Flaxseed Oil Supplements Are In Vogue, But Do You Need Them?

Should I or Shouldn’t I Supplement With Flaxseed Oil?

A Venti size container of flaxseed oil has landed on my kitchen counter and I’m not sure what to do with it. My husband read an article about the health benefits of taking flaxseed oil. The article must have been compelling because, as you Starbucks fans have figured out, we now have about a year’s supply. I’m not convinced that we need them, but I’d like to know what you think.

Flaxseed Oil supplements are popular, but are they necessary?

Flaxseeds

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil is definitely trending. If you’re thinking about supplementing with the oil or adding seeds to your dishes and baked items here are some things you should know.

The health benefit from eating flaxseeds comes primarily from the omega-3 fatty acids that they contain. Flaxseeds also contain lignans and both soluble and insoluble fiber. The combination of the Omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fibers all provide health benefits in several different ways. Here’s a run-down of some of the benefits of adding flaxseeds to your diet from Web M.D.

  • Studies suggest that flaxseeds may protect against the development of certain cancers including breast, prostate and colon.  The omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseeds has been shown to inhibit tumor growth in animals.
  • The lignans in flaxseeds seem to provide protection against breast cancer and, if consumed in adolescence, may decrease the risk for the development of breast cancer later on in life.
  • Heart healthy benefits include normalizing of heartbeat, a reduced risk of hardening of the arteries, and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
  • Daily intake of flaxseeds may modestly improve blood sugar which lowers the risk for diabetes.
  • Some studies have shown flaxseeds reduce the inflammation that is found to be prevalent in certain diseases like Parkinson’s and asthma.

Seeds or Oil. Which is Better?

Most studies show that the seeds provide the most benefits. When the oil is extracted from the seeds, the lignans and fibers are left behind and they play an important role in contributing to the benefits listed above.

But, the seeds require more time and effort. The seeds are so small that they have to be chewed thoroughly otherwise the nutritional impact is diminished, maybe even lost. What I’ve read, and been told by the owner of our local food co-op, is it’s nearly impossible to chew them sufficiently with your teeth. Our co-op expert suggests running them through a small coffee grinder before adding them to soups, stews and muffins. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it may be just enough trouble to deter some people from trying them.

The oil or supplements containing the oil will still give you an abundance of the omega-3 fatty acids and may provide cardiovascular benefits but, as mentioned earlier, some of the benefits are lost because the fiber and lignans have been extracted. I didn’t find many articles or studies in support of taking flaxseed oil supplements except for the web sites that are promoting the sale of it.

Flaxseed Oil supplements are helpful if you don't include other sources of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet on a regular basis.

Other Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

I am convinced that omega-3 fatty acids are critical to our overall health and most of us probably aren’t getting the amount we should. I’m not so sure all of us need to supplement with oil capsules.

There are plenty of other foods – mostly of the fish variety – that you can include in your diet that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts, salmon, sardines, soybeans, halibut, scallops, shrimp, tofu and tuna are all good sources. Flax seeds are, however, at the top of the list and are the food with the highest content of fatty acids.

So, if the foods on the list are not a part of your diet and you can’t see yourself grinding up seeds and storing them for later use, you may end up on the deficit side of omega-3 fatty acids and that’s probably not the best place to be. In this case the oil capsule supplements would be a good option and would bump up your intake of omegas from zero to an adequate amount, depending on the dosage you decided on.

We eat a variety of foods from the omega-3 list weekly so I don’t know that we need to supplement, although adding the ground seeds to our diet for the full nutritional impact that they provide would be worthwhile.

I’ve decided I’m going to remain quiet about my findings and let my husband supplement with the oil all he wants. Nothing I’ve found says that they will do any harm and nobody likes a know-it-all.

What about you? Do you supplement with flaxseed oil or use ground seeds in dishes that you make? I would love for you to share you thoughts in the comment box.