How to Eat Flaxseed — and Why You Should

These little seeds are bursting with beneficial nutrients. Here's why you should eat flaxseeds, including the best flaxseed recipe ideas.

How to Eat Flax Seed
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If you've ever been intrigued by a bag of flaxseed at the grocery store but had no idea how to eat flaxseeds, you're not alone. Flaxseed is a — you guessed it — seed that's high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and its reputation as a "superseed" makes it a popular add-in to many recipes. However, those new to the plant-based seed might not know the best recipes for flaxseeds or even how to eat flaxseed at all. Don't sweat it; try these flaxseed recipe ideas from food and nutrition experts to help you make flaxseed eating a part of your regular routine and reap all the health benefits of flaxseeds.

Health Benefits of Flaxseed

Before diving into how to eat flaxseed, you need to know why the tiny seeds are worth adding to your regular diet in the first place. Eating flaxseed benefits both your body and your brain, and flaxseed is the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These healthy fats help reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. At the same time, flaxseed is also low in saturated fat (a type of dietary fat in which the fatty acid chains have all single bonds), which has traditionally been associated with high cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

On top of the aforementioned omega-3s and fiber, flaxseed contains zinc, iron, vitamin E, and calcium, among other vitamins and minerals. Flaxseed is also a great source of lignans, potassium, and magnesium, says Danielle Omar, a registered dietitian and health coach. And finally, flaxseed is high in fiber and can help relieve constipation.

How to Eat Flaxseed

Now that you know why flaxseed eating should be a priority, 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.

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 how to eat flaxseed with any meal of the day.

01 of 07

As a Muffin Ingredient

plate of muffins with paper wrappers, topped with oats

To double down on the fiber content of flaxseed, try using flaxseed in a recipe that already features fiber-rich content such as bran. "I buy Uncle Sam's cereal and use their muffin recipe but add 1/2 cup of ground flaxseeds," recommends Portnoy. "Since flax helps as a laxative, you get the benefits of the cereal and the extra flax."

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 flaxseed as an egg replacement (sometimes called a "flax egg" in vegan recipes). For any recipe that calls for eggs, try using "2 tablespoons of flax with 2 tablespoons of water to replace one egg," explains Omar. This flaxseed flex 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

If you're wondering how to eat flaxseeds without a ton of effort, 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 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 a tablespoon or two of flaxseed to oatmeal, smoothies, or protein shakes to bulk them up so you stay full. In pancake batter, they make a great replacement for eggs. Or roll your French toast in flaxseed before it hits the skillet, advises Jennifer Tuma-Young, a certified coach and public speaker.

05 of 07

As a Breadcrumbs Substitution

chicken breast on a cutting board with oil and seasonings

The benefits of flaxseed eating 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 taste that does not overpower other flavors. 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 when it comes to cooking with flaxseed oil, 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. However, flaxseed oil is good for salad dressings and other foods you aren't heating up.

07 of 07

As an Added Ingredient in Most Recipes

meatballs on a serving plate

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

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