Ground Flaxseed & Weight Loss

No doubt about it, losing weight is a real struggle for many people. While it's generally believed that most people are unable to successfully lose weight and keep it off, that's not entirely true. To drop weight, you have to change your mindset a bit, and probably some of your habits too.

Mix ground flaxseed into your morning oatmeal. (Image: natashamam/iStock/GettyImages)

What you do to lose the weight shouldn't be viewed as a quick fix, but as a long-term plan to help you slim down and keep it off. Ground flax seeds can fit into any healthy meal plan, including one geared towards weight loss, but they shouldn't be viewed as a magical seed that can melt off your unwanted pounds.

Succeeding at Weight Loss

In the United States, waistlines have been expanding for years. But that doesn't mean you can't successfully lose weight and keep it off. To understand the methods that lead to success, researchers began to track weight loss winners in 1994 through the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). To qualify for inclusion in the registry, participants had to have lost 30 or more pounds and kept it off a year or more.

By tracking these individuals, researchers were able to determine habits that make these successful weight losers win at the weight-loss game, which include:

  • Engaging in regular exercise (one hour of brisk walking most days of the week)
  • Following a low-calorie, low-fat diet
  • Tracking their weight daily
  • Eating a consistent meal plan, which included breakfast daily
  • Catching "slip-ups" before they turned into major weight-gain problems

Interestingly, about half of the participants had help with their weight loss from a nutritionist, their doctor or a commercial weight-loss plan, while the other half did it all on their own. Whether you need help with your weight loss or not depends on you.

Knowing Your Calorie Needs

While there are many different ways to lose weight — limiting carbs, cutting back on fat, eliminating processed junk — they all work by helping you eat fewer calories. As noted by the NWCR, calories count when it comes to losing weight, especially after you've reached your goal. It's generally understood that 1 pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories and reducing your daily intake by 500 calories can help you lose 1 pound a week.

There are many ways you can cut 500 calories from your diet. You can swap your sweet soda for carbonated water flavored with a squeeze of fresh lemon to save 200 calories, ask your barista for a black coffee instead of your fancy coffee drink to save 250 calories and instead of your potato chips, snack on 3 cups of air-popped popcorn.

If you're already eating a fairly healthy diet, but you're still struggling with your weight, then it may be a matter of portion sizes. To help keep your portions in check, measure your food and use smaller plates, bowls and cups. While everyone's weight-loss calories are different, most women can lose eating 1,200 calories to 1,500 calories a day, while men can lose eating 1,500 calories to 1,800 calories a day.

Maximizing Every Bite

When it comes to dropping unwanted pounds, calories may hold a lot of weight, but that's not the only thing that matters, especially when it comes to long-term success. When you're keeping calories in check, it's important that every bit you take counts towards your end goal. That means the foods you include on your weight-loss plan should be rich in nutrients.

Carbs, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients all play vital roles in keeping your body running at its best. The foods you include on your weight-loss plan should be maxed out in nutrients so that every calorie you eat offers health benefits, such as protection against cancer and heart disease. Ensuring your body gets all the good nutrients it needs to perform at its best also means your metabolism — that's what burns those calories — runs efficiently.

What should you eat? Well, the types of healthy foods you need to include on your weight-loss diet are no big secret. When it comes to wellness and a healthy weight, your diet should be filled with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein and healthy fats, including flax seeds.

Consistency Is Key

You can learn a lot about being successful at weight loss from the NWCR. Researchers noted that one of the traits that stood out among the participants was that they ate consistently, which means they ate the same types of foods around the same time on a fairly regular basis.

Getting into a routine when it comes to your eating helps take some of the stress out of "dieting." You know what you're going to eat, how much and when. It helps with grocery shopping, meal planning and hunger control.

The participants also prioritized breakfast. Making it a point to have breakfast every morning may prevent hunger, cravings and overeating mid-morning or lunch.

What Are Flax Seeds?

Flax seeds, also known as linseeds, are the small brown seeds from the flax plant, which is botanically known as Linum usitatissimum, and is the same plant responsible for linen fabric. The small brown seeds have been used for medicinal purposes for many years as a treatment for constipation. Flax seeds are also rich in oil, referred to as flaxseed oil, which is pressed and used for both culinary and industrial purposes.

