):
- Avoid flaxseed oil and the seeds during pregnancy and lactation. As flaxseeds have phytoestrogens, the oil might have mild yet unfavorable hormonal effects.
- Large quantities of flaxseed oil might cause constipation – leading to intestinal blockage. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated while taking it.
- The phytoestrogens in flaxseed oil might affect fertility in young men and women.
- Only 0.5%-1% of ALA in flaxseed oil gets converted to EHA, DPA, and other essential fatty acids. You might end up consuming a lot more of this oil to cater to your body’s fatty acid needs. Such high doses might backfire!
- Flaxseed derivatives may interfere with blood thinners, anticoagulants, and similar medications. Please use this oil under medical supervision.
Flaxseed oil is a natural source of essential fatty acids, fiber, lignans, and vitamins E and K. Supplementing your diet with this oil can boost the levels of critical precursors like EPA, DHA, secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG), and so on.
Optimal levels of these intermediates ensure smooth functioning of your eyes, kidneys, heart, GI tract, and the immune, reproductive, and nervous systems. Check with your doctor about the safety of flaxseed oil consumption. Enquire about the most suitable way and dosage for you.
Try our vinaigrette recipe too! We’d love to hear your feedback, suggestions, and queries. Please use the comments section to reach us.
- “Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine…” Journal of Food Science and Technology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Why not flaxseed oil?” Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
- “What is the role of alpha-linolenic acid for mammals?” Lipids, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Supplementation of flaxseed oil diminishes skin sensitivity…” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effect of Flaxseed Intervention on Inflammatory…” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Linseed And Linseed Oil: Health Benefits…” Review Article, International Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences.
- “A randomized trial of the effects of flaxseed…” Nutrition & Metabolism, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Flaxseed” Drugs and Lactation Database, Bookshelf, National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- “Effect of Flaxseed Oil on Serum Lipids and…” Iranian Journal of Kidney Diseases, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Linseed oil increases HDL3 cholesterol and decreases…” Kardiologia Polska, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effects of linseed oil on serum lipids and…” Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Use of linseed oil to treat experimentally induced…” Journal of Ophthalmic Inflammation and Infection, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids Therapy for…” Medical Science Monitor, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The Effect of Flaxseed in Breast Cancer…” Frontiers in Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Lignans” Micronutrient Information Center, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University.
- “Chemopreventive effects of dietary flaxseed oil…” Nutrition and Cancer, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Omega-3 fatty acids” National Institutes of Health.
- “Flaxseed and flaxseed Oil” National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health.
- 10 Serious Side Effects Of Flax Seeds
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