Question: Last week you wrote about flaxseed meal. What about flaxseed oil? Its easier to use it in a salad dressing or take a few capsules then figure ways to add it to food, but do I get the same health benefits?
Answer: Awesome question! Both Flaxseed meal and Flaxseed oil are rich in linoleic acid and omega- 3– both linked to younger looking skin. The studies on the general health benefits of flaxseed oil are impressive. In the body, omega-3 is converted to omega -6, the oil that seems to fight aging, heart disease and cancer. If you’re a vegetarian, vegan or just don’t like fish, flaxseed oil is a great source of this valuable nutrient. Research supports claims that flaxseed oil can protect bone health and reduce inflammation– important since inflammation is such a big part of asthma, migraines and arthritis. But wait, there’s more. Flaxseed oil is associated with reduced risk of blood clots, heart attacks and colon cancer. It can lower both blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing need for statins and blood pressure medication.
But there are definate drawbacks to flaxseed oil. First problem is the calorie count. One tablespoon of flaxseed oil has 100 calories, compared to less than 40 calories in flaxseed meal. Processing the flaxseed meal into the oil also processes out alot of valuable nutrients. A scant tablespoon of flaxseed has about 2 grams of of the most desireable fiber, but the oil is fiber-free. Processing also removes the lignans, compounds that have been shown to reduce risk of breast cancer and is believed one of the reasons that vegetarian women have lower rates of cancer. Flaxseed oil also strips the seeds of their vitamin B1, protein and calcium payload.
And finally flaxseed oil has a very short shelf life. Once you open a bottle of oil it becomes rancid very quickly. It starts to smell like paint thinner, has a bitter taste and may actually cause a burning sensation on the tongue. Refrigeration slows down the process a bit, but you don’t want to add extra oil ( and calories) to use it up before it goes bad. Flaxseed capsules, kept in the frig may avoid some of this problem, but I love the idea of getting the health benefits of flaxseeds naturally in my food.