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Just the Flax, Ma’am

Ground flax seed consumption may decrease breast cancer risk by slowing one’s menstrual cycle. It may also control prostate enlargement as effectively as the leading prescription drug.

August 22, 2007 |
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Image thanks to waferboard.

Transcript

Flax seed is one of the original health foods treasured for it's heeling properties throughout the Roman Empire. One of the original medicines used by Hypocrites.  Mahatma Gandhi himself was right when he said "wherever flax seeds become a regular food item among the people there will be better health" Doctor Andrew Wile one of the more reputable alternative medicine physician says that if you can only make a single dietary change it should be to add flax seeds to our diet. Ok, but where do we find them and how should we eat them? Flax seeds are almost always in the bulk section of any natural food store. For about a dollar a pound you have got like a two-month supply. There are brown ones and golden ones they're the same nutritionally so pick your favorite color i guess. They come with nature's own finest packaging, a hard natural hull that keeps them fresh for up to a year in an airtight container. Unfortunately, nature's packaging is actually a little too good, if we eat flax seeds whole they are likely to pass right through us and come out the other end and not do us much good so chew them really well or grind them up in a coffee or spice grinder, a mini food processor or a good blender. After they are ground, store them in the refrigerator and they will last a few months. An easy way to get our daily intake is with a morning smoothie. Just put 2 tablespoons of flax seeds in a blender, grind them to powder, throw in some frozen berries, maybe a half of a frozen banana, soy milk or almond milk, any of the so called motherless milks. Flax seeds have this binding quality that makes for this thick rich kind of milkshakey type smoothies. In fact you can use ground flax seed to replace eggs in baking. Just blend 1 tablespoon of ground flax with 3 tablespoons water until it gets all kind of gooey for each egg in the recipe. Ground flax is better than the flax seed oil. The seeds are little nutrition powerhouses and we lose much of the nutrition when we just press out the oil. Not only are flax seeds the richest source of lignans, they are a great source of iron, zinc, copper, calcium, protein, potassium, magnesium, folate, soluble fiber which can lower our cholesterol and triglycerides, even boron a trace mineral important for optimum bone health. We don't get any of those though with just the flax seed oil. Another example of the importance of eating the whole plant foods. Flax seeds are incredibly powerful at dampening the effects of estrogen. Eating just a single tablespoon of ground flax a day extends the length of a woman's menstrual cycle, not the menses itself but the whole month long cycle, by an average of about one day. So you have fewer periods throughout your life which means less estrogen exposure and lower breast cancer risk. Interesting story behind this, we've known for a long time that young women who have frequent bladder infections were at an increased risk for breast cancer. Frequent bladder infections tied to breast cancer? It seems strange and used to be a big mystery but now we think that repeated antibiotic treatments for the bladder infections were probably wiping out all the good bacteria from the colon that take the lignans in our diet and turn them into these powerful anti-cancer compounds so eating flax, the world's best source of lignans may indeed help prevent breast cancer. It's good for men too. Flax seeds were recently compared to a leading pharmacological treatment for enlarged prostates. The standard drug costs about $300 versus only about $10 for daily flax. This new study found they both work just as well as each other but what about the side effects? The drug can cause headaches, dizziness, diarrhea and all sorts of abnormalities. Flax has some side effects too though, it improves our cholesterol and blood sugar, controls our blood pressure and helps control hot flashes though that's not usually a problem in sufferers of enlarged prostates.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger
  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/AmyHigham/ Amy Higham

    Thanks for this video. I’ve just started adding flax seeds to my diet for the omega acids, but it is good to know that they have all sorts of other benefits as well! Also, I have been eating them whole, but I will grind them up this afternoon and stick them in the refrigerator.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Great! I recommend two tablespoons a day.

