There are 3 items that I will always, never fail, sprinkle into my smoothies: chia seeds, untoasted wheat germ, and ground flax seeds. Chia seeds for omega 3 and fiber, untoasted wheat germ for protein source and vitamins, and ground flax seeds for omega 3s (but a different kind than that of fish oil) and to keep my gastrointestinal tract clean and healthy. My friends, who I have made smoothies for, are always told all the delicious ingredients in my healthy smoothies but are also forewarned that they will eventually have to go to the bathroom . And we all know that’s a good thing because the mucilaginous (remember what this word means from my chia seeds post? ) property of chia seeds when ingested along with the fiber in both chia seeds and flax seeds, will DEFINITELY clean out your digestive tract and keep you “regular.” :)
What are flax seeds?
Flax seeds (can be written as one word or two) are a type of oil seed and come in both brown and yellow. The flax plant yields seeds and oil and is where the fiber for linen comes from. Most people eat the brown flax seed – which is a small, flat, shiny, smooth seed. But flax seed is often ground into a powder and then sprinkled, baked, or cooked into food.
Why are flax seeds a good supplement in your diet?
Flax seeds can help to:
- lower cholesterol
- are a good source of dietary fiber
- may stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics
- are a good source of ALA omega 3s
- are a good protein source
- may reduce strokes and coronary artery disease
- may reduce high blood pressure
- keep your GI tract clean and healthy
- possibly ameliorate GI issues – irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, constipation, gastritis, enteritis, etc
You will see in your neighborhood health food store or Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s an option to purchase flax seed or flax seed oil. I have been coming across people in the recent weeks who have been using the oil version. I recommend buying the whole flax seed and then grinding them down yourself with a grinder or blender because you will reap the most nutrients in this manner. As a rule of thumb, most foods in its purest form are the most nutritious. Makes sense, right? This means that the food has not been processed, which is what usually takes away the essential vitamins and minerals. This same idea applies to heating up and cooking food. As mentioned in one of my old posts on “Real food versus factory food,” food eaten in its most natural state will impart the most nutritional benefit to you. On this note, flax seed oil has less omega 3s and less fiber and lignans. Flax seed oil is also more expensive.
Grinding down flax seed will not only allow you to sprinkle it in all your meals but ground flax seed is also easier to digest – your body will better absorb its nutrients. Whole flax seed will likely pass through your digestive tract and may never even get incorporated into your body. So your best bet to reaping the most nutritional benefit from flax seeds is to buy them whole and then grind them down.
Finally, what is the difference between fish oil and flaxseed and which one should you take? Fish oil provides you with the long-chain omega 3s (the EPA and DHA) whereas flaxseed provides the short-chain omega 3 (ALA). Fish oil is good for the brain and flaxseeds are good for your digestive tract. Both are GREAT for lifting your mood . I take both everyday.
I usually take fish oil gel capsules and sprinkle ground flax seed into my smoothie, oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt. You can sprinkle ground flax seed into ANYTHING because it doesn’t have much of a taste (although most people say it has a “nutty” flavor, I never taste it). If I’m not eating either of the aforementioned food items or if I am traveling, I supplement instead with flaxseed oil gel capsules. But I much prefer the ground flax seed. Keep in mind flax seed oil is still good for you, ground flaxseed is just better. Having flaxseed in your dietary routine is better than none at all . So if flax seed oil is more convenient for you, then by all means, go with the oil. Keep in mind that you will have to refrigerate the oil and it will likely go rancid after 2 or 3 months. The same goes for ground flax seed. As long as you keep it in a sealed container, it will last for 9 months to a year before going bad.