Linseed vs Flaxseed
What are Linseeds (or is it Flaxseeds)?
A linseed (Linum usitatissiumum) is shaped like a sesame seed, but is a little larger and has a harder, shinier shell. It is a dark brown or sometimes a reddish-brown colour, but golden linseed is, well…a golden colour. 😉
Nomenclature of Linseed vs Flaxseed
Have you noticed that North Americans tend to call it flaxseed while Europeans call it linseed? Well, just to make it more confusing, it depends on what it’s used for! Generally, they are called those names when referring to the edible version in each of those continents. For the purpose of this article we will refer to them as linseeds.
There are many different varieties, but the shorter stemmed-plant with more and fatter seeds is often used for oil (both for consumption and use in coating materials like paints). The taller variety has been traditionally been grown for the fibres used to make ropes, linen and ships’ sails.
Historically, the plants grown for oil were used mainly to make varnish, oilcloth and paints, rather than for consumption. However, in ancient times, it was used for health reasons as well.
As far back as Hippocrates’ time in 650 BC, linseed has been recommended for stomach pains. In the 8th centure AC, Charlemagne passed laws requiring his subjects to consume linseed for their health. So what are the benefits?
Under the Spotlight
Linseeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids (ALA), but also:
- Phytoestrogens called lignans
- A good source of fibre
- Also the minerals copper, iron and phosphorus
- Protein (25%)
Benefits to Your Health
The main benefits to your health from linseeds come from the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and lignans in them. Linseeds actually have more omega 3 fats than fish oil does, but they need to be converted into the same type (long-chain) as the fish oil has to obtain the health benefits.
If you have enough of a certain enzyme (delta-6-desaturase) then that is no problem. People who may have less are those with diabetes or nutritional deficiencies or who consume a lot of saturated fat and alcohol. Here are some of the benefits of linseeds:
- ALA reduces the risk of cancer (breast, ovarian and prostate) and heart disease
- The lignans reduce breast cancer risk as well! The lignans (a part of the fibre of linseeds) are phytoestrogens (plant oestrogens) that interfere with the cancer-promoting effect of oestrogens and helps remove it from the body (by boosting sex-hormone binding globulin – SHBG)
- Linseed may actually shrink breast cancers as well
- Lowers overall cholesterol levels
- Reduces constipation as it helps softens the stool
- Helps with weight loss as it helps you feel fuller for longer
- Reduces PMS and symptoms that occur in menopause
- Lowers pain in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Replace 1/4 of the flour in a baking recipe with ground linseeds
- Use linseed oil on salads or as a dipping sauce
- Add a tablespoon of linseeds to your breakfast cereal or smoothie
- If you are cooking something in a frying pan, like tofu or mushrooms, coat them in linseeds first
- Buy the linseeds you prefer; whole or ground, but remember that whole linseeds are less digestible so you need to soak them for a few hours or grind them in a coffee grinder first. Store any extra in the fridge to keep the oils fresh.
Now I am going away to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming yet again to read additional news.
Great to hear Junette! Enjoy your breakfast.
Where can I buy golden linseed. Thanks. Liz
Hi Liz, this depends on where you are based, but usually organic grocery stores carry them.
my problem now i lost my voice and i have result from my scan and lab test. was inflammatory chronh diseases ,doctor give me amoxicillin Augmentin @500. and prednisone tab@20mlg, did my lost voice connecting on this problem ?i take flaxseed oil 2 capsules a day and i do ground mix seed did can help this for me to take everyday ?
best regards ! ERLINDA BAYSIC – NEW ZEALAND
I suggest that you find a local naturopath or nutritional therapist to support you as Crohn’s flareups demand a different way of eating than when it is calmer. Ground flaxseed may irritate your gut so I suggest sticking only to flaxseed oil. Again, please consult someone who will look at your entire health profile to assess what would be best for you. I hope that helps.
Great article, thank you! It was interesting to hear about the delta-6-desaturase and what conditions/behaviors might lead to having less of this enzyme.
It’s actually not saying that diabetes may lead to having less, but rather that people with diabetes may have less delta-6-desaturase. Whether it’s only a correlation or causal (in either direction) I can’t confirm. I hope that’s clearer!
Thank you for your rich article.
So do we get the benefit if we consume the whole seed in baking or in salad without grind?
Thanks for your constant help.
That’s a good question. You would have the benefit of bulking up your stool, making it easier to have bowel movements, but not the benefits of the oil. If you want to use the whole seed in baking, then soak them overnight first.
It is so helpful, thank you for writing and sharing.
It’s my pleasure! Thank you so much for letting me know it was interesting for you Windy!
What is the best way to store linseed?
As seeds have oils that are more sensitive to going rancid than saturated fats it’s best to store them in a cool, dark place. If you have a cellar or basement that’s an option, but otherwise the fridge.
How do I make flax seed tea?
I am horrifically constipated with Long-Covid and want to know how to drink the flax seed tea and the maximum amount I can drink per day? Also how does flax seed actually help with constipation?
Do flax seeds like other seeds have phytic acid on them?
Thank you, Joanne
P.s I’ve been told to soak some flax in water, boil them up and drink it down. It’s a gloopy liquid with the seeds in.
Hi Joanne, although it varies according to the soil the flax is grown in, there is phytic acid in flaxseed, but only about 3%. There are many ways to reduce constipation, not just with flaxseed. Remember that there are no perfect foods and that variety is extremely important. For constipation ensure you drink plenty of water (your urine should be a light straw colour throughout the day), eat healthy fats (like flax), oily fish, nuts, olive oil etc and eat plenty of vegetables. Flaxseed helps with constipation because the fibre in it helps bulk up your stool, stimulating peristalsis (the movement in the gut). That’s why vegetables also help. Aim for 5-10 servings per day. Flaxseed is also good for women’s hormones! You don’t have to drink them, but I find they are much nicer in smoothies or you can add ground flaxseeds to a cereal. I hope that answers your questions and that you enjoy them in other ways!