How to Choose the Best Flaxseed Oil: Do’s, Don’ts and Top Tips

Before we talk about out which is the best flaxseed oil for health, we need to discuss whether it’s good for your health at all.

Some proponents of all-natural and health products seem to believe that flaxseed is healthy, reconsidering their recommendation that flaxseed oil should be an essential part of your diet.

People also seem confused about what it is good for. They wonder whether they can use it for weight loss, to control diabetes, to lower cholesterol, to minimize menopause hot flashes, for gout and inflammation, for joint pain, for cancer, as a laxative, or even for thyroid health? Can it be used while pregnant and breastfeeding, and is it good for their babies and toddlers? People even ask if it is good for dogs and horses? Is flaxseed oil good to use on hardwood surfaces such as floors and furniture? Can I use it to season a cast iron pot?

Read more...

I’ll try to answer some of these questions. However, the main purpose of this post is to summarize what to look for when trying to find the best flaxseed oil for your health. Later, I’ll review some products and do a price comparison.

These are the products I reviewed.


Do’s and Don’ts When Deciding on Which Is the Best Flaxseed Oil to Buy

#1: DON’T Confuse Flaxseed Oil Benefits With Fish Oil Benefits

This is not about which is best. They are simply different products. Your body needs them both.

They both have Omega 3, but flaxseed has the alpha-linolenic fatty acid (ALA) form and fish oil has EPA and DHA forms. ALA is a source of food and energy. EPA and DHA are more a part of the structure of your cells, especially brain cells.

Best flaxseed oil best quality

Most of the health benefits associated with Omega 3 are related to EPA and DHA:

  • This form of Omega 3 is great for inflammation, joint pain, heart health, cancers, arthritis, diabetes, depression and anxiety, blood pressure, the brain development of babies and small children (important if you are pregnant or breastfeeding)

The health benefits of ALA are still being researched, but seem to include:

ALA, DHA and EPA are all essential fatty acids and we need all of them, but ALA cannot substitute for DHA and EPA.

Top Tip #1 for Selecting the Best Flaxseed Oil

  • DO choose flaxseed oil as part of an overall healthy diet, and as an energy source
  • DON’T choose flaxseed oil as a substitute for the Omega 3 benefits of fish oil

#2: DON’T Confuse Flaxseed Oil Benefits With the Benefits of Whole Flaxseeds

Whole flaxseeds have been called a superfood because they have 3 main components: fiber, Omega 3 (as ALA) and lignans (special plant chemicals, that are mainly found in the husk of the seed). They are also rich in protein, magnesium, Vitamin B and Vitamin E.

Lignans seem to have valuable health benefits

  • They are phytoestrogens (estrogens from plants) and are helpful for managing hormonal disturbances, including menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and osteoporosis, and it helps with breast and ovarian cancer.
  • They also lead to a lower risk of death from heart disease and lower cholesterol.

Whole seeds are also helpful as a laxative for alleviating constipation.

Best flaxseed oil quality

Flaxseed oil (which comes from the germ of the seed) often has only the Omega 3 (ALA), and no fiber or lignan. However, lignan can be added to the oil to increase its nutritional value.

There is no industry standard for how much lignan should be in enriched oil. However, generally the following is true:

  • Between 5 and 20 mg per tablespoon of oil = low-to-moderate lignan
  • 20 – 40 mg per tablespoon = high lignan
  • Whole flaxseeds have 45mg+ per tablespoon

Top Tip #2 for Selecting the Best Flaxseed Oil

  • DO choose unfiltered oil that retains some of the lignan particulate
  • DO choose enriched oil with ground husk powder added (this is where the lignan comes from)
  • DON’T choose a completely clear oil if you want the benefits of lignan
  • DO read the labels and especially the Nutrition Facts Panel
  • DO check how much lignan is in the oil
  • And, DO choose a capsule if you don’t like the stronger taste of enriched oil

#3: DO Understand the Importance of Shelf Life and How to Prevent the Oil From Going Rancid

One of the main concerns about flaxseed oil is that it goes rancid so easily. This oil is spoils easily if exposed to light, air and heat.

Various ways protect the oil from going rancid include:

  • Extraction should be via cold expeller press, with guarantees processing temperatures below 120℉ (49℃)
  • Adding an antioxidant like Vitamin E or D
  • Refrigeration during transport and even when stored unopened and definitely once opened.
  • Small batch manufacture, and clear expiration dates
  • Dark bottle or container that is properly sealed
  • Filtering to take out particulate that can cause the oil to go rancid and then adding it back later

Although manufacturers often promise longer shelf life, flaxseed oil should probably be used within a month of opening. Capsules or softgels are likely to be stable for up to six months.

