I love fats. Avocados, butter, olive oil, pistachios and almonds, full-fat yogurt, heavy cream, coconut milk…you name a delicious fat (“healthy” or “unhealthy”) and I am down to eat it, or at least try it.
One of my new favorite fats is flaxseed oil, an inflammation fighting and digestion regulating polyunsaturated fat that tastes delicious and helps me, Devin, and Bradley to feel our best.
What is Flaxseed Oil?
Flaxseed oil, like coconut and olive oil, is the oil derived from those plants, which is then strained and bottled. Unlike coconut oil, it has a much lower solid temperature point, meaning it will stay liquid in the fridge. The oil from flaxseeds is jam-packed alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 acid that is necessary for optimal health and function.
Types of Flaxseed Oil
There are 3 broad categories of flaxseed oil: non, low, and high-lignan oils. Lignans refers to particulates of the flaxseed, which are re-introduced to the pure oil post-pressing. Lignans make the oil more similar to its whole food counterpart—the flaxseed itself—but are not required for maximizing benefits.
Lignans do, however, add small amounts fiber that their non-lignan counterparts do not. If you’re looking to get the maximum fiber, go with whole or ground flaxseeds, which provide other health benefits but less concentrated doses of the omega-3s.
Be picky about your brand of flaxseed oil, looking specifically for ones that are cold-pressed. Since flaxseeds are delicate in relation to heat and light, it’s important to find a nontransparent bottle with cold-pressed oil. My go-to brand is Barleans, which has lignan and non-lignan options, depending on your preference.
Myriad Health Benefits
Anti-inflammatory properties and blood pressure lowering powers thanks to the omega-3s are the top 2 reasons to add flaxseed oil into your diet, but there tons of other health benefits associated with flaxseed oil intake. In one study, it was found that flaxseed oil given to mice prevented the spread of cancer cells.
Why I Tried It
I personally wanted to try flaxseed for my digestive issues that have been troubling me for several years now. After about 2 weeks of trying out the flaxseed, I’ve noticed some improvement in my belly’s overall functioning.
Besides digestion, omega-3s have been shown to improve the growth of hair and nails (a benefit I’ll never pass up). Plus, some studies have shown that this oil aids in combatting depression and anxiety. I’ve been feeling pretty stable lately, thanks to my medications, regular exercise, lots of productive work, and plenty of time in the ocean, but I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that my depression and anxiety have abated around the time I added this oil to my diet.
Cortisol and Inflammation
Stress, anxiety, and depression can all lead to increased levels of cortisol in our bodies. This stress hormone is one of several in the fight-or-flight response. When our physical bodies experience stress, such as with injuries and wounds, cortisol and other inflammatory responses head to the injury site and aid in repair.
The problem arises when our fight-or-flight response, thanks to high levels of stimulation, mental stress, and other factors, doesn’t shut off. This can lead to high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and other long-term problems. Inflammation is an important biological function, but can cause more harm than good when it goes haywire.
Unfortunately, excessive stress is quite common for many of us in our lives, which is why adding flaxseed oil seemed like a great idea for me, and for Devin.
I Got Devin to Try it Too!
Devin has had several injuries in the last 3 years, mostly related to his very physically active job, but I believe in part thanks to an overly stimulated inflammatory response. He’s tried gluten-free and physical therapy, but it hasn’t seemed like most of these lifestyle changes were helping.
While doing my research, I found out about all the anti-inflammatory effects that omega-3s have, which include lowering blood pressure, decreasing plaque build-up in arteries, and increased HDL (good) cholesterol (all of which aid in reducing inflammation. Omega-3 acids specifically reduce eicosanoids and cytokines, which are kinds of molecules connected with inflammation.
Considering both our active lifestyles and predispositions to injuries, it seemed like a no-brainer to add this to our daily diets. I try to avoid pain-killers and supplements because I believe they are mostly unnecessary when we incorporate the right nutrients into our daily routines, so something as easy as flaxseed oil totally appealed to Devin and me.
It Began with Bradley
My flaxseed oil obsession for myself and Devin actually started with Bradley. When we found him, he was covered in fleas, and had several patches of skin showing where his fur had been scratched off. When you petted him, handfuls of dandruff would come off because the skin beneath his fur was so dry and poorly taken care of.
We had tried giving him baths with moisturizing shampoo, but I didn’t want to start spending a bunch of money on fancy dog shampoos, conditioners, and supplements. While searching the web reading about how to improve the health of his skin and fur, I found out that flaxseed oil was an option for dogs too.
Just like humans, dogs need essential fatty acids as well. I’ve noticed a significant difference in the health of Bradley’s coat since we started putting a tablespoonful into his morning dog bowl. His fur is softer and smoother, with much less dandruff and shedding.
Besides all the reasons abovementioned for why we tried flaxseed oil, it has also been shown to improve menstrual pain, have positive effects on people with mood disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar, and help with sleep.
For pregnant women, flaxseed oil can aid in development of healthy babies too. Plus, it improves skin health through sun protection by inhibiting collagen-destroying molecules in our bodies. It completely blew me away how many different health benefits there are in one simple oil.
The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are from whole foods such as fish (tuna, herring, salmon, etc.), flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. I personally don’t like to cook much, so I don’t eat a ton of fish. It can also get quite expensive! I like the idea of chia seeds, but they seem so flavorless to me. So, if you’re looking for a fast and easy way to add omega-3s into your diet then flaxseed oil, with or without lignans, is the way to go.
How Much is Enough?
Here’s a handy guide to show you the exact recommendations for ALA intake. I’ve found about 1 tablespoon a day works best for me, but be sure not to exceed 3 grams per day and checking the serving portions and recommended doses.
Incorporating Flaxseed Oil
It’s very important that flaxseed oil not be used for cooking. Thanks to its low smoke-point, it can burn easily, and can become toxic when heated. Rather than imagining it as a cooking oil, think of it as a drizzle on sweet and savory foods, or as an oil substitute for salad dressings.
One of the easiest ways to add this oil into your diet is to take a quick tablespoonful swig of it in the morning, before or after breakfast. Flaxseed oil is certainly an acquired taste, however, so don’t worry if guzzling it down straight doesn’t work for you, because there are plenty of ways to incorporate it.
Sweet or Salty Breakfast Options
Two of my favorite breakfasts in the morning have been made even more delicious with flaxseed oil. My sweet breakfast is a granola and yogurt bowl with fruit and pistachios, so I pour a spoonful over everything and stir. I can’t even taste the oil, but it adds a nutty note to the whole yummy concoction.
When I’m craving a savory option that will keep me full even longer, I toast up an English muffin with cream cheese, fry up two eggs with some spinach, and top it off with some flaxseed oil. The rich oil adds even more flavor and satisfaction.
Try flaxseed oil on avocado toast, pancakes, added into smoothies, or stirred into yogurt to kick the morning off with an extra dose of inflammation fighting power.
Use it Like Olive Oil
Olive oil is also the bomb, but try swapping out olive oil in homemade salad dressings with some flaxseed oil. Try it on pasta noodles, potatoes, roasted veggies (after cooking them) or any other meal where olive oil might be used after heating.
Share Your Wellness Foods
I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about an awesome supplement option that is easy, affordable, and super good for you. I love giving my body the nutrients it needs to keep it working it’s best, without having to buy crazy expensive vitamins and products, don’t you?
Do you have a special food that boosts your health and body? I’d love to hear what it is and why it’s your latest favorite in the comments below.
Be well and stay stoked,