      • chewbella

        so i should take 2 Tablespoons of pre-ground flaxseed daily for the long term?any possible negatives to doing this?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/joel/ Joel

      Amy, Take it a small step further: Grind the seeds fresh each time you use them! This is nothing – 6 seconds in your coffee grinder. You know flax contains a lot of oil – delicate oil. So refrigerated or not, the exposed oil in ground seeds is becoming rancid at a faster rate (probably much faster) than it would by remaining sealed in the seed. Weighing this against the tiny inconvenience of grinding the seeds fresh is no contest in my opinion. Two NDs I’ve seen concur with this. Take it another step further and store the whole seeds in the refrigerator if you have a large quantity and are using them relatively slowly. Oil is oil.

      • Michael Greger M.D.

        Surprisingly, ground flax seeds actually do suprisingly well–see my response to jmerrikin below.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/jmerrikin/ jmerrikin

    Dr. Greger, thank you for this information. My question is — I have been purchasing and consuming about 2 tbsp. per day of Bob’s Red Mill ground flax seed in a package. Is this as beneficial to my body as grinding my own whole flax seeds and storing them in the refrigerator?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      While I enjoy talking dietary theory as much as the next nutrition nerd, my favorite questions are the practical ones like this one–thank you for asking! I’m sure bunches of other people were wondering the exact same thing, so you taking the time to ask helped them all.

      Pre-ground is perfectly fine. In an air-tight container (dumping the bag contents into a jar, or tupperware, or maybe the bag has a built-in ziplock?) it should last for months just fine in the fridge (but it shouldn’t last for months because you’re so awesomely eating 2 tablespoons a day! :)

      • lalov1

        I leave mine out in a zip-lock bag. Should I be putting them in the fridge?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/jmerrikin/ jmerrikin

    Thank you Dr. Greger.

    What is it about flax seed that requires storing it in an “air tight” container? Does flax seed lose any potency or benefit when it is exposed to room temperature air? How about heat? I usually add my 2TBSP of ground flax seed to my hot steel cut oats in the morning but now I am wondering if putting it in the hot oatmeal is compromising it’s beneficial properties.

    Thanks again for your great work! You have helped to save my life and many others!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Jmerrickin–the high omega 3 content makes them susceptible to oxidation once the protective outer coating has been breached by grinding, so best to put it in something with a lid. No worries about the heating though. The Canadian flax council (though certainly not unbiased) found that one could cooked ground flax at the equivalent of 350 degrees Fahrenheit for a full hour and still not see a decrement in alpha-linoneic acid content (the omega 3 it’s packed with). Even more importantly, is the secoisolariciresinol diglucosides (the lignans! Other foods have omega 3′s but the magic of flax is in these anti-cancer lignan compounds). Research found that they survive cooking fine as well. If you make some flax muffins, though, the deal is you have to send me one :)

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/JenniferEldred/ Jennifer Eldred

    What about keeping the ground in the freezer? This is what I read to do, but maybe I’m doing it wrong.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Cute little flaxicles! :) Sounds good to me. I haven’t seen any science on it but my guess would be they might even last a little longer that way. Thanks for the question Jennifer. For more facts-on-flax check out these other videos.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/greenvegan/ GreenVegan

    what happen to flax seed if stored at room temperture.. and if the temperature increases to 90 degrees +. should i discard?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      No problemo, GV. See my response to Jmerrickin above.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/louisef/ LouiseF

    I saw Flax oil supplements today in the vitamin section. Although I am happy putting ground flax seeds on my oatmeal, my boyfriend doesn’t like the taste and won’t do it. Are these capsules then a good option for people like that?
    Thank you!!
    Louise

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/jmerrikin/ jmerrikin

      My guess is that the flax seed oil may give you the omega-3 EFAs but you will miss out on the ever important fiber.

      As a tip, I mix a tbsp into my oatmeal and cannot even tell it’s in there. I also frequently add it to my salad dressings and still cannot taste it.

      I am wondering if your boyfriend got a taste of some flax seed that had gone rancid and that is what turned him off to it.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/HeidiWoodruff/ Heidi Woodruff

    I mix ground flax seeds with a little water and use as an egg replacer in baking! Works really well and makes my vegan muffins even better!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/MelanieAnderson/ Melanie Anderson

    There is a new product on the market called Flax Milk that touts 1100 miligrams of Omega 3 & 50 calories to 8 ounces. What do you think of this? Is drinking it as good as eating flax seeds?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/joel/ Joel

      Melanie, What ingredients, and in what proportion, are listed on the label? How can you ask, “What do you think of this?” when you haven’t said what “THIS” is? The title “Flax Milk” says practically nothing.
      Larger advice: read ALL labels if you buy food in packages and educate yourself enough to know what each ingredient is. If you don’t know don’t buy it, or research the unknowns before buying it. An impulse is not really a decision.

