Interestingly, the Flaxseed that we know and love that’s used to supplement healthy essential fatty acids is unrelated to our Aotearoa flax plant (harakeke), which is really a lily unique to New Zealand. Flaxseed Oil is sourced from the flax plant Linum usitatissimum, which is native to eastern Europe and parts of Asia, also known as Linseed. The Flaxseed or Linseed Oil produced in Aotearoa comes from an attractive blue-flowered, annual crop grown mainly in the South Island.
How important is Flaxseed Oil?
Oil from Linseed has high nutrient value, providing omega-3 and a smaller amount of omega-6 Essential fatty acids (EFAs). Traditionally the Linseed flax plant has provided fibre for weaving (linen) and linseed oil for preserving woodwork, it was a high economic value plant in early European history
As their name suggests, Essential fatty acids, are essential to our health, meaning our bodies can’t produce them. Good quality food sources of EFAs are vital and Flaxseed Oil is one of the best available to us. Other good plant sources are Chia Seeds, Hemp Seed Oil and walnuts. A benefit of using plant-based oils over fish is that it’s a more sustainable, plant-based option – making it a better choice for our planet.
Flaxseed Oil has one of the highest levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - an important, healthy omega-3, of any vegetarian source. Our bodies convert ALA to the bioactive fatty acid nutrients eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) through a series of enzyme reactions. EPA is necessary for healthy cardiovascular function, healthy mood, and balanced inflammatory pathways. DHA is the main fatty material in the brain, vitally important as a structural component of grey matter and the retina of the eye. Adequate levels of DHA are needed for both brain and eye development of baby during pregnancy.
The second essential fatty acid found within Flaxseed Oil, in lesser amounts is omega-6, or linoleic acid. Due to the amount of omega-6 found in the modern diet through vegetable oils in processed foods, grain-fed meats, and roasted nuts, we can sometimes over-consume omega-6 and under-consume omega-3. This is not ideal because too much omega-6 can lead to un-balanced inflammatory pathways in the absence of adequate omega-3 s. The omega-3 fatty acids help balance the natural inflammatory pathways of the body. For a healthy balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs through daily food intake, the traditional Mediterranean diet is a good option, being rich in omega-3 through both fish and plant sources. Flaxseed has much higher levels of omega-3 than omega-6, making it an excellent option.
What makes Flaxseed nutritious?
Flaxseeds are made up of approximately 18% protein, 42% fat, 29% carbohydrate (of which, 95% is fibre!), and minerals including copper, manganese, molybdenum, magnesium, phosphorus. Of the 42% fat, about 73% of this is omega-3 and omega-6, and 27% is other fats, mostly monounsaturated.
In order to get the oil, it’s important to either grind up the fresh seeds or consume a cold-pressed oil product, because just eating the seeds whole, won’t give you access to the fats, fibre and nutrients inside.
What are the benefits of flaxseed?
Taking Flaxseed Oil capsules as a supplement, can support many areas of our health. Essential fatty acids have lots of functions within the body - like growth and reproduction; the health of the hair and skin - including healthy skin healing. They’re a structural part of every cell membrane, so a broad range of health areas can be supported with oils rich in omega-3. Our brains consist of around 60% fat, so it’s important for mood, as well as mental clarity and recall. The health of our heart and blood vessels, especially as we age can be supported by a Flaxseed Oil. See our range of Flaxseed Oil capsules for quality cold-pressed Flaxseed Oil in the convenience of a capsule.
What if the omega ratios are out of balance?
It appears that humans evolved with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of 1:1, but some western diets have a ratio of around 15:1, which is not ideal, with many people deficient in omega-3 food sources. When there is excess omega-6, imbalances can occur. A lot of research has been done into the ideal ratio for good health and it appears that a ratio of omega-6: omega-3 of anywhere between 4:1 to 1:4 can support good health. Flaxseed Oil has a very favourable ratio of 1:4.
What’s the best way to take Flaxseed Oil?
Flaxseed Oil can be blended with other foods, like hummus, cottage cheese, yoghurt, smoothies, or as a salad dressing. It can be mixed through lukewarm foods but shouldn’t be heated because heat destroys the structure of the fat. You can drizzle it on toast with your favourite topping or add it to smoothies or your un-baked recipes. It’s best to start with a small amount – about 5 ml (1 teaspoon) per day and build up to 1 or 2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) per day. Flaxseed Oil can also be taken in a capsule, check out our range of Flaxseed Oil and Flaxseed Oil capsules.
Are there any contraindications, concerns or adverse effects reported?
When taken as recommended there are no known adverse effects. If you have an existing thyroid condition or are taking medications it would be best to speak to your health professional before you start taking it.
Importance of cold-pressed, quality processing
The best method to extract the oil is to ‘cold-press’. This means that there’s a lot of pressure placed on the seeds. Pressure can generate heat, so it is important that the process is done in a way that heat is kept as low as possible to protect the healthy oils. It’s also ideal, if the bottle is flushed with a gas that will reduce oxygen, like argon or nitrogen. This helps extend the life of the product and keeps it fresh. Ideally the bottle will be protected from the light and stored in the fridge once opened. It’s best to consume your open bottle within a few weeks.
If you’re looking for liquid Flaxseed Oil to drizzle over your salads, check out our delicious Flaxseed Oil liquids. Whether your aim is to support general overall wellbeing or you have specific goals around brain health, mood, skin or heart heath, Flaxseed Oil is a great plant-based support, check out our range of cold-pressed Flaxseed Oil capsules.