Flaxseeds are slightly larger than sesame seeds and range in color from dark reddish brown to a deep gold. You can store them up to a year in a dry, well-ventilated area or in the freezer. However, to get the benefits from flaxseeds, they must be ground or milled to release their oils. You can buy it already ground or even just flaxseed oil (although you will miss out on the fiber in this case) but it will go rancid very quickly.
The benefits of flaxseeds are many. They are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (much less so than fatty fish however) and are high in fiber. The fiber in these seeds can have laxative effects when consumed with the recommended 8-12 cups of fluid per day. But beware, eating them without the proper hydration can cause constipation or intestinal blockages. One tablespoon of ground flaxseeds per day can help to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and lower the risk of certain cancers. Be sure your doctor knows you are using flaxseeds because they can interact with statins, NSAIDS and blood thinners.
Once flaxseeds are ground, you can add it to anything! Smoothies, baked goods, salads, yogurt and oatmeal are just a few examples. They will add a really tasty, nutty flavor. Also, milled flaxseeds can substitute for eggs or fats in recipes 3 tbsp ground flaxseeds is equal to 1 tbsp fat and 2 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp water is equal to one egg.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD,CD