The People's Perspective on Medicine

Must You Grind Flaxseed to Get Its Nutritional Benefits?

The scientific consensus is that if you grind flaxseed, you get more of the fiber, lignans and omega-3 fats that make it a healthful food.

The humble flaxseed is now being hailed as a superfood because it is a great source of fiber, healthful omega-3 fats and lignans. The fiber content is helpful against constipation. A systematic review showed that flaxseed can lower blood pressure significantly (Ursoniu et al, Clinical Nutrition, June 2016). In addition, people who consume ground flaxseed have lower cholesterol and a slightly lower chance of heart disease. But do you have to grind flaxseed in order to get any benefits from it?

Why You Might Want to Grind Flaxseed:

Q. I recently started adding flaxseed to my diet by sprinkling seeds on my breakfast cereal. A friend says that I won’t get health benefits unless I grind the seeds before consuming them. Is this true? I hate to add another step to my morning routine unless it’s needed. Besides, I like the way the seeds taste.

A. Most people can’t chew flaxseeds effectively, so they grind them first or swallow them whole. (They are tiny.) Nutrition experts do recommend grinding them first to release the fiber and the beneficial fatty acids. Flaxseeds are helpful for constipation and may lower cholesterol as well.

Ground flaxseed goes rancid easily, however, so it should be kept in the freezer until you are ready to use it. If you buy it ground, you wouldn’t have to use the blender or coffee grinder to break those seeds up before you have breakfast.

Flaxseeds for Constipation:

One reader found a way to utilize flaxseeds’ fiber content to prevent constipation:

“I purchase flaxseed in bulk at a health food store for about $1.50 per pound. I put three quarts of water on to boil, add two tablespoons of flax seed and simmer for fifteen minutes. Then I cool it and strain it into containers. (It makes just over two quarts.) With two ounces in my orange juice every morning, I am more than satisfied.”

Other readers have also pointed out that flaxseed is an ingredient in Uncle Sam’s Laxative Cereal, which may also be a helpful approach to constipation.

Other readers have also had success. 

Here is one person’s story:

Q. I have been having constipation problems for over a year. I tried everything, from increasing my activity level to adding more fiber to my diet. I took soluble fiber supplements and Chinese herbal medicine. Nothing really worked.

Then I finally tried flaxseed. I bought ground flaxseed before and it did not work. This time I use whole flaxseed and grind them right before taking 2 tablespoons every day with yogurt.

It works like magic. I am no longer suffering constipation.

Joy wants to know how to grind flaxseed:

“A women wrote that she grinds her flax see just before using it, how does she grind it? Would a coffee grinder work?”

A coffee grinder or a spice grinder works well. You can also use a blender, particularly if it has a small blender jar.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .

Download 4 pages on lifestyle changes, home remedies and medicines for preventing and treating constipation. Pumpkin-Bran Muffin recipe. Joe and Terry's ten tips to combat constipation.

  • Ursoniu S et al, "Effects of flaxseed supplements on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trial." Clinical Nutrition, June 2016. DOI: 10.1016/j.clnu.2015.05.012
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I purchased some Flax seed maybe 10 or 20 years ago and put them in a plastic container. Reckon they’re still any good? I do have a coffee grinder now & would use them if they’re still good to use?

I am a cancer fighter. I’ve been using flax seed and cottage cheese to make the budwig diet for 2 years. You have to grind flax seed right before use to get nutrition benifits. I use a coffee grinder.

I use flaxseed meal to control diarrhea. I have ulcerative colitis, and flax is the first thing that’s made me diarrhea free.

I have used flaxseed for years. I never buy it already ground because grinding is when oils are released. I was told, when up at a Christian diet consulting farm in NC, not to grind much at a time and to refrigerate it after ground due to released oils at time of grinding. I use a coffee grinder and make enough for just few days and take 2 T. daily.
I never knew what it was for exactly but still do this for my health. Many thanks for this article.

I buy flaxseed already grounded from Wholefoods.

I can faithfully attest to the fact that ground flax seeds increase bowel activity, perhaps even excessively so. I had excess activity for a few years and couldn’t figure out the cause until I realized that the problem had begun about the same time I started grinding flax seeds for my breakfast cereal. As soon as I eliminated the flax seeds, the problem ceased, and now I have normal movements.

Supplementing with magnesium is easy way to prevent constipation. Also keeps most migraines at bay. Still, re: flax seed, all dietary fiber works.

Would you please explain more about the flaxseed water the reader made by boiling the seeds then straining them out? None of that makes sense to me. Thanks.

I grind 1 kg at a time in 330g batches in my hi-speed blender. Place the ground seed in bottles, and store in the freezer.

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