You can add the oil to salad dressings, yoghurt, cottage cheese, smoothies, oatmeal, tea or juice. Otherwise, take the oil in capsule or softgel form, with plenty of water. It’s not a good idea to cook with flaxseed oil as it oxidizes very rapidly. Add the oil to foods after they have been cooked.

If the oil looks dark, smells a bit like oil paint, tastes fishy, or makes the back of your throat feel scratchy, it’s best to discard it. (If you want to use oil that has expired, it will be fine as oil for wood furniture. Remember that it’s other name is linseed oil. It is very good for all sorts of wood surfaces.)

Top Tip #3 for Selecting the Best Flaxseed Oil

  • DO look for cold expeller extraction method and date of pressing
  • DO look for extra methods used to protect the oil from going rancid

IN SUMMARY, What Must You Look for to Find the Best Flaxseed Oil for Health?

If we examine all this information, there are 3 main things to look for

  • Extraction method
  • Amount of lignan
  • Methods used to deal with the potential of the oil going rancid
Best flaxseed oil how to choose

Best Flaxseed Oil: Reviews and Top Picks

General Comment

It was surprisingly difficult to find products that met the criteria that I had set. There are many flaxseed oil products on the market, but not many with the added lignan that I believe makes it worthwhile to buy the oil. However, I did find a few reputable brands that you can try. I’ve reviewed both bottled oil and softgel products.

Here is a bit of an overview (which also gives an idea of how difficult it is for all of us to really know what we are buying):

Processing Method

  • The Barleans products are unfiltered, so they contain the particulate from the pressing of the seed. The particulate is listed as a separate ingredient, so some dried powder from the husks may be added. It’s not totally clear from the information provided.
  • The Nature’s Way product is filtered, then has particulate added back in.
  • The Swanson product seemed to be both filtered and refined (but not with solvents), and the lignans are added later

Recommended Dosages and Price Comparisons

This was not an easy process! Please don’t think that you can just look at the price of the product and know whether it is a good deal or not!

Here is what you are faced with:

  • The contents of bottled oils are given in ounces or milliliters (oz/ml) – a measure of volume
  • The contents of capsules are given in milligrams (mg) – a measure of weight
  • Recommended dosages are given in tablespoons (15ml) for bottled oils and per capsule (in mg) for capsules
  • Manufacturers seem to recommend very arbitrary amounts for daily doses.

How can you compare them?

So, This Is What I Did

Best flaxseed oil quality
  • I converted all the products to milliliters (ml). And, I did the calculation following the directions on the calculatorsite, using the density of 0,93 for flaxseed oil.
  • I figured out how many ml there are per capsule and the price per ml for all the products
  • I then compared the recommended dosages. The dosage for capsules is very low compared to bottled oil, even though the concentrations seem to be the same. (Is this because the oil in capsules is up to 5 times more expensive?)
  • To compare capsules with bottled oil, I calculated how much 15ml (1 tablespoon) would cost.

The results may surprise you.

The Top 4 Best Flaxseed Oil Products on the Market

#1 - Flax Oil Super Lignan, 24 Ounce by Nature's Way

Size: 24 fl oz / 705 ml

Lignan level: 35mg

Price: Approx $13 - $20 (($0.53 to $0,84/fl oz) or ($0.02 - $0.03 per ml))

Flax Oil Super Lignan, 24 Ounce by Nature's Way

via Amazon.com

Quality

Price

Our rating

The first thing I noticed about this product was that it was called "super lignan" and that the label gave the lignan level of 35mg. It seems that this is filtered oil, which extends the shelf life, and that flax powder with the lignan is later added to it.

I was a bit confused by the 35mg number. I think this may be a per tablespoon measure.

The supplement label indicates that Lignan from flax has been added at the rate of 2.7g lignan to approx 10g of oil. This means that a bit more than 20% of the product is lignan by weight. 

This is a reputable brand, so they are probably giving the correct information. The producer is very concerned about every step, from the farms, through the harvesting, seed selection, processing and the purity testing.

