Flaxseeds are nutrient-rich seeds that contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and lignans. These seeds come in two main types: golden (or yellow) and brown. The difference between golden and brown flaxseed is primarily in their different macronutrient contents.
Read more: Secrets of 16 Strange and Popular Superfoods
Flaxseed Nutrition Facts
When you consume whole or ground flaxseed, you're consuming all three dietary macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat. If you're comparing golden flaxseed versus brown flaxseed, the exact amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates will depend on the type you've chosen to consume. However, in general, flaxseeds are primarily made up of healthy unsaturated fats and dietary fiber.
Most adults are likely to consume about an ounce (28 grams) of whole or ground flaxseeds per serving. According to the USDA, this amount of flaxseed contains:
- 152 calories
- 12 grams of fat
- 8.2 grams of carbohydrates, 7.8 grams of which come from dietary fiber
- 5.2 grams of protein
- 6 percent of the daily value (DV) for calcium
- 9 percent of the DV for iron
- 5 percent of the DV for potassium
- 27 percent of the DV for magnesium
- 15 percent of the DV for phosphorus
- 11 percent of the DV for zinc
- 38 percent of the DV for copper
- 31 percent of the DV manganese
- 13 percent of the DV for selenium
- 39 percent of the DV for thiamin (vitamin B1)
- 5 percent of the DV for niacin (vitamin B3)
- 6 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 8 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 6 percent of the DV for folic acid (vitamin B9)
Flaxseeds are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants like phenolic compounds and flavonoids, and lignans, a type of polyphenol. You can also find small amounts (between 1 and 4 percent) of B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin K and choline in each ounce of flaxseeds.
However, if you're consuming flaxseed in oil form, most of these nutrients won't be present. Flaxseed oil and capsules contain pure fat and lack most of the nutritional value that whole and ground flaxseed products contain.
Flaxseed Benefits for Your Health
According to an April 2015 study in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, flaxseed benefits for your health are numerous. Many of these benefits come from flaxseeds' micronutrients. For instance, the potassium in flaxseeds is thought to help reduce free radicals, and reduce the formation of blood clots along with the likelihood of stroke. The vitamin E in flaxseeds can help reduce the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.
The antioxidants in flaxseeds are also highly beneficial, because they are thought to scavenge harmful free radicals and protect your cells' properties. The lignans in flaxseed, which are micronutrients that also act as antioxidants, are also known to help prevent cancer — particularly prostate and breast cancers. Flaxseed has 75 to 800 times more lignans than other commonly consumed fruits, vegetables and grains.
Flaxseeds' primary benefits come from the macronutrients. Although there are carbohydrates in flaxseeds, virtually all of these carbohydrates come from dietary fiber. According to the American Diabetes Association dietary recommendations, people should consume about 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories ingested. Fiber is essential for healthy digestive system function and can help lower your levels of cholesterol.
The average adult consumes about 2,000 calories a day, and within that, most people ought to consume approximately 28 grams of fiber. However, an April 2017 review in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners reported that most American adults consume only 15 grams of fiber per day. Consuming just 1.5 ounces of whole or ground flaxseeds each day could easily allow you to obtain your daily recommended fiber intake.
The fat in flaxseeds is also extremely healthy. Although many fats are detrimental to human health, this doesn't apply to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like linolenic and linoleic acid, which are also known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Both of these fats are important for your health, as they play various roles in your body's immunological, cardiovascular and neurological functions. Alpha-linolenic acid is particularly hard to consume in sufficient amounts if you follow a plant-based diet, making flaxseeds a valuable source of this essential nutrient.
Golden Flaxseed vs. Brown Flaxseed
The difference between golden and brown flaxseed is fairly minimal and comes down to their macronutrient and antioxidant contents. Depending on what you're looking to obtain from your flaxseeds, both of types have their benefits
According to a July 2013 study in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, there isn't much difference between the raw carbohydrate, protein and fat content of golden flaxseed versus brown flaxseed.
Golden flaxseed is made up of about 37.5 percent fat, 23 percent protein and 30 percent carbohydrates, while brown flaxseed is made up of 38 percent fat, 24.5 percent protein and 28 percent carbohydrates. However, what is different is the type of fat you can find in golden flaxseed versus brown flaxseed.
Golden flaxseeds have more polyunsaturated fatty acids and less monounsaturated fatty acids compared to brown flaxseeds. They also have larger amounts of the two essential fats that your body isn't able to produce: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid.
Notably, these two essential fats are also present in different ratios compared to brown flaxseed. There is more ALA in golden flaxseed compared to linoleic acid. Because most people who follow a Western diet typically consume too many omega-6 fats, like linoleic acid, and not enough omega-3 fats, like ALA, golden flaxseed is definitely the healthier choice if you're trying to supplement your diet with healthy fats.
However, golden flaxseeds aren't better in every regard. The same study showed that brown flaxseed has a substantially higher concentration of antioxidants. In fact, compared to other similar seeds, like chia seeds and perilla seeds, golden flaxseeds are always the lowest in antioxidants.
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Flaxseed—a Potential Functional Food Source"
- Food Science and Technology: "Antioxidant Capacity and Chemical Composition in Seeds Rich in Omega-3: Chia, Flax, and Perilla"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Flax Seeds"
- Diabetes Care: "Nutrition Therapy Recommendations for the Management of Adults With Diabetes"
- Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners: "Fiber Supplements and Clinically Proven Health Benefits: How to Recognize and Recommend an Effective Fiber Therapy"
- BioMed Research International: "Alpha-Linolenic Acid: An Omega-3 Fatty Acid with Neuroprotective Properties—Ready for Use in the Stroke Clinic?"
- Biochimie: "Linoleic Acid: Between Doubts and Certainties"
- Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: "Health Implications of High Dietary Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids."