Are you getting all the benefits you can from your flaxseed?
Flaxseed is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to decreased risk of developing heart disease by lowering triglyceride levels. Most Americans consume a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids (found in things like corn oil, beef, and chicken). Omega-6 fatty acids tend to increase cellular inflammation leading to problems such as high blood pressure, arthritis, and arteriosclerosis (the hardening of the artery wall). The goal is not to switch completely to omega-3s only, but to improve the ratio between the omega-3 and the omega-6 fatty acids you consume One way to do this is by adding flaxseeds to your diet.
You can buy flaxseed as a whole seed or pre-ground. In order for the body to utilize the omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed must be ground, otherwise the seeds pass straight through the body without being absorbed. Flaxseed is high in fiber, so by ingesting whole flaxseed you have increased your fiber intake, which is beneficial, but if you grind your flaxseed you will have the added benefit of increasing your omega-3 fatty acid intake. If you don't purchase pre-ground flaxseed, you can use a coffee grinder to grind them yourself. Flaxseed has a tendency to go rancid, so you should keep ground seeds refrigerated. You can add them to foods like spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, chili, hot cereal, muffins, and pancakes during preparation, or sprinkle them on top of yogurt.
The amount of omega-3 you need to add to your diet is under debate. Right now, the range experts recommend varies from 500 to 2000 mg per day. (One tablespoon of ground flaxseed provides 1000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.)
If using flaxseed to increase your omega-3 intake does not suit your lifestyle, there are other options available. You can add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet by eating more fish, or by taking a fish oil or flaxseed oil supplement.