Is Flaxseed a Whole Grain?

Flaxseed is one of the earliest known agricultural products, which provides numerous health benefits, but is it whole grain?
Zeynep Ozdemir, RDN

Written by Zeynep Ozdemir, RDN. Updated on December 17, 2022.

The presence of non-grain but included in the whole grain group, such as amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat, may raise questions about whether flaxseed can also be considered a whole grain.

This article will go into detail about flaxseed, whole grains, seeds, and their potential health effects.

Before we cover this topic in-depth, let’s go straight to the point: No, since flaxseed is a seed rather than a grain, it is not classified as a whole grain.

Read on to discover more about this topic.

What Is Flaxseed?

Flaxseed is one of the earliest known agricultural products. It is often used to help digestion or get rid of constipation.

According to research, it may lessen the incidence of some cancers, lower cholesterol, and help maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure.

Flaxseed’s health advantages stem from its high fiber and omega-3 fatty acid content, as well as compounds known as lignans. One tablespoon (7 g) of ground flaxseed has 2 g of polyunsaturated fatty acids (including omega 3s), 2 g of dietary fiber, and 37 calories.

Flaxseed is also a versatile ingredient that may improve the taste and texture of practically any dish because of its mild, nutty flavor and crispy consistency.

It may be a good idea to add flaxseed to various recipes for various health benefits. It’s commonly used in plant-based breakfasts and smoothies, as well as an egg replacement.

Ground vs Whole Flaxseed

Many individuals are unsure whether to buy whole flaxseeds or ground flaxseeds. According to the Flax Council of Canada, any clean flaxseed from a reputable provider is regarded as safe for consumption.

Whole Flaxseeds

When you consume flaxseed whole, you get the advantages of fiber and lignans.

To reap the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseeds, chew them thoroughly or crush them.

Whole flaxseeds can be stored at room temperature for up to ten months.

Ground Flaxseeds or Flax Meal

Consuming ground flaxseeds allows one to acquire all of the flaxseed’s nutritional advantages, including omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and lignans.

Ground flaxseeds should be kept in the refrigerator or freezer for no more than three months after opening. To avoid spoiling, ground the seeds just as required.

1 tbsp ground flaxseeds contain around 1.6 grams of omega 3-fatty acids.

The best way to get the advantages of whole flaxseed is to consume ground flaxseed.

Furthermore, ground flaxseed is simpler to digest than whole flaxseed. This is due in part to your intestines’ inability to break down the thick outer shell of entire seeds.

Flax Oil

Most flaxseed oil is made through a process called cold pressing, which is a good way to get the oil out of the seeds. It is sold as a supplement in oil or gel form.

Flax oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, but it doesn’t have any lignans or fiber because they are taken out during the oil extraction process.

Flax oil should be kept in a cool, dark place, like the fridge, if possible. Check the manufacturer’s best-before date to see how long you can keep the food.

One tablespoon of flax oil has about 7.2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.

How Much Should You Consume?

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) says that males should get 1.6 grams per day of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseeds, and females should get 1.1 grams per day.

Most of the time, one tablespoon of flaxseed is enough to reach these levels.

Is There a Risk to Consuming Flaxseed?

Even though flaxseed has numerous health advantages, there are a few negatives to consider.

First of all, bear in mind that each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains 2 grams of fiber. While fiber is good, rapidly increasing your consumption might cause digestive difficulties such as gas and bloating.

Also, allergic responses to flaxseed and flaxseed oil have been described, however, they are uncommon.

Furthermore, flaxseed may interact with a number of medications, including blood thinners and antiplatelet agents.

Because some flaxseed components may mirror the actions of estrogen, persons on hormone treatment or suffering from hormone-sensitive malignancies should see their doctor before including it in their diet. You should also be cautious if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What Are Whole Grains?

Whole grains are any cereal or pseudocereal grain that still has all of its healthy nutrients. This is different from refined grains, which are stripped of their healthy nutrients during the refining process.

All whole grains have three parts:

  • Bran
  • Germ
  • Endosperm

Each part contains nutrients that promote wellness.

The bran is the fibrous outer layer of the grain that contains antioxidants, B vitamins, copper, zinc, iron, magnesium, and phytochemicals.

Phytochemicals are plant-derived natural chemical substances that have been studied for their function in disease prevention.

The germ is the heart of the seed where development begins; it is high in healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, polyphenols, and antioxidants.

The endosperm is the internal layer of the plant that contains protein, carbohydrates, and trace quantities of B vitamins and minerals.

