It’s best to consume ground flax seeds.
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 flaxseeds whole, they are likely to pass right through us, come out the other end, and not do us much good at all. So, if you don’t buy ground flax, be sure to chew them really well or grind them up in a coffee or spice grinder, a mini food processor, or a good blender. After they’re ground, you can store them in the refrigerator, and they’ll last a few months.
Ground flaxseed is better than the flaxseed oil. The seeds are little nutrition powerhouses, and we lose much of that nutrition when we just press out the oil. Not only are flaxseeds the richest source of lignans, they are a great source of iron, zinc, copper, calcium, protein, potassium, magnesium, folate, and soluble fiber—which can lower our cholesterol and triglycerides—and even contain boron, a trace mineral important for optimum bone health. We don’t get any of those, though, with just flaxseed oil.
To learn more about flaxseeds, visit our topic page, which covers a broad range of the latest evidence-based research.