Flaxseeds: How to Eat

By David Grimes

Flaxseeds are increasingly common on grocery store shelves as they move from being a health food fad to a mainstream ingredient. Whether the dark, rich chocolatey brown or creamy golden yellow variety, flaxseeds can be eaten whole or ground and added to a variety of foods, including baked goods, soups and smoothies.

flax seed in a wooden spoon
credit: librakv/iStock/Getty Images
Small wooden spoonful of flaxseeds.

Video of the Day

Benefits and Flavor

Flaxseeds are naturally high in dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for overall health and heart fitness. Both brown and yellow flaxseeds provide the same benefits. However, brown flaxseeds are more commonly available than yellow flaxseeds, which may be available only in specialty stores. Both flaxseeds have a naturally nutty flavor that is emphasized when the seeds are gently toasted.

Whole or Ground

Flaxseeds can be used whole; their hard, shiny hulls add crunch to cereals, granola and baked goods such as multigrain bread. However, whole flax seeds, because of the hard outer shell, may pass through the digestive tract whole, minimizing their health and nutritional benefits. While nutrients in ground flaxseeds are more readily available, they do not store as long as whole flaxseeds; the high oil content of the seeds means they can go rancid quickly. Store whole flaxseeds in a sealed container for up to one year. Make ground flaxseed as you need it, grinding the seeds in a spice grinder or high-powered blender. Ground flax can be stored in an airtight, opaque container in the fridge or freezer for up to three months.

Cereals and Baked Goods

Both whole and ground flaxseeds can be used in baked goods. Adding whole seeds to muffins, cookies and breads gives the foods a nutty crunch that can be surprisingly addictive. The seeds can also be sprinkled whole over your morning granola or cereal. Ground flax can be sprinkled onto foods too, but, unlike whole flax, it can be used in tandem with flour in some baking recipes. When mixed with water, ground flaxseeds also make an egg substitute for vegan recipes.

Drinks and Liquids

Flaxseeds, whole, can be added to your daily smoothie. While the inclusion of liquid prevents the seeds from turning to powder, they do break into larger pieces so your body can take advantage of the nutritional benefits. Blend powdered or cracked flaxseeds -- the longer you blend, the finer the grind -- to yogurt to boost nutritional content while only minimally altering the taste. You can also add powdered flax to soups and stews, where they not only increase fiber content, but also gently thicken liquids.