Flax Seeds Versus Flaxseed Oil


In this age of healthy eating, we’re all on the hunt for superfoods that provide maximum health benefits. One such contender that’s sure to be on everyone’s list is flaxseed.

Flaxseed or linseed is an oilseed crop with a stellar nutritional profile. Even its by-products like flaxseed oil and mucilage have many health benefits. 

But now a dilemma arises Flax seeds versus flaxseed oil. What’s the difference? How and when should we use them? All this and more will be answered in this article.

Flax seeds & flaxseed oil: The comparison

Whole flax seeds contain fat, proteins, dietary fibre, phenolic compounds, minerals, and vitamins. Flaxseed oil extracted from the seed mainly contains fatty acids, followed by phenolic compounds and fat-soluble vitamins.1,2,4

Nutritional value

The nutritional profile of flaxseed and flaxseed oil:

41% fat:

  • Flaxseed oil is rich in unsaturated fatty acids (87.8–89.8%) (mainly polyunsaturated fatty acids) and low in saturated fat1,4
  • It has the highest amount of essential omega 3 fatty acids (mainly alpha linolenic acid) compared to walnut and soybean oil3
  • These healthy fats have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and cholesterol-lowering properties1,2

23% proteins:

  • Flaxseed has more protein than soybean. It comprises amino acids like aspartic acid, arginine, cysteine, methionine, and glutamic acid, which promote heart health and have immunosuppressive properties1,2,4

35-45% dietary fibre:

  • It is divided into soluble and insoluble fibres. Soluble fibre is mucilage or gum. It has prebiotic properties and aids in weight loss, relieves constipation, and IBS.1,4


  • Flaxseed has 800 times more lignans than cereals, legumes, fruits, and vegetables
  • Lignans are phenolic compounds and potent antioxidants that can treat hormone-dependent cancers, heart disease, and osteoporosis1,4

Minerals and vitamins

  • Flaxseed contains magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, zinc, vitamin E as tocopherol, and β-Carotene. Flaxseed oil has high tocopherol content1,2,4

Health benefits

The shared health benefits of flaxseed and flaxseed oil are:

  • Cardiovascular disease – Both mitigate atherosclerosis, heart disease, and strokes by improving lipid profiles and lowering blood pressure2,5,6
  • Diabetes – Both alleviate type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes by lowering blood glucose and lipid levels and increasing insulin sensitivity2,3,5
  • Cancer – Both inhibit breast, prostate, lung, colon, ovary, endometrium, liver, cervix cancer, leukaemia, and melanoma. Flaxseed oil particularly inhibits malignant and advanced-stage cancers2,5,7
  • Gut health – Flaxseed relieves constipation and could potentially treat IBS symptoms. While flaxseed oil alleviates ulcerative colitis symptoms2,5 
  • Brain health – Ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil aid in brain development and nerve function. Flaxseed supplementation results in brain mass increase in animals2,5
  • Inflammation – Both reduce the progression of metabolic diseases, heal renal injury, promote liver health, and relieve arthritis through their anti-inflammatory effects2,3,8
  • Obesity – Both control food intake, thereby aiding in weight loss and reduction in the waistline1,2,3,6,8 

The health benefits of flaxseed oil alone are:

  • Skin health – Flaxseed oil reduces skin sensitivity, roughness, and scaling. It also makes the skin smooth and keeps it hydrated5
  • Bone health – Flax oil increases bone minerals and alleviates bone loss (in animals), thus showing potential for osteoporosis treatment2,5

The health benefits of flaxseed alone are: 

  • Female hormone regulation – Flaxseed relieves menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms like hot flashes. Flaxseed also helps in managing blood glucose levels in women with PCOS3,5

When and how to use

Flaxseeds can be consumed whole or crushed, as flaxseed meal, flaxseed flour, or flaxseed oil (liquid or capsule form) (Mayo Clinic Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil)9,4

Ground flaxseeds are better than whole seeds since the latter passes through the body undigested. Flaxseeds can be sprinkled in salads, smoothies, sauces, and soup and added to baked goods (BHF Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil)10,4

The recommended intake of flaxseed and flaxseed oil is 2 tablespoons/day and a couple of teaspoons to a tablespoon/day (1-3 flaxseed oil capsules/day) respectively. Flaxseeds should be added to your diet a teaspoon at a time since abrupt consumption causes bloating. (Cleveland Clinic Flaxseed)11 (Cleveland Clinic Flaxseed Oil)12

When cooking with flaxseed oil, the temperature should be less than 180°C with low cooking time.2 There’s no scientific data on the best time to consume flaxseed or flaxseed oil. However, there’s a study that shows eating flaxseed three times a day instead of once in the morning lowers blood glucose more overnight.13

Side effects

The side effects are (Mayo Clinic Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil)9 -


  • Bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, flatulence, and nausea when eaten in excess
  • Excessive drop in blood glucose when taken with antidiabetic drugs
  • Reduces the effectiveness of oral contraceptives and oestrogen therapy due to anti-estrogen effects
  • Could reduce the absorption of oral drugs

Flaxseed oil:

  • Increases the risk of bleeding when taken with anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs
  • Excessive drop in blood pressure when taken with anti-hypertensive drugs
  • Rise in body fat and poor heart health on overconsumption without control of calorie and omega 6 fatty acid intake3

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil:

  • Occasional allergic reactions
  • Weight gain and reduction of milk fat levels in pregnant and lactating mothers5

Although flaxseed has trace quantities of cyanide-containing plant compounds, only eating absurd amounts of flaxseed (1 Kg) would cause flaxseed toxicity.1,5 

Which is better between the two? 

