How to Eat Flax Seeds for Weight Loss? (7 Ways & Benefits)

Written by Nathan | Updated on 9 November 2021

Flax seeds are a superfood with many benefits and if they’re not prepared properly, you may miss out on most of the nutritional benefits. Not to mention, they taste awfully bland if it’s just thrown into water. 

In this article, we discuss how to eat flax seeds for weight loss, the array of benefits seeds, and tasty ways to incorporate them into your diet. 

How Do Flaxseeds Help with Weight Loss?

The weight loss perks, and overall health benefits of flax seed come from the nutritional properties found in its molecular composition. Here are four major factors that contribute to towards weight loss and a short explanation why:

  • Flax seed is packed with fiber: Eating high-fiber foods help you feel fuller longer, suppress your appetite and decrease your likelihood to graze or overeat. Fiber, like the mucilage found in flax, is also key in having good digestive health [1]. On top of helping you reach a healthy weight, women who consume 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day and men who consume 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day are more likely to have better heart health and reduced risk of diabetes because it is a low-glycemic food [2].
  • Flax is a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids: Whether these healthy fats contribute to weight loss is still debated in the scientific community, but a study from 2008 found that people who consumed a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acid than the control group reported feeling fuller for up to two hours after a meal [3]. More research is needed to confirm these fatty acids’ effect on weight loss, but their other health benefits have long been proven. Omega-fatty acids reduce inflammation, help fight autoimmune diseases, lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, reduce insulin resistance, speed up fat oxidization, and may reduce the risk of some cancers [4].
  • Flax seeds are rich in lignin, a complex polymer that’s found in the cell walls of plants: This polymer is what gives plants their stiff or woody texture, and recent research has found that this component of flax has more benefits than we were ever aware of. Not only might lignin help with weight loss, but it also might reduce blood pressure, support kidney health, and its estrogen-like properties and antioxidant properties might lower the risk of cancer [5].
  • Flax is a good source of protein, which takes a long time to digest, and is full of amino acids that are essential in cell repair and muscle growth [6]: By consuming more protein, you will feel fuller longer and have fewer cravings.

How To Prepare Flax Seeds for Maximum Nutritional Value

To get the full benefits of flax seeds, you should grind them before consumption because your digestive tract won’t be able to digest through the seeds’ protective outer layer. So if you eat them whole, you won’t be able to extract many nutrients [7].

To prevent the inner-seed contents from being exposed to oxygen any longer than necessary, it’s best to grind them at home. The beneficial polyunsaturated fats in flax will become less potent the more they are exposed to oxygen [8]. Using a food processor or coffee grinder is a great way to grind your flax on a need-be basis. 

Both yellow and brown flax seeds are equally nutritious and can be used to aid in weight loss. If you buy them raw, you may want to roast them before grinding and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. More on the roasting below. 

Buying pre-ground flax seeds is okay if you’re pressed for time because you will still get many beneficial nutrients. But the fresher your seeds are, the more you will get out of them. If buying the seeds pre-ground, store them in the fridge in a dark container that’s not made of metal. Metal containers have minerals that contribute to the oxidation of healthy fats and will decrease the potency of your pre-ground flax seed [8]. 

Drink lots of water when adding flax seeds to your diet. A major benefit of this superfood is all the added fiber it gives you to aid in your weight loss, but for the fiber to do its job, it needs water to move it through your digestive system [9].

Flaxseeds vs. Chia Seeds for Weight Loss

Like flax seeds, chia seeds are rich in fiber, protein, and omegas. This makes them a great addition to your weight loss diet, too. Comparing the two, both have zero sugar and similar numbers for grams of fiber, fat, and number of calories. But flaxseed has three times the protein as chia seeds, while chia has three times the carbohydrates as flax [10].

[insert infographic comparing the nutritional content of flax vs chia seeds]

Chia Seeds

  • More carbs
  • Less protein
  • More soluble fiber
  • Less fat

The higher soluble fiber content in chia seeds is a great weight loss tool because it slows glucose absorption to regulate your blood glucose levels, slows digestion, and adds bulk to stool [1].

