Whether you eat them raw, toasted, baked, ground or any other way, flax seeds provide a host of powerful nutritional benefits. Although raw flax seeds do contain traces of cadmium and cyanide, eating those compounds in such small amounts is very unlikely to cause any adverse effects and doesn’t outweigh the benefits of including the seeds in your diet.
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In addition to being a strong source of essential fatty acids, otherwise known as omega-3s, flax seeds are high in fiber and lignans, phytochemicals that may boost the immune system and cut risks of disease. The National Institutes of Health reports that flax seeds may improve digestive health, improve kidney function, help lower your cholesterol level and reduce the risk of heart disease.
The United States Department of Agriculture doesn’t point out any nutritional differences between raw and toasted or baked flax seeds. A tablespoon of ground seeds has approximately 35 calories, 1.25 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, no sugar, no sodium and no cholesterol. Its relatively high fiber content and low calorie count make raw, ground flaxseed a smart choice for weight loss plans, since fiber is one nutrient that can help you feel satisfied and stay full for a long time.
According to Columbia University’s health services website, you must eat flax seeds ground to most effectively absorb their omega-3 fatty acids and other primary nutrients. However, it’s just fine to eat the seeds raw. After buying raw seeds, grind small amounts in a coffee grinder, in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle before you eat them. The high amounts of oil in raw flax mean that the seeds can go rancid, especially after they’re ground, so it’s helpful to store them in the fridge. Sprinkle raw, ground flax seeds on cereal or granola, bake them into cookies and bars, or eat them as a salad topping.
The National Health Association states that the amounts of cadmium and cyanide present in raw flax seeds “is not a concern” and points out that cyanide is also present in foods including lima beans, almonds and cassava. The organization notes that eating even about 60 grams of flax seeds every day, which equates to half a cup or more, would be unlikely to pose a hazard. Still, Zeratsky suggests that you need to eat only a single tablespoon of raw, ground flax seeds per day to meet the recommended intake amount for omega-3 fatty acids, which is about 1.6 grams.