Flaxseed is a tiny, tan brown or golden seed from flax (Linum usitatissimim) that is considered the world’s first cultivated superfood. These seeds make flax oil, seasonings, textile linens, and paper. Besides the many uses, flaxseed has an excellent nutrition profile with immense health benefits. It’s the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids worldwide. Flaxseed is also packed with other essential nutrients like linolenic acid, protein, fiber, manganese, thiamin, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
Unlike whole grains, flaxseed is used differently and in small amounts in culinary. Like adding it to grain bases like breakfast cereal or oatmeal. So, what is flaxseed? Is it whole grain? Stay tuned.
Is Flaxseed Wholegrain?
Since flaxseed is a seed, not a grain, it cannot be classified as whole grain. As such, flaxseed is not a whole grain, but rather falls into the category of oilseeds, the same as sunflower and sesame seeds.
Although authentic grains are cereals, some plants are not actual grains but are considered grains. That’s so because they are used as grains. Such plants are called pseudocereals and include buckwheat and amaranth quinoa.
So, flaxseed is by nature a seed and not a grain. It’s also not a pseudocereal as it’s not used like cereals. For these reasons, flaxseed is not a whole grain but an oilseed.
What’s The Difference Between Grains And Seeds?
Knowing the differences between seeds and grains is vital to understanding why flaxseed is a seed, not a grain.
Seeds, the embryonic plant encased in a protective outer covering, comprises a seed coat, an embryo, and an endosperm. The seeds are formed from fertilized ovules – structures containing the plant’s female reproductive cells. So, when the pollen (containing male cells) fertilizes the ovules, the ovules grow into a seed.
Grains are simply fruits of true cereal plants. Although tiny, grains are made up of both the plant’s fruit and seed fused.
In fleshy fruits like avocado, the pericarp surrounds the seed and can be separated from the seed. This pericarp comprises three layers. They are endocarp, mesocarp, and exocarp.
On the other hand, in non-fleshy fruits like corn, the pericarp is fused with the seed into a single layer, forming grains.
Types Of Flaxseed
There are two types of flaxseed, golden and brown. There’s very little difference in the nutritional composition of these two types of flaxseed. As for taste, the golden flaxseed is more flavorful with a nuttier taste than the brown one.
Flaxseed, also called linseed, can be an excellent addition to your diet. They can be eaten whole or ground. Note that grounded flaxseed has a higher nutrient bioavailability than whole flaxseed. Flaxseed can also make extracts, flaxseed oil, flour, and food products like salad dressings.
These seeds can be found as whole flaxseeds, ground seeds, flaxseed oil, flax meal (flour), extracts, an ingredient in packaged snacks like cookies, crackers, or supplements in the form of capsules or tablets.
Flaxseed Nutrition Profile
Flaxseed is rich in essential nutrients, including:
The calories from flaxseed mainly come from carbs and fats. There are 55 calories in a tablespoon of flaxseed.
The carbs in flaxseed are mainly fiber – about 3 grams per tablespoon of whole flaxseed. Although indigestible, fiber helps maintain optimal blood cholesterol levels, improves digestive health by preventing constipation, and boosts satiety, preventing overeating.
Flaxseed also contains a tiny amount of naturally occurring sugar. The sugar is so tiny that the glycemic load of this seed is zero.
Flaxseed contains about 4 grams of fat per tablespoon of whole flaxseed. The amount is slightly less in grounded flaxseed. Different types of fat are present in flaxseed, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats come in two forms, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids. One tablespoon of flaxseed contains 230 milligrams of omega-3 and 606 milligrams of omega-6 fatty acids, making flaxseed an excellent plant-based source of essential fatty acids.
The amount of monounsaturated fat is minimal, barely one gram – about 0.4 grams of monounsaturated fats in one serving of flaxseed.
Flaxseed has a considerable amount of protein – about 2 grams in one tablespoon of flaxseed. Although this amount is small, it can add to your daily protein needs.
Minerals And Vitamins
Since the primary nutrient in flaxseed is fats and carbs, it offers a small amount of vitamins and minerals considering the small serving size. Flaxseed provides 11% of your daily thiamin intake and 2% of your recommended folate, niacin, and vitamin B6 intake. Note that these values are based on 2000 calories per day.
As for minerals, flaxseed offers 13%, 10%, 7%, 6%, and 4% of recommended daily intakes of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and selenium.
Health Benefits Of Flaxseed
Flaxseed offers various health benefits like:
Supporting Heart Health
The essential fatty acids in flaxseed are great at lowering blood pressure and slowing the progression of atherosclerosis.
Maintain Optimal Blood Sugar Levels
Having a zero glycemic load, flaxseed help maintains optimal blood sugar levels.
Protect Against Cancer
Research suggests flaxseed may help reduce your risk of certain cancers like breast cancer. Other studies show a positive relationship between flaxseed and its effects in helping treat lung, prostate, ovary, colon, and liver cancers.
Flaxseed is high in dietary fiber. Fiber provides bulk to stool, aiding peristalsis. This ensures regular and smooth bowel movements, preventing constipation.
Assist In Weight Loss
Flaxseed comprises mainly fats that have high satiating effects, unlike carbs. High satiety means you get full fast even after eating a small number of seeds. This prevents overeating, which is among the top contributors to overweight.
Flaxseed is a seed and not again. It’s therefore categorized as an oilseed and not a whole grain. This seed can be eaten whole or ground. It can also be used to make flours, oils, extracts, as an ingredient in snacks, or supplements in capsule or tablet form. Flaxseed has a great nutrition profile with promising health benefits. You can enjoy flaxseeds as they are, in smoothies, bread, cakes, or toppings for different drinks and salads.