Flax Seeds

  • Higher in healthy fats
  • More protein
  • Fewer carbs
  • Has anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids

Flax seeds have a weight-blasting combination of healthy fats, fiber, and protein that keeps you fuller longer. The anti-inflammatory benefits of Omega-3s can also help your body release water weight [3]. While chia seeds can make for a great healthy addition to your diet, if you want to keep protein high and carbs low, it’s best to stick with flax seeds to supplement your diet over chia seeds.

7 Recipes for Eating Flax Seeds to Lose Weight

Flax is an incredibly versatile ingredient and can be incorporated into your weight loss diet plan effortlessly. Keep in mind that flax seeds aren’t a miracle weight loss cure and won’t create a calory deficit on their own. Everyone’s body reacts differently to flax seed, and you will still need to have a healthy diet and exercise plan to make it work. With that in mind, here is 7 ways to eat flax seeds, with weight loss in mind:

  1. Mix ground flax seeds with water: The simplest way to incorporate flax into your diet is by adding a teaspoon of ground flax seeds to six to eight ounces of hot water. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to give the water some flavor and a little boost of vitamin C. The benefits of eating flax seed on an empty stomach is that it adds a feeling of fullness and suppresses your appetite. By drinking this mixture first thing in the morning, you can start your day right by giving yourself a bit of protein and fiber while not consuming many calories.
  2. Protein shakes: Combine a scoop of your preferred protein powder with 8 ounces of water or milk and one tablespoon of ground flax seeds. Since the seeds are ground, you shouldn’t even notice them once your protein shake is mixed up.
  3. Mix flax into a smoothie: Smoothies make for a convenient on-the-go meal or snack and can pack a nutritious punch if made right. To get the most out of your smoothie, toss in ½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt, ½ cup fruit of choice (strawberries, bananas, and blueberries are just a few delicious examples), ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds, and stevia to taste into your blender. Mix until smooth, adding more water if needed until you reach your desired consistency.
  4. Yogurt: Sprinkle some ground flax seeds on top of your favorite Greek yogurt for a super easy high protein, low fat, low carb, and high fiber breakfast or a snack [11]. You’ll also be giving yourself the benefits of gut-healthy probiotics from your yogurt.
  5. Add Flax to your baked goods: Ground flax seeds are often completely unnoticeable when added to recipes because of their bland flavor. Toss in a tablespoon of flax seeds the next time you make cookies, bread, or muffins to get some added nutritional benefit. You can also use flax as an egg substitute when baking by replacing one egg with 1 tablespoon ground flax with 3 tablespoons water. Let sit for fifteen minutes before using.
  6. DIY cereal with berries: Oatmeal is already a nutritious breakfast full of fiber. Adding flax will only make it more of a superfood. To make your own batch of delicious overnight oats, add 1 cup rolled oats, 1 cup berries of choice, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 ½ cups milk of choice (dairy or non-dairy is fine), 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed, and 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional) to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Combine all the ingredients well, then transfer them into an airtight container and place them into the refrigerator for at least two hours. Overnight would be best before enjoying. If you’re soaking your oats overnight, it’s okay to add the flax whole to your oatmeal. This is because soaking them will soften the shell of the flax seeds enough to make them digestible when you eat them in the morning.
  7. Supplements: If you would rather add flax seeds to your diet without putting them in your food, you can add flax to your supplement routine by buying oral flaxseed supplements. These will come in capsule form and will contain pressed flaxseed oil. The downside to this form of flax is that because the shell of the seed isn’t included, there will be less fiber and lignin than in whole flax seeds. However, this method will still give you plenty of nutritional benefits, and it’s more convenient because you can take these supplements once per day to complement your weight loss plan without having to plan a meal around it.

Precautions When Eating Flax Seeds

In general, this superfood is safe for most people to eat in moderate amounts. However, there are a few precautions you should keep in mind. Raw flax seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide and cadmium although these harmful compounds are in such low quantities they are considered negligible. Even then, some symptoms of eating too many flaxseeds is stomach irritability [12]. To destroy these compounds and prevent any issue, buy pre-roasted chia seeds, or roast them yourself before use. The heat will break down any harmful compounds in your flax seeds.

