Flax (Linum usitatissimum) belonging to the family of Lineaceae, is a blue flowering annual herb that produces small flat seeds varying from a golden yellow to a reddish brown colour. Flaxseeds possess a crispy texture with a nutty taste; flaxseed is a powerful plant based foods rich in good fats, fibre and antioxidants. Flaxseeds are also known as linseeds and both terms are used interchangeably. Flaxseeds importance has been established in the world’s food chain as a functional food. Functional food can be defined as the food or food ingredients that may provide physiological benefits and helps in preventing and/or curing of diseases. Flaxseeds have been the focus, and of growing interest for nutritionists and medical researchers due to its potential health benefits associated with its biologically active components—ALA (alpha linolenic acid), lignan secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG) and dietary fibre.
ALA is one of the essential polyunsaturated fatty acid and reported to exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic and anti-arrhythmic properties. ALA is beneficial for infant brain development, reducing blood lipids and cardiovascular diseases. Flax milk is high in ALA and is an excellent alternative to dairy milk, as it has no cholesterol or lactose. It is suitable for people allergic to soy, nuts and gluten, and it contains more health benefits than almond milk. Flaxseed serves as the best omega 3 fatty acid source to the non-fish eaters. Flaxseeds contain a good amount of phenolic compounds. These phenolic compounds are well known for anticancer and anti-oxidative properties. In research studies, flaxseed has been incorporated successfully into snack bars, muffins, bagels, bread, buns, tea biscuits, cinnamon rolls and pasta.
Culinary Uses of Flaxseed
A flaxseed meal is gluten free and the seed has a pleasant nutty flavour, especially when it is roasted. The protein content, combined with the gelling/binding properties of the soluble fibre, make it ideal for incorporating into gluten free baked goods, or as a gluten free thickening agent. One tablespoon of flaxseed meal combined with three tablespoons of water and allowed to gel, can be used as a substitute for an egg in baked goods. The flake is quite good combined with a hot or cold breakfast cereals in the morning and is a good source of fibre.
Applications as a dietary supplement
• As a component of protein powder blends.
• Fibre supplementation (bulk laxative with a demulcent action).
• Isolated and encapsulated lignan supplements.
Applications as a food ingredient
• Breads and other baked goods such as cookies and muffins including gluten free products. The incorporation into bread results in an improved texture and crumb structure.
•Healthy functional snack foods such as high protein energy bars.
Nutrients amount per 100 g of edible flaxseed
Protein (N × 6.25) (g)
Crude fiber (g)
Total dietary fiber (g)
Vitamin A (μg)
Vitamin E (mg)
Thiamine (B1) (mg)
Riboflavin (B2) (mg)
Folic acid (μg)
Table adapted from Kajla, Sharma and Sood (2014).
However, Flaxseeds contain nutrients that may have adverse influence on our health and well-being if over-consumed. Cyanogenic glycosides and linatine are the major anti-nutrients present. Long-term exposure of these glycosides interaction may aggravate iodine-deficiency disorders, goiter and cretinism.
From a daily intake of 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseeds, about 5 to 10mg of hydrogen cyanide is released which is well below the estimated acute toxic dose for adults of 50-60mg of inorganic cyanide.