By Elliot Fisher MS, CSCS, PES, NSCA-CPT
You may have heard of flaxseed being a very nutritious food that you should incorporate into your diet. Rightfully so, flaxseed has numerous health benefits. However, there are drawbacks.
Flaxseed is high in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fats, meaning you can only get these nutrients from your diet and that your body cannot produce it on its own. One tablespoon of ground flax seed has about 3 grams of fat, 1.5 grams coming from omega 3 fatty acids.(1) Omega 3 fatty acids are super important for your health. They are cardioprotective (by decreasing atherosclerosis, decreasing systemic inflammation, and decreasing thrombosis).(2) They also improve endothelial function, help manage blood pressure, and lower triglycerides.(2)
Another huge benefit of flaxseed is that it’s very cheap. You can purchase ground flaxseed for less than $2.50/pound at walmart (at the time of writing this blog).(3) Another common source of omega 3 is salmon, which can be $7-10/pound. Flaxseed will also keep for a while so you don’t have to worry about it going bad and having to replace it weekly.
Getting enough dietary fiber is important for your health. Flaxseed has about 2 grams of fiber per tablespoon, which is nearly 100% of its carbohydrate content.(1) The fiber in flaxseed is mostly soluble fiber. Soluble fiber in flaxseed can help to decrease absorption of fat in your diet and help lower ldl cholesterol.(4)
Conversion of Fatty Acids
One drawback to flaxseed is that omega 3 fatty acids from plants often don’t convert to animal forms of omega 3 fatty acids.(5) The animal omega 3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA. These fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon and animal fats. Flaxseed can be a great addition to your diet but you should also get omega 3’s from animals sources as well.
If you have any questions on training you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.zenith-fitness.com
Schwalfenberg G. Omega-3 fatty acids: their beneficial role in cardiovascular health [published correction appears in Can Fam Physician. 2006 Aug;52:952]. Can Fam Physician. 2006;52(6):734-740.
Kristensen M, Jensen MG, Aarestrup J, Petersen KE, Søndergaard L, Mikkelsen MS, Astrup A. Flaxseed dietary fibers lower cholesterol and increase fecal fat excretion, but magnitude of effect depend on food type. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Feb 3;9:8. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-9-8. PMID: 22305169; PMCID: PMC3307491.
Anderson BM, Ma DW. Are all n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids created equal?. Lipids Health Dis. 2009;8:33. Published 2009 Aug 10. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-8-33