Flaxseeds provide additional health benefits by enriching our diet with fibre, lignans, protein, and minerals. While flaxseed oil is a high-calorie food that is mainly a healthy fat source and fish oil substitute.

Pros and cons

Flaxseed oil:

  • The only upside to flaxseed oil is its high alpha linolenic acid content (ALA). Since ALA is a precursor for essential fatty acid synthesis, flaxseed oil serves as a dietary source for them2,3,4,14
  • Flaxseed oil has 2.6 to 5.8 times higher concentrations of omega 3 fatty acids compared to fish oil. Thus, it can be a fatty fish substitute14
  • Even though industries prefer vegetable oils like flaxseed oil over fish oil in commercial food products, it has high susceptibility to rancidity due to ALA’s sensitive nature to light and air. Hence, it requires dark glass bottles supplemented with antioxidants for its storage2,4,14


  • Flaxseeds have plenty of nutritional ingredients.1,2,4 One study has revealed that whole flaxseed powder is more effective than flax oil in lowering LDL cholesterol in heart disease15
  • Some studies have shown that the therapeutic effects of flaxseed in metabolic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and liver disorders are attributed to the combined actions of its fatty acids, dietary fibre, lignans, and minerals3,7

Can you use them together?

There’s no scientific evidence supporting or refuting the use of flaxseed and flaxseed oil together. But if eaten together it’s best to follow the recommended dietary intakes of ALA, flaxseed, and flax oil.

The recommended ALA intake is 1100 and 1600 mg for women and men respectively. Flaxseed oil, a rich source of ALA, provides 730-1095 mg of it in 1 tablespoon (Cleveland Clinic Flaxseed Oil).12 


Though flaxseed and flaxseed oil have similar health benefits and can be eaten daily, their nutritional content is what sets them apart. While flaxseeds are whole foods that supply our diet with fibre, lignans, protein, and minerals, flaxseed oil is a high-calorie food that mainly supplies our diet with healthy fats.


  1. Kajla P, Sharma A, Sood DR. Flaxseed—a potential functional food source. J Food Sci Technol [Internet]. 2015 Apr [cited 2023 Jan 12];52(4):1857–71. Available from: http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s13197-014-1293-y
  2. Tang Z, Ying RF, Lv BF, Yang LH, Xu Z, Yan LQ, et al. Flaxseed oil: Extraction, health benefits and products. qas [Internet]. 2021 Jan 2 [cited 2023 Jan 10];13(1):1–19. Available from: https://qascf.com/index.php/qas/article/view/783
  3. Santos HO, Price JC, Bueno AA. Beyond fish oil supplementation: the effects of alternative plant sources of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids upon lipid indexes and cardiometabolic biomarkers—an overview. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 Oct 16 [cited 2023 Jan 10];12(10):3159. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/10/3159
  4. Mueed A, Shibli S, Korma SA, Madjirebaye P, Esatbeyoglu T, Deng Z. Flaxseed Bioactive Compounds: Chemical Composition, Functional Properties, Food Applications and Health Benefits-Related Gut Microbes. Foods [Internet]. 2022 Oct 21 [cited 2023 Jan 10];11(20):3307. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/11/20/3307
  5. Parikh M, Maddaford TG, Austria JA, Aliani M, Netticadan T, Pierce GN. Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 May 25 [cited 2023 Jan 10];11(5):1171. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/5/1171
  6. Saleh-Ghadimi S, Kheirouri S, Golmohammadi A, Moludi J, Jafari-Vayghan H, Alizadeh M. Effect of flaxseed oil supplementation on anthropometric and metabolic indices in patients with coronary artery disease: a double-blinded randomized controlled trial. Journal of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Research. 2019;11(2):152.
  7. Buckner AL, Buckner CA, Montaut S, Lafrenie RM. Treatment with flaxseed oil induces apoptosis in cultured malignant cells. Heliyon [Internet]. 2019 Aug [cited 2023 Jan 10];5(8):e02251. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S2405844019359110
  8. Rezaei S, Sasani MR, Akhlaghi M, Kohanmoo A. Flaxseed oil in the context of a weight loss programme ameliorates fatty liver grade in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a randomised double-blind controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition. 2020 May;123(9):994-1002.
  9. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. [cited 2023 Jan 12]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-flaxseed-and-flaxseed-oil/art-20366457
  10. Are flax seeds good for me? [Internet]. [cited 2023 Jan 12]. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/nutrition/ask-the-expert/flax-seeds
  11. Flaxseed: little seed, big benefits [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2020 [cited 2023 Jan 12]. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/flaxseed-little-seed-big-benefits/
  12. What are the benefits of flaxseed oil? [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2022 [cited 2023 Jan 12]. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/flaxseed-oil-benefits/
  13. Almehmadi A, Lightowler H, Chohan M, Clegg ME. The effect of a split portion of flaxseed on 24-h blood glucose response. Eur J Nutr [Internet]. 2021 Apr [cited 2023 Jan 10];60(3):1363–73. Available from: https://link.springer.com/10.1007/s00394-020-02333-x
  14. Ivanova S, Marinova G, Batchvarov V. Comparison of fatty acid composition of various types of edible oils. Bulgarian journal of agricultural science. 2016;22(5):849-56.
  15. Mishra N. Effect of whole flaxseed and flaxseed oil in CVD patient. Health Sciences: An International Journal. 2016;6(1):1-7.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Malaika Solomon

Bachelor of Pharmacy - B Pharm, JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research, India.

I'm an experienced content writer currently pursuing a post graduate diploma in Clinical Research.
I'm passionate about writing articles that bring accurate and digestible information about healthcare and medical research.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818