      • LauraR

        Joel, why so preachy to Melanie? She read the label enough to know it contains 1100 mg of Omega 3, and 50 calories in 8 oz. Also, she DID say what it was, Flax Milk. That’s what the manufacturer puts on the label, so you might want to jump on them instead. It’s actually made from cold pressed flaxseed oil. Also, Melanie didn’t even say she bought the Flax Milk, so saying “an impulse is not really a decision” is inaccurate at worst and condescending at best. Flax Milk is made from cold pressed flax oil, by the way.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/becochic/ becochic

    If flax affects estrogen, then is it safe to eat while pregnant? It should be fine while breastfeeding since estrogen is naturally low, but I don’t know if I want to inhibit estrogen while pregnant… Do you have any more information on this? I’ve looked online and I can’t find any studies. It sounds like flax seeds provide great stuff for a growing fetus, so it seems like a shame to cut them out.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/BoNovak/ Bo Novak

      Animal studies involving rats do suggest that flax affects the offspring of pregnant rats. These sorts of experiments do tend to look at relatively high levels of consumption of whatever variable they’re looking at, and anecdotally (as opposed to scientifically) there are women who report using a small amount of flax throughout their pregnancy without any ill effects to themselves or their babies. However, estrogen isn’t the only hormone affected by flax . Studies on postmenopausal women show an effect on prolactin too – which is why flax is also not recommended during breastfeeding. Therefore it might therefore better to err on the side of caution and go easy on the flax during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Focus instead on a balanced whole foods diet to ensure the health of yourself and your baby. It’s as much about what you choose to eat and what you leave out of your diet and there are alternative plant sources of omega 3s for example (see good and bad fats: http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/good-great-bad-killer-fats/ It’s natural to take as much care as you can during pregnancy, but you may be surprised at how sometimes this can be counterproductive. In case you were tempted to supplement with iron during your pregnancy, take a look at http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/iron-during-pregnancy/

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/becochic/ becochic

        Well, I’ve been drinking soy for a week now and having a tablespoon of flax and I haven’t noticed any difference in my milk supply. My baby is ten months already so I do seem to be very well established, too.

        I’ve been low on B12 and anemic for a long time. And I have hypothyroidism. I am worried about soy affecting my hashimoto’s disease and t4 absorption from my medicine…
        Then, I am wondering if I have gastro issues.. “leaky gut” issues, because I ate tons of meat and dairy before and was always low on b12 and iron and who knows what else.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/NicoLiukko/ Nico Liukko

    how much grounded flax seed can one consume in a day?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/BoNovak/ Bo Novak

      Flaxseeds are indeed a superperformer (and as if you needed further proof, check out this video comparing flax to chia seeds http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/flaxseeds-vs-chia-seeds. But the first question to ask is how much ground flaxseed you are consuming already. As with any supplement, it’s a good idea to build up to the recommended dose gradually to give your body the chance to adjust. In the case of flaxseed, go from say, a teaspoon a day to a tablespoon a day. You shouldn’t need more than two tablespoons. Although flaxseed is a food, it’s not good to overdo any one food. The golden rule is to supplement any nutrient by the minimal amount that is effective.

      Flaxseeds provide Omega-3 fatty acids of course (see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/good-great-bad-killer-fats but also protein, minerals, lignans and lots of fiber. And if you are eating a whole-foods diet high in plants, remember you may be getting these nutrients already.

      Well done on consuming flaxseeds ground up by the way – that’s definitely best for digestion. And don’t forget to always take enough water on board to help process the fiber!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Bo’s got a great point about the water. May also not want to go over 4 TB of raw flax a day so as not to not interfere with thyroid function (http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/overdosing-on-greens/).