Due to its high fiber content, flaxseed can cause constipation, especially if you don’t drink enough water [9]. Increasing your water intake should prevent this issue from occurring. If you have an acute inflammatory illness that affects any part of your digestive tract, you should avoid adding flax to your diet [13].

Some research also suggests that taking flaxseed oil after the first trimester of pregnancy may increase the risk of premature births [14]. This finding was only associated with flax oil, not whole seeds. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, always consult with your doctor before adding new supplements to your diet.

It’s also suggested that if you have low blood pressure, a hypoglycemia disorder, hormonal issues, or bleeding problems that you consult your doctor before adding flax to your diet.

Where to Buy Flaxseed

You can find both ground and unground flax seeds at most grocery and health food stores. Flaxseed oil capsules can be found anywhere that sells dietary supplements. These products can also be found in many places online.

Conclusion

Flax seeds are rich in nutrients and fiber so it’s safe to say that yes, they are a fantastic addition to any weight loss plan. Once you find how to incorporate them into your diet, you’ll generally be able to see the benefits within just a few days, especially in your stool. 

Flaxseeds are surely worth a try and depending on your goals, possibly more better than chia seeds too. However, they are not a magic bullet for weight loss, and keeping a healthy diet on top of a decent exercise routine are vital when it comes to losing weight. 

References

[1] What’s the Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber? (2021, August 19). Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/whats-the-difference-between-soluble-and-insoluble-fiber/

[2] Chart of high-fiber foods. (2021, January 5). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948#:%7E:text=Women%20should%20try%20to%20eat,It%20can%20vary%20among%20brands.

[3] DeFina, L. F., Marcoux, L. G., Devers, S. M., Cleaver, J. P., & Willis, B. L. (2010). Effects of omega-3 supplementation in combination with diet and exercise on weight loss and body composition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 93(2), 455–462. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.110.002741

[4] Maroon, J. C., & Bost, J. W. (2006). ω-3 Fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surgical Neurology, 65(4), 326–331. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.surneu.2005.10.023

[5] Vinardell, M., & Mitjans, M. (2017). Lignins and Their Derivatives with Beneficial Effects on Human Health. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18(6), 1219. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18061219

[6] Gunnars, K. B. (2017, May 29). How Protein Can Help You Lose Weight Naturally. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-protein-can-help-you-lose-weight

[7] Flaxseed: Is ground better than whole? (2021, February 2). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/flaxseed/faq-20058354#:%7E:text=Most%20nutrition%20experts%20recommend%20ground,t%20get%20all%20the%20benefits

[8]  Hsieh, R. J. & Kinsella, J. E. (1989, January 1).  Oxidation of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Mechanisms, Products, and Inhibition with Emphasis on Fish. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1043452608601291

[9] Harvard Health. (2013, August 1). Rethinking fiber and hydration can lead to better colon health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/rethinking-fiber-and-hydration-can-lead-to-better-colon-health

[10] Chia Seeds. (2021, July 6). The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/chia-seeds/

[11] The Benefits of Eating Greek Yogurt. (2019, February 6). UTMC. https://www.utmedicalcenter.org/the-benefits-of-eating-greek-yogurt/

[12] Goyal, A., Sharma, V., Upadhyay, N., Gill, S., & Sihag, M. (2014). Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 51(9), 1633–1653. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9

[13] Zarepoor, L., Lu, J. T., Zhang, C., Wu, W., Lepp, D., Robinson, L., Wanasundara, J., Cui, S., Villeneuve, S., Fofana, B., Tsao, R., Wood, G. A., & Power, K. A. (2014). Dietary flaxseed intake exacerbates acute colonic mucosal injury and inflammation induced by dextran sodium sulfate. American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 306(12), G1042–G1055. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpgi.00253.2013

[14] Pregnant women consuming flaxseed oil have high risk of premature birth, study finds. (2008, October 29). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081027140817.htm

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.