How to Eat Flaxseed — and Why You Should

These little seeds are bursting with beneficial nutrients. Here's how to get the most out of flaxseed, including yummy flaxseed recipe ideas.

plate of muffins with paper wrappers, topped with oats

Flaxseed is an incredibly beneficial ingredient to add to every meal of the day, boasting a high fiber and omega-3 content. But you might have a bag sitting in the back of your cupboard with no clue how to include them in your recipes (been there). Don't sweat it — try these flaxseed recipe ideas from food and nutrition experts to help you figure out how to eat flaxseed and get the most of the good-for-you ingredient.

Health Benefits of Flaxseed

Before diving into how to eat flaxseed, you need to know why the tiny seeds are worth adding to, well, anything. Eating flaxseed benefits your body and brain, and it is the richest plant source of healthy omega-3 fats, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These healthy fats help reduce inflammation, balance hormones, protect against mood swings, and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. The superfood is also high in fiber and can help relieve constipation.

On top of the aforementioned omega-3s and fiber, flaxseed contains zinc, iron, vitamin E, and calcium — among other vitamins and minerals — and is low in saturated fat. Flaxseed is also a great source of lignans, potassium, and magnesium, says Danielle Omar, a registered dietitian and health coach.

How to Use Flaxseed

Now that you know why you should prioritize flaxseed, it's time to learn how to make use of it in the kitchen. For starters, you can buy flaxseed either whole or milled. “Trouble is, the omega-3 of flaxseeds is located in the seed, and unless you chew them thoroughly, they can be difficult to digest," explains Shari Portnoy, a registered dietitian and researcher.

Luckily, there's an easy fix: "To get the benefit of flaxseed, grind it in a blender, coffee grinder, or food processor," advises Portnoy. Oh, and "make sure you refrigerate the flaxseed meal, as the oils in it can become rancid," says Ariane Hundt, M.S., a New York City–based clinical nutritionist.

Although there isn't an official recommendation for how much flaxseed, you might aim to eat one to two tablespoons of flaxseed daily to reap maximum health benefits, suggests the Mayo Clinic. "I suggest buying the seeds whole and storing them in the fridge, then grinding them yourself to preserve freshness," recommends Omar. "You can also purchase 'cold milled flax' seed, which can increase the shelf life of ground flax," she adds.

Below, find a few creative ideas for adding flaxseed into any meal of the day.

01 of 07

As a Healthy Muffin Ingredient

plate of muffins with paper wrappers, topped with oats

Portnoy loves flax for its versatility, but her favorite recipe is a homemade concoction she's dubbed "Double S Muffins."

"This [snack] is for those who want the benefits of a fiber pill but like taste and real food," says Portnoy. "I buy Uncle Sam's cereal (I don’t work for them, just love it), and use their muffin recipe but add 1/2 cup of ground flaxseeds. Since flax helps as a laxative, you get the benefits of the cereal and the extra flax. Works like a charm. The S is for Shari and Uncle Sam," she notes.

Not in the mood for muffins? Flaxseed is an easy addition to pretty much any baked good that you'd like to make more nutritious.

02 of 07

As a Vegan Egg Substitute

common bakig ingredients — egg, flour, sugar, butter, vanilla — haphazardly piled together

You don't need to stick to sprinkling flax into your baking batters, either. Instead, use them as an egg replacement (sometimes called a "flax egg" in vegan recipes). For any recipe that calls for eggs, try swapping in flaxseed instead, using "2 tablespoons of flax with 2 tablespoons of water to replace one egg," explains Omar. This is an easy way to make baked goods both vegan and omega-rich. (Try these pistachio-raspberry thumbprint cookies first.)

03 of 07

As a Yogurt Topper

glass bowl of yogurt topped with fresh berries

Try sprinkling 2 tablespoons of ground flax on your Greek yogurt for a protein-packed yogurt bowl, suggests Hundt. "Greek yogurt is high in protein and ideal for muscle building and filling up," she says.

04 of 07

As a Multi-Functional Breakfast Ingredient

milled flaxseed sprinkled on top of hot cereal or oatmeal

Yogurt isn't the only healthy breakfast that could benefit from a dash of flaxseed. You can add some to oatmeal, smoothies, or protein shakes to bulk them up so you stay full. In pancake batter, they make a great replacement for eggs.

Adding flaxseed can make your weekend brunch recipes heartier too. Jennifer Tuma-Young, a certified coach and public speaker, rolls her French toast in flaxseed before it hits the skillet.

05 of 07

In Lieu of Breadcrumbs for Coating

chicken breast on a cutting board with oil and seasonings

The benefits of flaxseed aren't reserved for breakfast or sweet treats, points out Hundt. They’re a simple, healthy, delicious addition to almost any meal — flaxseed has a delicate, nutty flavor that does not overpower. Try adding it to the coating of recipes such as chicken parmesan, coconut-crusted tilapia, or eggplant parm, suggests Tuma-Young.

06 of 07

As a Crunchy Topping for Salads, Soups, and Sandwiches

hand sprinkling herbs into a bowl of leafy greens

Try adding toasted flaxseed to salads, soups, and sandwiches for a pleasant crunch. But be warned: While flaxseed oil has a concentration of the plant’s omega-3 fats, it has a low smoke point, so it's not recommended for cooking — but is good for salad dressings and other foods you aren't heating up.

07 of 07

As a "Secret" Ingredient In Foods You Already Love

meatballs on a serving plate

To make it a regular part of your diet, add flaxseed to stuff you already eat, suggests Alyssa Phillips, a physician's assistant with a degree in nutrition. For instance, you can try mixing it into your meatloaf, meatball, and casserole recipes, she recommends. You can also add them to whole grain pizza crust or bread mix, or even into your veggie burger.

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