It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to [email protected] and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

Please note that the Ask Dr. Gourmet feature is restricted to questions regarding food and nutrition. Due to the many questions we receive, not all questions may be answered. For more specific questions about your individual health, please contact your doctor. About Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy


Ask Dr. Gourmet

Are flax seeds as good for you as flax-seed oil?

My wife uses flax-seed oil as a supplement. I figure why not buy flax seed and add it to my cereal at much less cost and perhaps more fiber. But, she says, the seed are not being digested so I'm missing the benefit. Perhaps it would help if I ground them a bit with a mortar and pestle?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

whole flax seeds and a small pitcher of flaxseed oil

Your question is a good one and your wife is correct. The hull of flax seeds is really tough and essentially undigestible. As such the wonderful oil that's inside can't get out unless you crush them first. A mortar and pestle is perfect. Crush those little guys and sprinkle them on your cereal and you're good to go.

Here's a great suggestion from one of our readers. Thanks to the Weber family for this great idea!:

I just finished one of your articles concerning the use of flax seeds. The concern of digestion of the seed was asked. To make it simple we use a coffee grinder daily to grind the seeds. This is then added to a juice and taken daily. A great natural.

Ron Spitzer writes:

In your column about flax seed, you said that it must be crushed to be digestible. I buy Hodgson Mill flax that is already crushed or milled. After I open the box I store it in the refrigerator. This is more convenient than grinding the whole seed yourself. But, is it as nutritious? Chia seed does not require refrigeration and I eat some whole or crush in a blender.

To answer your question, Ron, this is a fantastic idea. Chia seed is a great choice and just as nutritious. Refrigeration for both items is a good idea because it does prolong shelf life.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr Gourmet