For something so small, flaxseed has big benefits, according to

Flaxseed offers:

Vitamins and minerals, including most of the B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese

Fiber, both soluble and insoluble

Phytochemicals, including many powerful antioxidants such as lignans. In fact, because it’s a plant, flaxseed is one of the best sources of lignans.

Omega-3 fatty acids, key to fighting inflammation. Flaxseed is a mega-source of the plant version of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Flaxseed oil is about 50 percent ALA — five times more than walnut oil or canola oil, which are the next highest sources of ALA.

Flaxseed may:

Lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The soluble fiber in flaxseed has been shown to lower cholesterol, helping to prevent the buildup of plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to high blood pressure, stroke, or heart attack. Fiber is also believed to lower blood sugar levels, which is important for people who have type 2 diabetes.

Reduce bone loss. A study of diabetic rats showed a delay in bone loss after they were fed flaxseed, thanks to its concentration of fatty acids.

Help with weight management. Flax expands when ingested, making you feel fuller. You might want to take flax 30 minutes before meals to control your appetite.

Improve digestive health. The fiber in flaxseed can help relieve constipation and make you more regular.

Increase immunity. ALA has been shown to decrease inflammation, which allows your immune system to function better. Preliminary research suggests that flaxseed can help relieve autoimmune and inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and lupus.

Fight cancer. Studies show that flaxseed may have a role in fighting cancer, particularly colon and breast cancer. The benefit is based on its high concentration of lignans, which are believed to inhibit tumor growth.

Flaxseed Cautions

Despite all the good research about flaxseed benefits, false claims about flaxseed do exist and more research is needed. Because flaxseed is plant based, it’s possible the omega-3s in fish oil could be more beneficial.

Also those with inflammatory bowel conditions, like Crohn’s disease, should avoid flaxseed due to the the laxative effects. Women who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding should not consume ground flaxseed and studies show women who have issues like fibroids, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary disease should not eat flaxseed. And, men who have an increased risk of prostate cancer should avoid ALA. Those taking medications, check with your doctor before adding flax to your diet.

Using flaxseed

For most healthy adults, one tablespoon a day, and no more than ¼ teaspoon a day for young children is the recommendation. Because flaxseed is high in fiber, when adding it to your diet, start with small amounts and increase it slowly. A tablespoon of ground flaxseed has about 36 calories while a tablespoon of whole flaxseed has about 50 calories.

How to Get More Flaxseed in Your Diet

Flaxseed has a light, nutty taste and can be:

Sprinkled on cold cereal or hot oatmeal at breakfastAdd a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to the mustard or mayonnaise spread on a lunch time sandwichBlend flaxseed into juice or smoothiesSprinkle on salads or in soupsMix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into yogurtAdd flax to tomato sauces or to casserolesAdd flaxseed to meatballs or meatloaf