The seeds and oil of the flax plant contain substances that are healthy. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that may be helpful for heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and a variety of other health problems.
How much flaxseed do you need? The optimum dose to obtain health benefits is not yet known. But 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed a day is currently the suggested dose.
Here is how I use flaxseed.
- I Grind it myself. Flaxseed, when eaten whole, is more likely to pass through the intestinal tract undigested, which means your body doesn’t get all the healthful components. I grind flaxseed myself, in my little electric coffee grinder (see photo)
- I add flaxseed to foods I habitually eat. Every time you have a certain food, like oatmeal, smoothies, soup, or yogurt, stir in a couple tablespoons of ground flaxseed. Soon it will be a habit and you won’t have to think about it, you’ll just do it.
- I hide flaxseed in dark, moist dishes. The dishes that hide flaxseed the best are dark sauces or meat mixtures. No one tends to notice flaxseed when it’s stirred into enchilada casserole, chicken Parmesan, chili, beef stew, meatloaf, or meatballs. For a 4-serving casserole, you can usually get away with adding 2 to 4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed. For a dish serving 6 to 8, use 4 to 8 tablespoons.
- Whole flaxseed keeps longer. The outside shell in whole flaxseed appears to keep the fatty acids inside well protected. It’s a good idea to keep your whole flaxseed in a dark, cool place until you grind it. But as long as it is dry and of good quality, whole flaxseed can be stored at room temperature for up to a year.