Flaxseed Meal Vs Flax Oil — Which is Healthier?
Both flax oil and ground flaxseeds have significant nutritional benefits but which one is better for your health?
Here is a comparison of flaxseed oil versus flax meal for omega-3s, lignans, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Omega-3 Content Comparison
The majority of people eating ground flax or taking the oil are doing so because of their very high omega-3 fatty acid content.
Flaxseed oil is more than 50% omega-3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA), making it the highest commonly used, plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids.
The ground seeds, by comparison, are usually around 20% omega-3, which is still very high, though less than half of a good cold pressed oil like this one I take daily.
If you are considering either flax oil or flaxseed meal primarily to increase your intake of omega-3 fats, then the oil would be the clear winner.
The alpha linolenic acid in the oil would be more easily assimilated as well, than in the flaxseed powder with its high levels of fiber.
That said, flax meal has other beneficial properties listed below that make it a more complete dietary supplement and well worth adding to your diet.
Lignan Benefits of Ground Flaxseeds Vs Flax Oil
Lignans are phytonutrients that act as estrogen modulators. They are particularly good for women interesting in balancing fluctuating hormones.
Ground flax meal, like this great tasting and organic bestseller, is by far the highest source with around 80 grams of lignans in every ounce.
The oil by comparison is usually very low in lignans as the extraction process leaves them behind.
Some manufacturers however, like Barleans, have come up with high lignan flaxseed oil, where these phytonutrients are added back into the oil after extraction.
If you are looking for a good omega-3 supplement, but would still like the added benefit of dietary lignans, this popular Barleans oil with added lignans would be an effective option.
Flax meal is very high in fiber, with 1 tablespoon containing over 2 grams of dietary fiber. Around a quarter of this is valuable soluble fiber.
The healthy fiber in flax has been shown in research studies like this to reduce blood cholesterol levels “beyond the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications”, potentially leading to a lower risk of cardiovascular problems.
Flax oil, unless the high lignan version, does not contain any fiber so the ground seeds are a clear winner here.
Nutrients in Flax
Ground flaxseed is a good source of the minerals manganese, magnesium and copper. It also contains the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and folate and is rich in antioxidant vitamin E.
Flaxseed oil does not have the same variety of minerals and vitamins as they are mostly lost in extraction, with one notable exception.
The vitamin E content in the oil is concentrated compared to the ground seeds, with around 2 mg of natural vitamin E in a tablespoon of flaxseed oil.
Which is Better — Flax Oil or Flaxseed Meal?
The ground flaxseed meal, on the other hand, while not as high in omega-3s, does have the significant benefits of lignans, soluble and insoluble fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals.
If you felt you were lacking in omega-3 fatty acids (and a great many of us are) then taking the oil daily would be a good way to improve your intake.
However, if you’re looking for a broader range of beneficial nutrients, while still having a significant source of omega-3s, then fresh flaxseed meal could be an even better to your diet.
Some people, like myself, see good reasons to take both at different times of the day.
Flax oil has a more powerful effect initially. However, there are more long term benefits to using organic flax meal, like this great tasting one, in muesli, smoothies, fruit salads and other recipes regularly.