Okay, has anyone else noticed that every. damn. thing. has flaxseed these days? Oatmeal! Vegan muffins! Even cereal! Seriously, is it really that great?
According to Amy Shapiro, R.D., founder of Real Nutrition it kind of is, and she recommends adding flaxseed to your diet, stat. Luckily, that's pretty easy, since flaxseed is very versatile. “You can sprinkle flaxseed or meal on cereals, in oatmeal, top off salads with them, add to baked goods instead of eggs, put it in your smoothie, add to your soups, or even to your water."
Shapiro recommends adding a tablespoon to your diet daily-especially for vegans and vegetarians, as those mighty little seeds contain some nutrients that can be harder to come by with meatless diets, including omega-3s and protein.
Just keep in mind, you may get more nutritional benefits from eating ground flax vs. whole seeds because, "the outer hull is so tough that it will pass through you undigested and you won’t receive the benefit of the healthy fats,” says Desiree Nielsen, R.D. (Kind of like undigested corn. Sorry for the image.)
But back to flaxseed-what else makes it worthy of starring in so many health foods?
“They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, a plant-based source, which is important for vegans or individuals who do not eat seafood," says Amy Shapiro, R.D. "This type of fat helps to protect the brain.”
“They are a fantastic source of dietary fiber, which means they’ll keep your digestion regular, flushing toxins and excess fats out of the body," says Shapiro. "They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber so they are truly a powerhouse, as these types of fiber also keep your gut microbiome in healthy balance.”
“It's a good source of protein and will help you stay full and satisfied,” says Shapiro. In fact, one tablespoon of flaxseed contains two grams of protein. And when combined with all that fiber, it'll keep you super-satiated.
Hot tip: Mix one tablespoon of ground flaxseed with three tablespoons of water to replace an egg in any baked goods recipe.
“Roughly 20 to 40 percent of flaxseed's fiber is soluble, which forms a gel in the gut that binds to cholesterol in the gut and removes it from circulation,” says Nielsen.
And, FYI: Not all cholesterol is bad-flax helps boost the kind you need, and flushes out the kind you don’t, says Shapiro.
A study from the journal Hypertension found that daily linoleic acid-a major component of flaxseed-is associated with lower systolic blood pressure as well as a reduced risk of hypertension. Nielson recommends that women consume at least 1.1 grams of alpha linoleic acid daily. “One tablespoon of ground flax gives you double that,” she says.
There’s no magic click-your-heels-together-three-times solution to weight loss. But flaxseed can help the process: “Thanks to their fiber content they help to maintain blood sugar levels, ward off hunger therefore aiding in weight loss," says Shapiro. "Fiber helps to keep you full, the more full you are the less often you’ll eat."