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/dsikes/ DSikes

    There are a lot discussions and articles online about the supposed connection between flax seeds (ALA) and prostate cancer – suggesting that more flax consumed = increase chance of prostate cancer. I haven’t found this issue addressed on your website (sorry if I missed it). Can you comment? thanks!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      The latest meta-analysis of prospective studies found that, if anything, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, the omega-3 fat in flax) was protective against prostate cancer. Men consuming more than 1.5 g/day appeared to have significantly lower risk (the amount found in about a tablespoon of ground flax seeds).

      One of the reasons there’s been so much conflicting data is that ALA is found in great foods (dark green leafies) and less than great foods (meat), and so ALA intake is not necessarily a marker of healthy eating. What you want is a randomized controlled study of men with prostate cancer Give half of them flax and see what happens. And that was done! (full text here)

      Researchers at the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center took a bunch of men with prostate cancer about a month before they were to go into surgery. Half were put on a few tablespoons of ground flax a day and after surgery their cancerous prostates were examined. The proliferation rates of the cancer in the flax-eaters were only half that of the controls, confirming the test-tube studies done on prostate cancer cells suggesting that flax can indeed slow prostate tumor growth.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/dsikes/ DSikes

    Thanks!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/soupy/ soupy

    Finding a tasty way to eat my daily ground flax has been a challenge until I tried this: mash together 2 tablespoons ground flax with 2 teaspoons strawberry (or your favorite) preserves and spread on a piece of whole grain toast. It also tastes good enough to eat by the spoonful, or mashed raspberries with a healthy sweetener can be substituted for the preserves. Bon appetit!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/ghulstyle/ ghulstyle

      yum i gotta try that!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/vitamin-me/ Vitamin-mE

    what do you think about this?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5hIsPD5dx0
    this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5grhJK_40kU
    and anything he has to say
    the company that makes this clary sage oil also say
    that flax oil is banned in France and Germany.
    Is this all true and what it’s all about?
    Thanks :)

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/vitamin-me/ Vitamin-mE

    And is this true that omega-3 disapears 15 min after grounding flax seeds? That’s what I heard from many vegans

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Silly vegans! Ground flax can even be cooked for an hour without significant decrement in the omega-3 content. Just keep it in your fridge in an airtight container and it should last for weeks.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/seri/ Seri

    I used to use flax seed until I was diagnosed with estrogen positive breast cancer. Then my oncologist told me to avoid flax seed because of its estrogenic properties. After listening to your video I am now confused about whether it would be better to use it or not. My cancer was found early and I did not need to have chemo. Can you comment on the relationship of flax to estrogen positive breast cancer? thank you!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Seri, people tend to get confused with phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens do not raise estrogen levels. Did your doctor say to avoid soy products as well? All of these phytoestrogen rich plant foods have a positive affect in preventing breast cancer.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/soy-breast-cancer-3/

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/seri/ Seri

        Yes, my doctor did say to avoid soy products also. So I stopped eating flax and soy and ironically ate more dairy products for protein(I’m a vegetarian). It seems from what I’ve been reading on your website that this was not the best course of action for me.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/chewy/ chewy

    i am reading your post today about 3 tablespoons of flaxseed daily -ground or whole?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/chewy/ chewy

    is the 3 Tablespoons you mention to eat daily,do you mean 3T whole or pre-ground?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      You would want it pre ground, unless you chew every seed thoroughly. If you swallow the seeds whole they will pass through your digestive system unused.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/chewy/ chewy

    is there anyone who should avoid eating ground flaxseed daily?

    • chewy

      any answer to this yet?currently  taking 2 Tablepoons of pre-ground flaxseed meal daily.

      • Toxins

         Hello again Chewy, as i mentioned before, pregnant women should avoid flaxseed use as it may increase the risk of a stillbirth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wikirandy Randy Fisher

    I have suffered with dry flaky skin on my elbows for years (an undiagnosed combination of psoriasis and eczema). For some reason, I took a heaping spoon of flax seed at night, and the next morning, while touching my elbows, I noticed that the flaky skin was entirely gone – and that the skin around the elbows was silky smooth. In 50+ years, that has NEVER happened – even when the flaky skin cleared up. (It usually shows up when I have more than 2 pieces of bread.

