How Much Flax Seed Do I Need?

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a nonprofit organization that operates under the umbrella of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, published recommended intakes of essential fatty acids in 2002. This was the first time a North American agency had made a recommendation for this essential omega-3 fatty acid acknowledging the essential nature of ALA in the human diet and the contribution of all omega-3 fatty acids to human health. ALA is the only true “essential” omega-3 fatty acid in our diet. An essential nutrient (like ALA) is one that must be obtained from foods because our bodies cannot make it.

The IOM’s recommended intakes were developed in cooperation with Health Canada. Health Canada recommends a daily omega-3 fatty acid intake of at least 0.5 percent of total calories. For the average person this would be about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids per day. One tablespoon of ground flax seed provides about 1.5 grams of omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA).

Dr. Lilian Thompson of the University of Toronto, a pioneer in flax seed research, says one tablespoon of ground flax seed per day may provide some health benefits and is most likely safe.

Stephen Cunnane, PH.D and colleagues at the University of Toronto tested the effects in 10 healthy young men and women of consuming 50 grams of flax seed a day for four weeks. Benefits seen during the study were:

  • Decreased total and LDL blood cholesterol by 6% and 9% respectively
  • An increase in bowel movements by 30%.

The conclusion was that this amount of flax seed per day is palatable, safe and may be nutritionally beneficial in humans.

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