Flax, a plant native to the Mediterranean, is grown primarily to produce linseed oil, a component of paints, inks and varnishes. Flaxseeds, however, have many benefits to offer humans, including omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Flaxseed meal, made from ground flaxseeds, has a nutty flavor and can be used as a substitute for eggs in baked goods, sprinkled on yogurt or eaten as is. Flaxseed meal is available at health food stores, and a 3-tbsp. serving provides 112 calories.
Flaxseed meal provides protein, a nutrient essential for the maintenance and repair of cells, tissues and organs. A 3-tablespoon serving of flaxseed meal has 3.84 grams of protein. Men need 56 grams of protein daily and women need 46 grams, as recommended by the National Academies' Institute of Medicine. The type of protein in flaxseed meal is incomplete, meaning it lacks one or more essential amino acids.
Flaxseed meal is a very good source of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber helps maintain digestive health, regulates blood glucose and insulin concentrations and lowers blood cholesterol levels. A 3-tablespoon serving of flaxseed meal provides 5.7 grams of fiber. Adults need between 25 and 38 grams of fiber daily, according to the Institute of Medicine. Dietary fiber also helps prevent constipation and reduces the risk of developing diverticular disease.
Flaxseeds are a concentrated source of fats, particularly heart-healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, omega-3 fats reduce inflammation and lower the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults get between 20 and 35 grams of fat daily. A 3-tablespoon serving of flaxseed meal provides 8.9 grams of total fat, 6 grams of polyunsaturated fats, 1.5 grams of monunsaturated fats and 0.77 grams of saturated fats.
Flaxseed meal provides thiamine, a B vitamin essential for the function of enzymes involved in energy metabolism. A 3-tablespoon serving of flaxseed meal provides 0.35 milligrams of thiamine. Women need 1.1 milligram of thiamine daily, and men need 1.2 milligrams, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine. Flaxseed meal also provides some pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 and folate.
Flaxseed meal provides iron, a mineral essential for red blood cell production. A 3-tablespoon serving of flaxseed meal provides 1.2 milligrams of iron. Women need 18 milligrams of iron daily, and men need 8 milligrams, according to the Institute of Medicine. Flaxseed meal is also high in magnesium, a mineral important for heart, kidney and muscle function. A 3-tablespoon serving of flaxseed meal provides 82 milligrams of magnesium, which is 20 percent of the recommended daily amount for men and 26 percent for women.
- Epicurious.com: Learning to Appreciate Flax
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Seeds, Flaxseed
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: RDA and AI for Vitamins and Elements
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 fatty acids
- Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism: James L. Groff, et al.