The minimum processing of whole grains makes them more nutritious than refined grains.

The Benefits of Eating Whole Grains

Whole grains provide a variety of essential elements. A few of these include:

  1. Fiber: The bran contains the majority of the fiber in whole grains.
  2. Vitamins: Niacin, thiamine, and folate, all members of the B vitamin family, are abundant in whole grains.
  3. Minerals: They also have high mineral content, including zinc, magnesium, iron, and manganese.
  4. Protein: Per serving, whole grains contain several grams of protein.
  5. Antioxidants: Many of the compounds found in whole grains function as antioxidants. Phytic acid, ferulic acid, lignans, and sulfur compounds are examples of these.
  6. Plant compounds: Whole grains include a variety of plant components that aid in illness prevention. Polyphenols, sterols, and stanols are examples of these.

These healthy compounds make whole grains promise some health benefits:

  • They particularly when substituted for processed grains, may reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Whole grains, when consumed as part of a healthy diet, may help reduce your risk of stroke.
  • They are related to a decreased risk of obesity, according to decades of research.
  • Also, they have two nutrients that can decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes: fiber and magnesium.
  • Whole grains assist in promoting healthy digestion by providing bulk to stools and nourishing your beneficial gut flora.
  • Eating them on a daily basis may help reduce inflammation, which is a critical role in many chronic conditions.
  • Whole grains are associated with a reduced risk of premature death from any cause.

Who Shouldn’t Consume Whole Grain?

While whole grains are generally beneficial to most individuals, they may not be good for everyone at all times.

Gluten-Free Diet Users

Gluten is a kind of protein found in wheat, barley, and rye that some individuals are intolerant to it or allergic to.

A gluten allergy, celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity may result in a variety of symptoms such as tiredness, dyspepsia, and joint discomfort.

Gluten-free whole grains such as buckwheat, rice, oats, and amaranth are suitable for the majority of persons with these problems.

Some people, however, have trouble consuming any sort of grain, resulting in stomach pain and other symptoms.

FODMAP Diet Users

FODMAPs are fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are a kind of carbohydrates that may cause digestive distress in certain individuals.

There is a significant concentration of FODMAPs in some grains, particularly wheat. These may often induce symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

What Are Seeds?

The seed represents the earliest stage of development of a plant. Most seeds are made up of three parts:

  • Embryo
  • Endosperm
  • Seed coat

The embryo is a little plant with roots, stems, and one or more leaves.

The endosperm is the seed’s nutritive component, which is often a mix of carbohydrates, oil, and protein.

The seed coat serves as a barrier, allowing seeds to survive for extended periods of time without deteriorating.

What Are the Benefits of Eating Seeds?

Seeds are particularly nutritious because they contain all of the required beginning elements for complex plants to form.

Seeds are a great source of fiber. They also include beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as well as several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

This specific property makes some seeds promise some health benefits. For example:

Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and may help decrease blood sugar and lowering risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Hemp seeds are high in protein and include all of the important amino acids. Hemp seed oil may help alleviate the symptoms of eczema as well as other chronic inflammatory disorders.

Sesame seeds are high in lignans, which may help boost the estrogen hormone. Sesame seeds could also aid in the reduction of inflammation and oxidative stress.

Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are high in monounsaturated and omega-6 fats, which may potentially enhance heart health and urinary symptoms.

Sunflower seeds have a high concentration of both monounsaturated and omega-6 fats and may aid in the reduction of inflammation and cholesterol levels.

What Category Is Flax Seed In?

Because flaxseed is a seed rather than a grain, it is not classified as a whole grain. They are classified as oilseeds.

True grains are cereals from a technical standpoint. However, there are a number of additional plants that are not actual grains but are classed as grains because they are utilized as grains. Plants like amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat are examples of this situation.

It might be confusing that plants that are neither cereals nor pseudocereals are classified as grains.


Flaxseed is one of the oldest crops on the planet. It is often used to aid digestion or treat constipation.

However, there are a number of plants that are not genuine grains but are classed as grains because they are utilized as grains.

That is why it might be perplexing when plants that are neither cereals nor pseudocereals are classified as grains.

A whole grain is a cereal or pseudocereal grain that provides a “full bundle” of health advantages, as opposed to refined grains, which are stripped of vital nutrients during the refining process.

However, seeds are the ones that refer to the embryonic stage of the plant life cycle. Both offer distinct health advantages.

Because flaxseed is a seed rather than a grain, it is not classified as a whole grain.

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