While the whole seed has its place in your diet, namely to help improve bowel movements, when it comes to health, ground flax seeds are the way to go, according to Katherine Zaretsky, RD, LD, health advocate and dietitian at the Mayo Clinic. She notes that ground flax seeds make the better choice because they're easy to digest and you get more of the nutritional benefits, as whole flax seeds go through your system undigested.

Ground Flaxseed Nutrition

When you're looking for foods to maximize your nutritional intake to support your health and your weight loss, ground flax seeds are an excellent choice. The nutty ground seed is low in calories and is a source of many essential nutrients your body needs.

One tablespoon of ground flax seeds contains:

  • 37 calories
  • 3 grams of fat
  • 1.3 grams of protein
  • 2 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1.9 grams of fiber
  • 7 percent of the daily value (DV) for magnesium
  • 9 percent of the DV for copper
  • 8 percent of the DV for manganese
  • 10 percent of the DV for thiamin

Ground flax seeds are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, providing 100 percent of your adequate intake, which is the amount you need for nutritional adequacy, in 1 tablespoon. The omega-3 fatty acids found in the nutty seed support brain health and function, reduce inflammation and may offer some protection against chronic disease.

Ground Flaxseed and Weight Loss

While ground flax seeds may not be the magic weight-loss food you've been searching for all of your life, there is scientific evidence that the healthy seed can help you lose weight. A 2019 study published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research found that flaxseed supplementation (3 tablespoons per day) in addition to a healthy lifestyle geared towards weight loss helped promote more weight loss than the healthy lifestyle alone. Those who supplemented with the flaxseed were also noted to have improvements in their cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as inflammatory markers.

While the authors of the study noted that more research was needed to better understand how ground flaxseed may help with weight loss, it may have something to do with lignan, which is a polyphenol and phytoestrogen. According to a 2017 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Science, lignan may help support fat metabolism and prevent the accumulation of fatty tissue. However, the authors of this study also noted that more research was needed.

In any event, ground flax seeds are a good source of fiber, with nearly 2 grams per tablespoon. A 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that focusing on adding more fiber to your diet was as effective at promoting weight loss as a highly structured diet plan. Fiber is a nondigestible carbohydrate that keeps you feeling full longer, so you eat less.

Flaxseed Benefits and Side Effects

Adding ground flax seeds to your diet can help you in many ways, but you also want to take into consideration flaxseed benefits and side effects. Since they're a fiber-rich food, when you add ground flax seeds to your usual rotation, be sure to drink plenty of water to help prevent constipation. While fiber does help promote bowel function, if you're not drinking enough water with it, you may get stopped up.

Another potential flaxseed side effect is bloating and gas, which can occur if you're not a regular consumer of foods rich in fiber. To help prevent this uncomfortable issue, start with a small amount, 1 tablespoon or less a day, and slowly add more every few days as tolerated.

What About Flaxseed Oil?

Like the seed, flaxseed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. However, it's not a significant source of any other nutrients, including fiber, vitamins or minerals. It's also a more concentrated source of calories.

One tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains:

  • 120 calories
  • 14 grams of fat
  • 454 percent of the adequate intake for omega-3 fatty acids

Adding Ground Flax Seeds

With their nutty flavor, ground flax seeds can be added to many foods to improve both taste and nutrition. Consider:

  • Mixing flax seeds into your morning oatmeal
  • Adding flax seeds to your pancake batter
  • Blending flax seeds into your fruit smoothie
  • Sprinkling flax seeds on your yogurt
  • Mixing flax seeds into your meatloaf

You can also bake your ground flax seeds into your favorite treats, such as cookies or quick bread, to up the nutritional quality. But like any special treat, enjoy your sweets in moderation.

Watch Out for Rancidity

Because of their fat content, ground flax seeds have a shorter shelf-life than whole flax seeds. Even in a sealed container in your refrigerator, ground flax seeds may only stay fresh for up to three months, even in the freezer.

To get the benefits without risking rancidity, buy whole flax seeds and grind them as you need them.

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