Flaxseed Meal Vs Flaxseed Oil — Which is Healthier?
Both flaxseed oil and ground flaxseed can have significant nutritional benefits but which one is better for your health?
Here is a comparison of flax oil versus flaxseed 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 incredibly high omega-3 fatty acid content.
Flaxseed oil is generally 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 the ground seeds primarily to increase your intake of omega-3 fats, then the oil would be the clear winner.
It is also likely that the alpha linolenic acid in the oil would be more easily assimilated than in the flaxseed powder with its high levels of fiber.
That said, flaxseed meal has other health benefits listed below that make it a more complete dietary supplement and a very nutritious food well worth adding to your diet.
Lignan Benefits of Flaxseed Meal Versus Flax Oil
Lignans are phytonutrients that can be beneficial for women in reducing the risk of hormonal cancers such as breast cancer and endometrial, ovarian and cervical cancer.
Ground flax meal, like this delicious 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 a great option.
Flax meal is very high in fiber, with 1 tablespoon containing over 2 grams of dietary fiber. Around a quarter of this is the very valuable soluble fiber.
The healthy fiber in flax has even 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 heart disease.
Flax oil, being an oil, obviously does not contain any fiber so the ground seeds are a clear winner here.
Other Flax Nutrients
Ground flaxseed is usually a good source of the minerals manganese, magnesium and copper. It also contains B vitamins like 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 unrefined oil can be quite concentrated compared to the ground seeds, with around 2 mg of natural vitamin E in a tablespoon of the oil.
Which is Better — Flax Oil or Flaxseed Meal?
The ground seeds, on the other hand, while not as high in omega-3s, do have the significant health 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 benefits, while still having a significant source of omega-3s, then fresh flaxseed meal could be an even more beneficial addition to your diet.
Some people, like myself, see good reasons to take both flax meal and flaxseed oil at different times of the day.
Flax oil has a more powerful effect initially, but there are potentially more long term benefits to using great tasting organic flax seed meal like this in muesli, smoothies, fruit salads and other meals regularly.
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