    I wanted to share this – and I believe that this better outcome – which is continuing – is directly attributable to the flax. That day, which I made the fateful decision to have the flax – it was the only thing I changed in my diet.

    Now, from reading this column, I see that I should double down – and increase to 2 heaping tablespoons a day. Thanks lots!

  • http://poxacuatl.wordpress.com/ Strix

    I prefer chia seeds. Dr. G., how about a flax vs. chia? ;^)
    Chias seem to outdo the flax, but I’m not privvy to the latest info. Any chance of a video on it?
    Thanks!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post Breast Cancer and Diet!

  • Kartesrick

    This site is flat amazing. I am becoming nutrition wise in spite of all the misinformation that is out there.

  • lee

    What Ive Been Saying For Years Its Nice To Be Validated. If you are in the UK you can get them here

    Flax Hulls

  • Guest

    Does flax seed affect oral contraceptives? Either hormonally by changing estrogen amounts or by flushing medications out of your system from so much added fiber?

    • Toxins

       Phytoestrogens found in flax do not have a negative hormonal balance and actually are very healthy for you in preventing estrogen dependent cancers from developing.

      As far as fiber is concerned, yes flax seeds contain fiber but it is not the top source of fiber. Flax seeds are commonly advertised though to be very high in fiber but compared with other plant foods it doesn’t have early as much.

      Grams of fiber per 200 calories based on USDA nutritional database:

      Nuts:

       chia seeds

      Dietary Fiber:
      15g 

       flaxseed

      Dietary Fiber:
      10g 

      Legumes:

      Lentils

      Dietary Fiber:
      17g 
      kidney beans

      Dietary Fiber:
      15g 

      navy beans Dietary Fiber:
      15g  split peas Dietary Fiber:
      15g  black beans Dietary Fiber:
      13g  pinto beans Dietary Fiber:
      13g  lima beans Dietary Fiber:
      12g 
      Vegetables:Turnip Greens Dietary Fiber: 35g
      beet greens Dietary Fiber: 34gmustard greens Dietary Fiber: 33g
      artichokes Dietary Fiber: 32g
      cauliflower: Dietary Fiber: 32g
      eggplant: Dietary Fiber: 28
      romaine lettuce Dietary Fiber: 25g
      collards Dietary Fiber: 24g
      squash Dietary Fiber: 24

      Fruits:

      Raspberries Dietary Fiber: 25gblackberries Dietary Fiber: 25g

      blueberries Dietary Fiber: 17g
      Asian pears Dietary Fiber:
      17g 
      strawberries Dietary Fiber: 12

      http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000006000000000000000.html

      consuming a high fiber diet is natural and healthy.

  • PeterK

    Any studies on … impacts of using the Microwave, 

    Breakfast for me –  2/3 cup Oatmeal add 2 tbsp ground Flaxseed, 1 tsp of AMLA powder, 1/2 tsp of Cinnamon  add water … THEN it goes in the microwave for 80 seconds top with a handful of blueberries 5-6 raspberries.
    Will try use a few more blackberries going forward.

    My Question: So is using the microwave going to diminish the value of the Flax, AMLA or the Cinnamon

    • Toxins

       Check out this video on the best form of cooking
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/best-cooking-method/

      Microwaves will diminish antioxidants somewhat but there is currently no research to show that microwaving food in itself is harmful or contributes to a health epidemic.

  • Beej 2u

    I germinate my flax seeds overnight so they both soften and begin the sprouting process. Softening makes it easy to grind them into the smoothies I enjoy for breakfast.  The sprouting process breaks down the proteins into amino acids, the fats into fatty acids, and the complex carbohydrates into simple carbohydrates. These act as probiotics, becoming more easily available. In addition the sprouting process increases the amounts of enzymes in the flax.

    Enjoy good health!

