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Oil, flaxseed
Why Eat It
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

Flaxseed oil is a delicate, nut-flavored oil that boasts a high nutritional profile. The flax plant has provided sustenance for humans at least as far back as recorded history, and for thousands of years it has been prized for food as well as for fiber used for clothing. Derived from the tiny, nutrient-dense flaxseed, flaxseed oil is a good source of protein, potassium, boron, and linoleic acid (an "essential fatty acid" needed for survival), as well as beta-carotene.

Flaxseed oil also contains a beneficial fat, alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that is under investigation for its ability to reduce risk of a host of conditions, including atherosclerosis, hypertension, stroke, certain cancers, immune and inflammatory disorders, and skin ailments. Alpha-linolenic, a polyunsaturated fat abundant in flaxseed oil, is vital for proper functioning of nerve cells, cell membranes, cell tissues, and prostaglandins (hormonelike substances that indirectly exert anti-inflammatory actions).

Flaxseed oil bears the distinction of providing an optimal balance of both the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In fact, flaxseeds (and flaxseed oil) are the richest plant source of omega-3 fat, which is hard to get in a diet lacking in fish. While flaxseeds contain lignans, phytoestrogens that are under review for a wide range of health benefits, it should be noted that most of these lignans, as well as dietary fiber, are depleted and lost during processing of flaxseeds into oil. It should be noted that some brands have lignans added back into the flaxseed oil. Check the label.

Availability

Flaxseed oil is available in health food and vitamin stores. It is often kept in a refrigerated section behind the counter, so if you don't see it displayed, ask for it.

Shopping

Purchase flaxseed oil from a store that keeps it refrigerated. Look for a "sell by" date and do not buy it if the date has passed; there's a good chance it will be over the hill.

Storage

Flaxseed oil is extremely susceptible to damage by heat, light, and oxygen and should be kept refrigerated. If flaxseed oil becomes rancid, it becomes a source of harmful molecules known as lipid peroxides.

Preparation

Flaxseed oil is thick, rich, and nutty tasting. Do not use flaxseed oil to saute with as direct contact with heat causes it to break down and its beneficial properties are lost.

It does however make a very nice dressing for salads and grilled vegetables when combined with lemon juice or vinegar and it can hold its own against flavorful components. If you'd rather not use all flaxseed oil, try pairing it with olive oil for a slightly lighter dressing. You can also use it in quick breads, muffins, pancakes, waffles, cakes and other baked goods in place of less beneficial oils.

Nutrition Chart

Flaxseed Oil/1 tablespoon

120
Total fat (g)
14
Saturated fat (g)
1.3
Monounsaturated fat (g)
2.3
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
9.3
Dietary fiber (g)
0
0
Carbohydrate (g)
0
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
--
Omega-3s (g)
7.5
Omega-6s (g)
1.8


Date Published: 04/20/2005
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