Myths and Misunderstandings: Flaxseed

This will most likely become a post that we will continually add to, and that will inspire the start of another series here on SW.  There are so many supplement myths and misunderstandings, from urban legends to irresponsible media reports, incorrect information can spread quickly, and become what we hold onto as fact. Here are some recent myths and misunderstandings we came across about flaxseed. Maybe you thought some of these same things too.

Omega-3 is “converted” to omega-6. False. The confusion most likely comes from the fact that the type of omega-3 that is in flaxseed is ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid), which is different from the forms of omega-3 found in fish, DHA and EPA (Docosahexaenoic Acid and Eicosapentaenoic Acid). ALA will convert to EPA and DHA in small amounts, but in fish oil the EPA and DHA omega-3 are found in abundance. ALA, EPA and DHA are all Omega 3’s. Many natural foods and healthy fats actually do contain a full profile of omegas to include omega-3,5,6,7,9. Processed foods contain unhealthy versions of omega-6 and 9.

Flaxseed oil is high in calories and fat. This statement is true depending on what you are comparing it to. The difference is that these are fat calories that burn readily for energy. Please read the full explanation in this post: My low-fat rant. The calories and fat found in flaxseed oil will not cause weight gain or sabotage your weight loss program.

You lose all of the nutritional benefits when the seed is processed into an oil. False. This confusion is probably due to the removal vs. retention of the lignans. Processing the seed into the oil does not cause it to lose all of the valuable nutrition. Particularly not the lignans which can still be found in good concentration in high-lignan oils. Look for high-lignan on the bottle.

Flaxseed oil has a short shelf life and becomes rancid quickly. False. High quality flaxseed oil has a shelf life of 6-12 months if kept refrigerated. 1-2 tablespoons a day is an adult dosage, so used everyday, by only one member of the family, even if a 32 oz bottle was purchased, would only take a month to consume.

Flaxseed oil smells like paint thinner, has a bitter taste, and can cause a burning sensation on the tongue. False. Although sensory experiences are unique to every individual, in general, flax has a nutty and earthy taste and smell. High-lignan oil has a slightly more bitter taste than the filtered kind. The concentrated lignans are bitter, so shake the oil well, store the bottle upside down or sideways in the fridge to ensure they are dispersed evenly, reducing any chance of bitterness.

Keep in mind that the quality, the freshness, the purity, and the nutrient profile will only be truly ensured by purchasing from a company that specializes in flaxseed. If you need that reminder again: buy from companies that specialize.

Don’t know which flax to consume? Find out in this post. Do you have questions about flaxseed that you would like cleared up? Let us know! If we don’t have the answers we will find out from experts on flax or omega fats.

Photo credit: wikimedia.org

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