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?
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.
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
Whole seeds are also helpful as a laxative for alleviating constipation.
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: Reviews and Top Picks
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):
- 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
- 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
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
24 fl oz / 705 ml
16 fl oz / 473 ml
250 x 1000mg
200 x 1000mg
ml per capsule
Total ml per bottle
Cost per ml
Cost per 15ml
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:
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.
If you like the infographic, feel free to use it on your site using the code below