Have you ever tried to do something that you thought would take five minutes, only to realize two hours later that it would probably take five days to do properly?
Well, let’s just say that analyzing flaxseed in detail would probably take that long, and neither you nor I would be particularly better off for it.
Are Flaxseeds Healthy?
I’m not 100% sure why this is the case, but researchers have done a lot of studies on flaxseeds, flax meal, and flax oil.
Worst of all, the results are all over the place and are generally inconclusive.
What that means is that flax probably isn’t as bad as some people think, but there are definitely reasons to not consume too much (at the least).
The primary concern with flax is that the fats in flaxseeds are polyunsaturated, which means that they can be oxidized quite easily and quickly, which in turn can lead to a lot of damage in your body.
Whole flaxseeds can protect themselves against oxidation. However, that means that they also protect themselves against being digested. That’s a twofold problem. First, you won’t get much benefit from eating whole flaxseeds. And second, if you have any pre-existing digestive issues, flaxseeds may aggravate the problem.
Flaxseed oil and ground flaxseeds can both be digested, but they’re very easily oxidized. And that’s a big problem.
A couple studies, including this one, have demonstrated that increased ALA (alpha-linolenic acid, one of the primary fatty acids in flaxseed) has been shown to increase the risk of prostate cancer.
That research is a bit uncertain, but it’s there.
If you’re wondering, this is not generally a good thing for men OR women. You want your body to regulate testosterone and estrogen on its own, not under the influence of any food that over-regulates.
However, flax seeds appear to lower testosterone.
What Do Other Paleo Gurus Say?
Mark Sisson: “If you’re a vegetarian or unable to get your hands on animal sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, a seed like flax might be a decent option, but for this grass-fed-meat-eating, fish-oil-swilling, antioxidant-rich-vegetable chomping audience, I don’t see why flax needs to be part of the dietary equation.”
Robb Wolf: “I’d never really had problem with flax seed, the usage of flaxseeds because the amount of Omega-3s that you get from that are small and if you just handle them properly (like grinding them fresh), use them immediately, don’t cook with the stuff, then you should be good to go.”
Are Flaxseeds Paleo?
Flax is not very Paleo.
Whole flaxseeds probably aren’t that bad, but they aren’t digested well in any event. Ground flax goes rancid very fast, and flax oil even faster.
Flax doesn’t have nearly as much going for it as mainstream experts believe since the omega-3s are not converted very well to active forms of omega-3.
I wouldn’t avoid a dish just because it contained flax, but I certainly don’t seek it out.