Flaxseed oil is squeezed from flax seeds; hence, the oil contains a similar nutritional profile to healthy and enriched seeds. Undoubtedly, flaxseed oil is an incredible product for anyone looking to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
You can obtain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from many great natural sources, including fish and fish oil. However, if you are vegan or vegetarian, there is no better option than flaxseed oil.
What Is Flaxseed Oil?
Flaxseed oil is extracted from the seeds of Linum usitatissimum or flax plant. The ground flaxseeds are pressed through the cold-press method to obtain the golden-yellow oil. This oil naturally contains a high amount of ALA or alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.
ALA is famous for offering many health benefits, including decreasing inflammation and blood cholesterol level. Flaxseed oil has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine for its physical and mental health benefits. Current scientific studies are now validating flaxseed oil’s health benefits.
Are Flaxseed Oil and Linseed Oil the Same?
It is a general misconception that flaxseed and linseed oil are the same. Many companies use these terms interchangeably, but both oils are different. The main reason behind this misconception is that both oils originate from the same flax plant. However, the production methods and the uses of these oils are different from each other.
The flaxseed oil is extracted using the cold-press method, and the linseed oil is extracted using the heat-press method. Extraction of linseed oil requires petroleum, so it is not suitable for edible purposes. Hence, the primary uses of linseed oil lie in industrial applications.
For instance, linseed oil serves as the paint thinner, is used in the feed for livestock, and is used in the paper and fabric industry. On the other hand, flaxseed oil is edible, and you can also apply it directly on the hair and skin.
These two oils also differ in their physical qualities, including color and aroma. The natural color of flaxseed oil is yellow with a nutty aroma, whereas linseed oil has a dark color with a foul smell.
What Is Flaxseed Oil Used For?
Flaxseed oil is used for a range of health concerns, including reducing inflammation and preventing cancer. It contains many active compounds that are thought to provide benefits, including:
Here are some of the potential health benefits of flaxseed oil and evidence to back up these claims.
Because flaxseed oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, it may reduce inflammation. One animal study published in 2013 found flaxseed oil offered impressive inflammation-lowering benefits. However, studies in humans have yielded mixed results.
One analysis of multiple human studies found flaxseed contained compounds helpful for reducing C-reactive protein (an inflammation marker) in some of the study participants.
The analysis suggests that flaxseed oil may affect people differently and, therefore, more research is needed to determine its effects on inflammation in the general population.
Promotes Heart Health
EPA and DHA are essential compounds for promoting a healthy heart and preventing heart disease. ALA is converted to EPA and DHA in the body, while flaxseed naturally contains omega-3 fatty acids.
Improves Gut Health
Flaxseed oil has laxative properties. In a study of 50 hemodialysis patients, daily supplementation of flaxseed oil helped relieve constipation. A small 2012 study of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) found that flax seeds were helpful in reducing IBS symptoms, including constipation and diarrhea.
ALA is a powerful antioxidant. It is often promoted by cosmetic manufacturers as having “anti-aging” properties. Research shows flaxseed oil may help reduce skin cell inflammation and promote the regeneration of skin.
Aids in Weight Loss
A 2012 report in the journal Appetite finds that flaxseed supplements can help suppress appetite, allowing for reduced food intake and weight loss. It’s thought that the soluble fiber (a type of fiber that absorbs water in the gut) in flaxseed promotes a feeling of fullness.
Reduces Menopause Symptoms
There is some evidence that flaxseed oil may help with menopause symptoms. One 2015 study of 140 menopausal women using flaxseed oil supplements showed a decrease in hot flashes and an increase in quality of life.
Nutrition Profile of Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil is an excellent source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are essential fatty acids as our body cannot produce these fats, so it is crucial to get them from food. Omega -3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 in the flaxseed oil is 1: 0.3, precisely the amount your body requires.
These fatty acids help reduce depression and improve cardiovascular health. Also, these fatty acids help treat Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Flaxseed oil is a rich source of ALA, and the body converts ALA into omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition to increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, the high-alpha-linolenic acid content in the food also decreases the postprandial glucose value. Moreover, flaxseed oil contains many vitamins and minerals, including thiamine, molybdenum, copper, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Different Ways of Using Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil bottles are readily available at local stores in varying sizes. In general, there are no specific dosage recommendations for flaxseed oil; however, it is preferable not to exceed the recommended dosage mentioned by the brand.
You can use flaxseed oil in various ways. One of the most common uses of flaxseed oil is its use in salad dressings and cold sauces. Many also love adding this oil to smoothies, juices, and shakes. The mix of flaxseed oil with yogurt also tastes delectable and makes the meal healthy.
Similarly, eating the combination of cottage cheese and flaxseed oil enhances the metabolic process of the body and also supports digestion. You can also use the flaxseed oil to drizzle over the potatoes, rice, or toast. Also, you can use this oil instead of regular vegetable oil or butter.
Flaxseed oil adds a unique flavor and aroma to these food items. However, it is best not to use flaxseed oil during baking or frying as the chemical composition of the oil changes when it comes in contact with heat.
Therefore, keeping the flaxseed oil in the refrigerator is best to ensure prolonged freshness. Storing in the fridge also keeps the flaxseed oil from getting rancid. The flaxseed oil remains fresh in the refrigerator for about six to eight weeks. However, it is wise to check the expiry date on the label.
In addition to eating the flaxseed oil, you can mix it in your favorite cream and apply it to the skin. Regular application of flaxseed oil as carrier oil will improve your skin glow. Moreover, you can also use flaxseed oil on your hair roots to get healthy and shiny hair.
Possible Side Effects
When taken in the right doses and in the short term, flaxseed oil is usually safe for most adults. Large doses can cause diarrhea and loose stools. Allergic reactions are also possible. A 2010 study suggests that ALA can increase the risk of prostate cancer or promote tumor growth.
Additional research shows ALA from animal-based foods that are high in saturated fats might be linked to prostate cancer. But ALA itself might not be the culprit. Other substances in those foods, such as the hormones and pesticides in meat, might promote tumor growth.
However, much of this research is speculative and other research suggests flaxseed can actually benefit men’s prostate health. Anyone who is concerned about the effects of flaxseed oil on their prostate should check with their healthcare provider before adding flaxseed oil to their diet.
There is limited evidence on the safety of flaxseed oil when applied topically on skin or hair. However, a small study of a topical flaxseed oil gel found it safe and effective for carpal tunnel syndrome.
People who shouldn’t use flaxseed oil include:
- Pregnant women: It may have adverse effects in pregnancy, including an increased risk for premature birth.8
- Children: There has not been enough evidence on the safety of flaxseed oil when taken by children, although it is likely safe for children to consume small amounts of flaxseed.
- Breastfeeding mothers: There isn’t enough reliable information about the safety of flaxseed oil for women who are breastfeeding.8
- People with bleeding disorders: There is some debate about whether flaxseed oil may increase the risk of bleeding. If you have a bleeding disorder, talk to your healthcare provider before using flaxseed oil in food, in supplement form, or as a topical treatment.
- Surgery: Flaxseed oil should be stopped at least two weeks before surgery and throughout the initial recovery period to prevent bleeding.14
- People taking blood clotting drugs: Taking flaxseed oil with medications that slow down blood clotting (such as aspirin, diclofenac, or warfarin) may increase the risk of bleeding and bruising.
Ask your healthcare provider if a flaxseed oil supplement is right for you.
Dosage and Preparations
There are no standard dosing guidelines for flaxseed oil. The recommended dosage varies based on the manufacturer. Flaxseed oil is available as an oil used in food preparation and in gel cap supplements. Here are some ways to use it:
- Use as a salad oil, or in cold sauces.
- Add to juice, shakes, or smoothies.
- Do not use it in stir-fries or when baking. When exposed to heat, the oil can form harmful chemicals.
- Apply it topically or add it to your favorite skin cream to increase moisture in the skin and improve skin health.
- Apply to hair to promote growth and shine.
How Much Flaxseed Oil is Recommended?
Like other supplements, flaxseed oil isn’t regulated by the FDA. This means there is no standard recommended dose. Typical manufacturer recommendations range from 720 mg to 1650 mg daily, but you should always talk to your healthcare provider before you add any new supplement to your diet.
What to Look For
You may find flaxseed oil in the refrigerated section of your health food store or on store shelves. Some brands add antioxidants to make their products shelf-stable, meaning they don’t need refrigeration until opened. Once opened, all flaxseed oil must be refrigerated.
Look for cold-pressed oil packaged in an opaque bottle to protect it from the light. The oil should be a clear or golden-yellow color. Some oils, known as high-lignan oils, contain particles of ground flaxseed and may appear to have dirt or grit in it, which is normal.
Fresh flaxseed oil has a mild, nutty aroma reminiscent of sunflower or sesame seeds and tastes crisp and mildly nutty. Oil that is cloudy, smells fishy or like fried oil, or has a bitter or burnt flavor is rancid and should not be used. If you notice this or the product is past its expiration date, throw it out.
Flaxseed oil, made from ground flax seed, is widely credited with aiding in inflammation, menopause, weight loss, gut health, heart health, and skin health. Science offers some support for these claims, but flaxseed oil is not a miracle cure for any condition.
When taken in the right dose, flaxseed oil has few side effects, but there is limited research on its safety when applied topically. Flaxseed oil can be added to juice, salads, or smoothies as well as to body cream or your hair.
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, have an upcoming surgery, or have a bleeding disorder, you should consult your healthcare provider before trying this supplement.
Flaxseed oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids and other healthful compounds shown to have a variety of health benefits. However, most of the research on this has been on animal models, and studies on humans have been limited. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before using flaxseed oil to ensure that it is appropriate for you.