  • Pierre Pelletier

    Dr. Greger 
    how does the shelled hemp seed compare with flaxThank you for sharing

  • Judy

    Will flax seed help with hot flashes?

  • Daniel Dunér

    How about this claim on Wikipedia regarding neurotoxic and immunosuppressive properties of flax seeds?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flax_seed#Nutrients_and_clinical_research

    “Consuming large amounts of flax seed may … have adverse effects due to its content of neurotoxic cyanogen glycosides and immunosuppressive cyclic nonapeptides”

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauren.r.ard Lauren Rae Layton Ard

    You’ve said in the comments that flax is not recommended for pregnant women, but what about women who are trying to get pregnant? Will this affect their fertility?

    • Toxins

      Consuming flax seeds does not have negative adverse affects on fertility. The concern with consuming flax seeds WHILE pregnant is that the risk of certain birth defects is higher.

  • Stan Kogan

    I believe the flax milk product that Melanie mentioned is made by Good Karma. They released a flax milk product that comes in three flavors: unsweetened, original, and vanilla. 

    Here’s a link to the unsweetened one:
    http://www.goodkarmafoods.com/flax-milk-unsweetened 

    The ingredient list is as follows:
    All Natural Flaxmilk (Filtered Water, Cold Pressed Flax Oil), Tapioca Starch, Tricalcium Phosphate, Canola and/or Sunflower Lecithin, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12.  

    I’m very curious as to how this product compares to actual ground flax seeds because I consume both regularly. Personally, I find that this milk works well for smoothies and isn’t as creamy as coconut milk.

  • Emily

    Dr. Greger, what do you recommend for the women who have had many bladder infections? I have one about once a year, but I only treat them with antibiotics if home remedies aren’t working (normally home remedies work really well). Before I learned about natural remedies, I treated all of them with antibiotics… I’ve probably had ten or so rounds of antibiotics in the last five years– most for bladder infections, one round for strep throat. I am concerned about rebuilding my gut flora and wonder what I should do. Thanks for any info you have!

  • Crystal

    How many of these benefits are retained in flax milk? It’s creamy, delicious, and only 25 calories a glass. If it can do all the stuff outlined in your video, it will be even more perfect!

  • beangu

    I’ve been adding milled flax to my smoothies everyday and prefer it to the taste of ground flax which has the out shell – it makes my smoothies very rich and fatty tasting. I don’t have to add half a banana like I use to which means more berries! Is there any nutritional difference other than additional fiber in the ground flax?

  • MindbodyMD

    Wow! I never seize to be amazed at how much knowledge you pack into each video. Thank you so much for this excellent public service.

  • John C

    I have been advised to stop eating flaxseed because it causes indigestion and might make my acid reflux worse.
     However I notice my BPH is worse when I don t eat flax.
    Any solution here?

  • Stephen Albers

    I’ve heard flax can be toxic in moderately large doses.  Do you agree?  What is a maximum daily dose?

    • Toxins

      Flax does indeed cyanide like byproducts when consumed in large doses, but these large doses are not feasible unless one is eating several bags of flaxseed a day. Dr. Greger recommends 2 tablespoons of flax a day.

  • Rphiri

    Is there any problem of taking medications along side eating the ground flax seeds! 

  • Lor

    After watching this I’m going to add flax to my morning smoothies…if only to “add a day to my period”. What has me a bit bothered is that I suffer with pain (a 10 on the scale for me) once a month and realized it might be connected to my very short 24 day cycles. Maybe adding flax will give me another day, and cause the pain to curb. Im researching the connection to short cycles,pain,and estrogen-excess but I haven’t found much useful info.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1505028026 John Terpening

    While doing some research on flax seeds, I discovered that flax seeds are one of the richest sources of alpha-linolenic acid; however, I then found some research asserting that “Dietary α-Linolenic Acid Is Associated with Reduced Risk of Fatal Coronary Heart Disease, but Increased Prostate Cancer Risk.” (Journal of Nutrition)

    The study concluded that “the association between high intake of ALA and prostate cancer is of concern and warrants further study.”

    To quote Bugs, “What’s up, Doc?”