Review

They have taken some interesting steps to maintain the freshness of the oil:

  • Antioxidants have been added via a proprietary "Freshguard" mix of sunflower oil, rosemary extract, vitamins E and C and citric acid.
  • Light-protective bottles
  • Packaging is flushed with nitrogen to remove all the oxygen
  • The final product is double sealed to make sure that no oxygen gets it. This includes an outer shrink-wrapping

The focus of the marketing of this product is the health benefits associated with the Omega 3, lignan, Vitamin B and iron found in flaxseed oil. There is also a reminder that this oil is a source of all 3 Omega’s – ie Omega 3, 6 and 9.

I found it interesting to see the wide range of prices being charged by different suppliers for the same product. Prices ranged from about $13 to $20. So, it really is worthwhile to shop around a bit to get the best price.

My Cost Comparison Calculation (I Used an Average Price of $17)

  • Cost per ml: Just over 2 cents
  • Cost per tablespoon: $0.30

Pros

  • Unrefined
  • Contains lignan (35mg)
  • USDA Certified organic
  • Verified non-GMO
  • Added antioxidants to maintain freshness
  • Nitrogen flushing and shrink-wrapping of the package to maintain freshness
  • Clear labeling
  • Various sizes available
  • Also available as a softgel

Cons


#2 - High Lignan Flax Oil, 16-Ounce Bottle by Barlean's Organic Oils

Size: 16 fl oz / 473 ml

Lignan level: Present but exact amounts detailed

Price: Approx $15 ($0.94/fl oz)

High Lignan Flax Oil, 16-Ounce Bottle by Barlean's Organic Oils

via Amazon.com

Quality

Price

Our rating

This is a well-known brand, and is the #1 selling flaxseed oil in America. It has won numerous awards for taste and quality, according to AC Nielsen Market Data.

I really liked the careful attention given to protecting the product from degrading.

  • The manufacturers use a special cold extraction method that excludes heat, light and oxygen.
  • This oil is sold in opaque bottles
  • The "freshness date" on the label gives both the date of pressing and the expiration date, which is 6 months after the packaging date.
  • They "make to order", only pressing when there is an order and then shipping it immediately.

The product is also USDA certified organic, and verified non-GMO. It is vegan and kosher.

The only thing I didn’t like about this product is that there is no indication of how much lignan is in the oil. Is the lignan there because the oil is unfiltered or has additional lignan from flax powder been added? It seems that it is a good idea to shake or stir this bottle before you use it to make sure that the particulate is mixed evenly throughout the oil.

The recommended dose is 1 – 2 tablespoons per day, so this bottle will last from 15 to 30 days

My Cost Comparison Calculation

  • Cost per ml: Just over 3 cents
  • Cost per tablespoon: $0.48

Pros

  • Proprietary cold-press method
  • Pure
  • Unrefined
  • Unfiltered, so contains lignan
  • Certified organic
  • Verified non-GMO
  • Clear labeling
  • Excellent processes to ensure freshness
  • Various sizes available (8, 16 and 32 oz)
  • Also available as a capsule

Cons

  • No indication of amount of lignan

#3 - Lignan Flax Oil, 1000 mg ea, 250 Count by Barlean's Organic Oils

Size: 250 x 1000mg

Lignan level: Present, in particulate form

Price: Approx $22 ($0.09/per capsule)

Lignan Flax Oil, 1000 mg ea, 250 Count by Barlean's Organic Oils

via Amazon.com

Quality

Price

Our rating

This product has all the benefits that I talked about previously for flaxseed oil. Also, it may be the easier option if you’re looking for a supplement that you can take regularly and especially if you want to know exactly how much you are taking. Capsules also protect the oil from air, so they will not oxidize very quickly. Caramel coloring in the capsule shell adds extra protection against light degradation.

The capsules have a "freshness" label, together with a lot number. There is also a 100% satisfaction guarantee, signed by the owner of the company. That certainly gave my product confidence levels a boost!

It’s important to note that although the oil is "vegetarian", the capsule shell is made of gelatin, so can’t be used by those following strict kosher or halaal diets.

The recommended dosage is 3 – 9 capsules per day, so this bottle will last between 1 and 3 months. (Each capsule has only 1ml of oil, so this recommended dosage of 3 – 9ml per day is much lower than the recommendation for bottled oil at 15 – 30ml per day.)

My Cost Comparison Calculation

  • Cost per ml: Just under 9 cents
  • Cost per tablespoon: $1.32

This is 3 times more expensive than the bottled oil.

