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Flax flack: What's that all about?

The Herald-Dispatch


One of impressionist painter Jean Renoir's favorite techniques was to dilute oil paint with linseed oil and turpentine so that it ran down the canvas. He called it "juice." Well, these days linseed - what we call flaxseed - is having a Renaissance moment as a food and oil that leads to better health.

The benefits of flaxseed: Flaxseeds (always use the ground variety, not whole) deliver a substantial amount of vitamin B-1/thiamine as well as some B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, folate (B-9) and choline. Plus every tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains almost 2 grams of fiber and 1.6 grams of omega-3 ALA fatty acid (which can ease symptoms of diabetic neuropathy). One of flaxseed's great assets is that it contains 75 to 800 times more lignans, a form of polyphenol, than other plant foods! The lignans and other nutrients in the seed are associated with a reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease, the slowing of prostate tumor growth, tamping down your stress response and quelling inflammation.

What about flaxseed oil? The oil is a great source of ALA, but it becomes rancid easily (store in the fridge no more than six to eight weeks). And, it does not contain the lignans, fiber or protein of the ground seeds.

So how do you get this power-packed seed into your diet? Grind the seeds in a coffee grinder as needed; aim for eating 2-3 tablespoons a day. They add flavor and texture to salads, soups and cereals, steamed veggies, broiled fish and smoothies.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit

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