    • Toxins

      The study you present is a meta analysis looking at several studies. Specifically,  omega 3 from vegetable oils was looked at and not omega 3 from the whole food itself. Consuming omega 3 in the form of oils is not the healthful approach as all the vitamins, minerals, fiber and nearly all of the phytonutrients, including the anticancer lignans have been removed removed from the whole food when converted to oil.

  • Gemma

    Thank you Michael for this wealth of information.  I have a question on flax oil tea, which is a time old remedy for rehydration and for soothing the colon.  My query is in the preparation where you simmer the flax seeds for an hour in water.  Does this process produce a wonderful tea but contaminated with rancid oils?  Or does the water somehow protect from the oxidation/heat issues.
    Many thanks

  • Caitlin

    I really want to start taking flax every day but it seems like combined hormone birth control pills will completely negate the hormonal effects of flax. Does anyone know for sure if this is the case?

  • Paul

    I took flax for 2 months stopped it because I started to feel really low, depressed, felt better , took it again for 2 weeks and the same thing happened , felt depressed again, stopped it and felt better. It did relieve joint stiffness in my RA however, what a shame.

  • Elia

    I had ileostomy. My big bowel was removed. How flaxseeds would benefit me if, as I understood, they positively affect bacteria in the gut (which is now absent)?

    Also, if you sprinkle milled flaxseeds on something hot (e.g. porridge, stew), wouldn’t they lose their nutritional value from the heat?

    Many thanks, Elia

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.vlasaty.52 Mike Vlasaty

    Dr. Greger, do you have any commentary on the potential dangers of consuming flax I found on its wikipedia page:

    “…..may have adverse effects due to its content of neurotoxic cyanogen glycosides and immunosuppressive cyclic nonapeptides”

  • Joe

    Vegan nutritionist Jack Norris’s article, “Omega-3s in Vegetarian Diets,” says that “Increasing ALA to 3 – 4 g/day has some concerns.” He wrote that “Three studies looking at age-related eye damage and fatty acids, all coming from the Nurse’s Health Study, have associated modest ALA intakes with age-related eye problems.” Mr. Norris qualified this by saying that the “The ALA in these studies came mostly from animal products that were likely cooked (omega-3s are easily oxidized by heating). It is not clear that the association is causal or if the causation would apply to uncooked ALA (i.e., from plants).” In a recent comment, he indicated that he doubts that the eye problems were caused by the ALA levels, but he seemed to stand by the concerns he expressed about ALA since he did not want to just dismiss the findings. The article and comments are at http://jacknorrisrd.com/?p=3023. The article recommended vegans add just 0.5 grams of uncooked ALA to what they’d otherwise get without special planning.

    The recommendation above is to eat two tablespoons of flaxseeds daily. This amounts to consuming 3.2 grams of ALA. This appears to be at or above the level of ALA that the Nurse’s Health Study indicated might cause age-related eye problems.

    Dr. Greger, can you please comment? Thank you!

    • Mandy

      Table 11 of the Omega-3 article on veganhealth.org says that the Nurse’s Health Study found that more than 1.25 – 1.5 grams per day of ALA can possibly cause eye problems. One tablespoon of flaxseeds contains of 1.6 grams of ALA (see Table 8). So taking just one tablespoon of flaxseed a day, let alone two tablespoons, could possibly be dangerous to your eyesight, unless flax is exempt from the Nurses Health Study findings. So is flax exempt from those findings?

  • LuccaQ

    Sesame seeds are also a great source of lignans and are delicious. I alternate between sesame & flax.

  • Fidel Castrati

    The similarity in the words Flomax & flax is a synchronicity. Take the ouch out of Flomax (in terms of side effects as well as monetary price) and you get flax.
    Dr. Greger is quick with the literary devices. Would love to see an ad for flax where the Dragnet cop tells a woman “Just the flax, mam. Don’t let your husband take Flomax!” :)

  • Tracy

    So what about grinding my own Bob’s Red Mill flax seed and putting a TBSP or two into my green smoothie while I am breastfeeding? Is this ok?

