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Ask the Dietitians

Form of Flax

Does it make any difference if I eat whole flaxseeds or use a flaxseed oil supplement?

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Yes. Whole flaxseeds are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a powerful anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid. Additionally, whole flaxseeds are very rich in fiber and lignan. Research indicates that lignan, when in the diet, may have the potential to reduce breast cancer growth and decrease the incidence of hot flashes in women not using hormone replacement therapy, among many other health benefits still under investigation. Remember, flaxseeds must be ground in order to be suitably digestible. Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, contains only ALA but no lignans. Walnuts and soybeans, among many other plant foods, are also rich sources of ALA. Susan Kleiner, PhD, RD, is an international columnist and a speaker on the subjects of nutrition, sports and fitness.