Can Flax Seeds Be Eaten Whole?

Flax seeds are a tiny whole grain seed that are loaded with beneficial nutrients. You can buy flax seeds and add them to any recipe, or purchase foods made with flax seeds. Your body cannot break down the rigid outer husk of flax seeds, so you'll need to grind them prior to consumption.

A scoop of flax seed spilling onto wood table (Image: MamaMiaPL/iStock/Getty Images)

Flax Seeds

Flax seeds are considered a whole grain food. You need 3 to 4 oz. of grains each day, but at least half of your servings need to come from whole grains. According to the Flax Council of Canada, ground flax seeds provide more nutritional benefits than whole flax seeds. They have a very tough outer shell that may not be broken down when you chew. Your stomach acid is also unable to break through the shell and whole flax seeds may pass through your gut completely intact. Grinding flax seeds opens them up and makes them easier for your body to digest, so you can benefit from all of the essential nutrients.

Utilization

Ground flax seeds can be hidden into many recipes as a way to increase your whole-grain intake. Mix a few tablespoons of ground flax seeds into your pancake batter. This is a simple way to sneak whole grains into your family's breakfast. Sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of ground flax seeds onto your salad at lunch. They will add a delicious nutty flavor, while providing essential nutrients. You can also add ground flax seeds to your favorite recipe for cookies, cake or even brownies.

Omega-3 Benefits

Flax seeds contain a short chain of omega-3 fatty acids. This type of polyunsaturated fat is a type of "good" fat that has many health benefits. According to FlaxHealth.com, a diet rich in omega-3's from flax seeds may reduce your risk of diabetes. It may also help stabilize your blood sugar if you already have diabetes. The omega-3's in flax seeds can help fight inflammation in your body. Include ground flax seeds in your diet if you have rheumatoid arthritis, to help reduce the inflammation and pain in your joints.

Fiber Benefits

Flax seeds are high in fiber, but leaving them whole may cause you to miss out on the beneficial fiber. Grinding flax seeds exposes all parts of the seed so your body can utilize it easily. Flax seeds are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel that travels through your intestines. This type of fiber can help lower your total blood cholesterol, reports MedlinePlus. Insoluble fiber stays intact, travels through your gut and helps pass food. It can help alleviate constipation and keep your digestive tract healthy.

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