Pros

  • Pure
  • Unrefined
  • Unfiltered, so contains lignan
  • Extra lignan seems to have been added
  • Certified organic
  • Verified non-GMO
  • Clear labeling
  • Excellent processes to ensure freshness
  • Multiple awards
  • Also available as an oil

Cons

  • No indication of amount of lignan
  • Gelatin shell (only a problem for strict kosher and halaal diets)
  • Cost

#4 - Flaxseed Oil, High Lignan (Omegatru) 200 Sgels by Swanson Efas

Size: 200 x 1000mg softgels

Lignan level: 20mg per capsule

Price: Approx $13 ($0.07 per capsule)

Flaxseed Oil, High Lignan (Omegatru) 200 Sgels by Swanson Efas

via Amazon.com

Quality

Price

Our rating

Swanson is a privately owned Canadian company. They pay lots of attention to quality for their products. I read about all the laboratory tests they undertake. Some of these are by independent facilities like ConsumerLab, who gave them a really great review in their 2017 report, and StellaService. They comply with FDA and FTC standards. All of this is reflected in the "Guaranteed purity and potency" stamp on the label, and their 1 year money back guarantee.

It is certified organic by the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association (MCIO). The MCIO is a certifying agent for the USDA. This means that this product is also non-GMO.

The lignan level is quite high at 20mg per capsule. It looks like this product may be both filtered and refined, although it is solvent free, and the lignan portion is added.

The marketing focuses on health benefits. It gives attention to the favorable Omega 3 to Omega 6 balance in flaxseed oil, which is nearly 4:1. Most people get too much Omega 6, so adding additional Omega 3 may be a good idea.

These capsules seem to be very good quality. The reason I rated them a bit lower was that I couldn’t find any information about the extraction method or any special steps taken to protect the oil from going rancid. There is a manufactured date on the bottles. The company seems to suggest a 2-year shelf life. This seems like an unbelievably long shelf life to me.

My Cost Comparison Calculation

  • Cost per ml: Just under 7 cents
  • Cost per tablespoon: $0.98

Pros

  • Attention to quality
  • Contains lignan (20mg)
  • MCIO Certified organic
  • Non-GMO

Cons

  • Missing information, including extraction method, refining and filtering method, and any steps taken to keep the oil from going rancid
  • Shelf life seems to be too long

My Top Pick as Best Flaxseed Oil for Health

I could not really separate the first 3 products on quality. They all are good brands. The Swanson product seemed to be good quality, but didn’t give enough information, so I gave it a lower rating.

The only way to rank the others was on price. This is how they turned out:

#1 - Nature's Way Efa Gold Flax Oil, Super Lignan

#2 - Barlean's High Lignan Flax Oil

#3 - Barlean's Lignan Flax Oil softgels

#4 - Swanson Flaxseed Oil, High Lignan, softgels

Cost per bottle

$17.00

$15.00

$22.00

$13.00

Volume

24 fl oz / 705 ml

16 fl oz / 473 ml

250 x 1000mg

200 x 1000mg

ml per capsule

1ml

1ml

Total ml per bottle

705

473

250

200

Cost per ml

$0.02

$0.03

$0.09

$0.07

Cost per 15ml

$0.30

$0.48

$1.32

$0.98

My ranking

1

2

3

4

My scores

5/5

4.9/5

4.8/5

4.5/5

In summary, if you’re looking for the best flaxseed oil, choose a bottled oil to get the most value for your money, but use it quickly. Choose capsules for convenience and as part of your supplement regime, and if you really can’t handle the taste. The down side is you will pay more for for the capsules.

Another way to get high lignan content is to buy dried flaxseed hulls. You can get them in capsule form. Take them separately or cut them open and add them to your oil or to your smoothies.

Here is one product you can try:

Organic Flaxseed LIgnans 30 mg Flax Hulls by Lignans For Life

Organic Flaxseed Lignans 30 mg Flax Hulls by Lignans For Life

via Amazon.com

Quality

Price

Our rating

Size: 180 capsules

Lignan level: 30 mg per capsule

Recommended dose: 6 - 12 capsules per day

Price: Approx $30 (Note: These capsules have a vegetarian covering)

In the beginning, I was quite skeptical about buying flaxseed oil at all, but I’ve changed my mind.  I think people just need to choose carefully.

Oh, and by the way, it’s an excellent product for dogs and horses. It’s recommended on many of the veterinarian sites.

Let me know what you think of this article, and how flaxseed oil helps your health.

best flaxseed oil infographic

If you like the infographic, feel free to use it on your site using the code below

Amelia Johnson
 

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments