Flaxseed has long been used in European and Asian cuisines, and you can now find flaxseed products at many grocery and health food stores throughout the United States. Both ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil have a place in a healthy diet, and they're easy to incorporate into your meal plans -- for example, flaxseed oil makes a base for homemade dressings, while ground flaxseed can be used in place of eggs in baked goods or added to smoothies. Ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil vary in their nutrition content, however, so they offer different health benefits.
Calories and Fiber
Ground flaxseed offers a nutritional advantage over flaxseed oil because it's lower in calories but contains more fiber. Each 2-tablespoon serving of ground flaxseed contains 75 calories, and an equivalent serving of flaxseed oil offers 240 calories. A serving of ground flaxseed also contains 3.8 grams of dietary fiber, a carbohydrate that supports cardiovascular health and helps fill your stomach after a meal. Just one serving of ground flaxseed provides 10 percent of the daily fiber intake recommended for men and 15 percent for women. Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, offers no fiber.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The major advantage of flaxseed oil over ground flaxseeds is that it provides more healthy omega-3 fatty acids per serving, although both foods provide a considerable amount of omega-3s. An omega-3-rich diet maintains heart health, aids in brain function and prevents omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, a condition that can cause dry skin and depression. A 2-tablespoon serving of flaxseed oil contains 14.6 grams of ALA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, while an equivalent portion of ground flaxseed contains 3.2 grams. So a single serving provides the 1.6 grams needed daily by men or 1.1 grams required for women.
Reach for ground flaxseeds over flaxseed oil as a source of essential minerals. Each serving of ground flaxseed provides 55 milligrams of magnesium -- 13 percent and 17 percent of the daily magnesium intakes recommended for men and women, respectively -- as well as 171 micrograms of copper, or 19 percent of the recommended daily intake. Magnesium and copper both strengthen your bone tissue. Magnesium also helps your muscles function, while copper controls energy production. Flaxseed oil doesn't serve as a significant source of any minerals, including magnesium and copper.
Ground flaxseed also offers a nutritional leg up on flaxseed oil because of its lignan content. A family of phytonutrients, lignans have a molecular structure similar to that of human estrogen and help regulate estrogen signaling in your body. They might also act as antioxidants -- chemicals that prevent cellular damage and genetic mutations caused by free radicals -- reports the Linus Pauling Institute. Pressing flaxseed oil separates the lignans from the fats in flaxseed, so only ground flaxseed -- not flaxseed oil -- boosts your lignan intake. If you purchase varieties of flaxseed oil that also contain ground flaxseed, however, you'll reap the benefits of lignans.
- Purdue University: Flax: New Uses and Demands
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Seeds, Flaxseed
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Oil, Flaxseed, Cold Pressed
- Linus Pauling Institute: Fiber
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Magnesium
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Copper
- Linus Pauling Institute: Lignans