    • Dr. Connie Sanchez, ND

      There are no known contraindication for consumiing ground flaxseeds in pregnancy and lactation – so go ahead and enjoy 1-2 TBS of ground flax seed in your green smoothies!

      • Dr. Connie Sanchez, ND

        There may be a contraindication during pregnancy; however, I did not find any contraindications for flaxseed consumption during lactation.

  • phiyl

    Hello, I’m wondering if I can “cook” a little bit the flaxseed before grinding them. This, because they taste better. I put a spoon in a hot pan for about 30 seconds. Not more. Just to roast them a little bit. Now, by doing that, do I arm the “good staff” of the seeds or it does not affect the seed itself. Thank You.

  • http://www.Food-Dense.com/ Kenia

    Dr. Greger,
    I LOVE my flaxseed! But I’m concerned because I’ve noticed some studies conclude that ALA has an incredibly poor conversion rate to EPA and DHA, basically meaning that a fishy source is best. I’ve also heard of sea algae is the superior plant-based source for DHA and EPA, but I’m unsure of its bioavailability…

    THANK YOU for all you do!!

    • Toxins

      The National Academy of Sciences does not recognize EPA and DHA as essential. This means there is enough evidence for them to conclude that we can make enough of it without eating it in its preformed state.

      “Interest in the cardiovascular protective effects of n–3 (omega-3) fatty acids has continued to evolve during the past 35 y since the original research describing the low cardiovascular event rate in Greenland Inuit was published by Dyerberg et al. Numerous in vitro experiments have shown that n–3 fatty acids may confer this benefit by several mechanisms: they are antiinflammatory, antithrombotic, and antiarrhythmic. The n–3 fatty acids that have received the most attention are those that are derived from a fish source; namely the longer-chain n–3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5n–3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n–3). More limited data are available on the cardiovascular effects of n–3 fatty acids derived from plants such as a-linolenic acid (ALA; 18:3n–3). Observational data suggest that diets rich in EPA, DHA, or ALA do reduce cardiovascular events, including myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death; however, randomized controlled trial data are somewhat less clear. Several recent meta-analyses have suggested that dietary supplementation with EPA and DHA does not provide additive cardiovascular protection beyond standard care, but the heterogeneity of included studies may reduce the validity of their conclusions. No data exist on the potential therapeutic benefit of EPA, DHA, or ALA supplementation on those individuals who already consume a vegetarian diet. Overall, there is insufficient evidence to recommend n–3 fatty acid supplementation for the purposes of cardiovascular protection; however, ongoing studies such as the Alpha Omega Trial may provide further information.

      Combined with the lack of convincing clinical data in favor of n–3 fatty acid supplementation for cardiovascular endpoints and the lack of data in those that consume a vegetarian diet, it is difficult to make the recommendation that vegetarians should consume fish to optimize their cardiovascular mortality.”

      http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1597S.long

      “Comparison of the PLLC n23 PUFAs:DALA ratio between dietary-habit groups showed that it was 209% higher in vegan men and 184% higher in vegan women than in fish-eaters, was 14% higher in vegetarian men and 6% higher in vegetarian women than in fish-eaters, and was 17% and 18% higher in male and female meat-eaters, respectively, than in fish-eaters This suggests that the statistically estimated conversion may be higher in non-fish-eaters than in fish-eaters.”

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20861171

      In addition, another study showed that despise this “theoretical” low conversion rate, there is no evidence of any harm so, the problem may not be in the conversion rate, but in the assumption that it is low.

      “There is no evidence of adverse effects on health or cognitive function with lower DHA intake in vegetarians”

      “In the absence of convincing evidence for the deleterious effects resulting from the lack of DHA from the diet of vegetarians, it must be concluded that needs for omega-3 fatty acids can be met by dietary ALA. ”

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19500961

      Eat your fruits and vegetables, add some flax or walnuts if you wish and you will be fine.

  • Tom Zdrojewski

    Would soaking flax seeds make them more digestible without grinding? I’ve been drinking lemonade and limeade with chia seeds and I was wondering if I could use flax seeds instead and still get the flax benefits without grinding them.