Flax seed can come in many forms and is now being made more available in grocery stores year round. Knowing how to properly purchase and store flax seeds can help increase their shelf life and ensure that you are reaping all of the health benefits that the fiber-packed seeds have to offer.
Find a health food store that carries flax seeds. Most often, flax seed can be found in health food and specialty grocery stores such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Pre-packaged, milled flax seed in the form of flours and oils are now showing up in regular grocery stores as well.
Ask about product turnover. It is important to purchase and use flax seeds, whole or ground, and even flax seed oil within a certain amount of time. Generally, flax seeds can be stored safely for about one year. If you are not sure how long a product has been on the shelf or how it has been stored, ask for information.
Avoid buying from bulk bins and containers. Flax seed, whether whole or ground, should be stored in opaque containers and refrigerated to avoid excess exposure to oxygen and light, which can cause them to go rancid. Because of its high fat content, flax seed can go rancid quickly if not stored properly. Look for opaque containers that are free from moisture and are refrigerated or vacuum sealed.
Buy whole seeds. Whole seeds, because of their tough exterior, have a slightly longer shelf life. You can ground the seeds yourself to produce a fresher product. Fresh ground flax seed should have a slightly nutty aroma; avoid if the product if it smells bitter. Bitter smelling flax seed indicates that the product has gone rancid. If you grind your own, seal it and then store it in the refrigerator if you do not plan to use it immediately.
Store properly. Flax seed products should be stored in a cool, dry place preferably in an opaque, airtight container to prevent the product from going rancid.
Know when to throw them away. In general, flax seeds have a shelf life of about one year. Be aware of how your flax seeds smell. If they begin to lose their slightly nutty taste and aroma, then it may be time to throw them away. Bitter tasting flax seed indicates that the product has gone rancid and should be discarded.