When it comes to oils, AVOE takes over the throne without question. The epitome of the Mediterranean diet, endless studies support all of its benefits for your body. However, there are other options that are almost as good as the ones you might have in your kitchen.
A new scoring system created by the Institute of Fat (IG), a research center of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), evaluated the nutritional quality of edible oils and fats. According to them, after virgin olive oil, the healthiest with 100 points (the maximum score), is flaxseed oil with 86.
What makes flaxseed oil so great? Its high content of α-linolenic acid, rich in tocopherols—compounds that act like vitamin E in the body—and its low levels of saturated acids (“bad fats”), say researchers.
What is linseed oil?
Flaxseed oil is available in liquid or capsule form. Also known as linseed oil, it is derived from the seeds of the Linum usitatissimum plant.
It is characterized by being cold pressed, which provides higher amounts of nutrients and higher quality. For example, according to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, it retains antioxidants that can be damaged by heating. “To preserve it properly, it is important to keep this oil in a cool place,” advises the Bavarian Clinic.
Both flaxseed and oil are rich sources of alpha-linolenic acid, a heart-healthy omega-3 essential fatty acid, notes the Mayo Clinic. So many people “use them to lower cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as to treat digestive conditions,” he says.
Properties and benefits
Due to its composition, flaxseed oil is packed with significant health benefits.
It contains the unsaturated type of healthy fat, which is linked to better heart health, because the omega-3 acids they contain increase good cholesterol. They have also been linked to protective effects on the brain. Its consumption leads to better neurological function from middle age itself.
Flaxseed oil is one of the richest plant sources of lignans, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. “Chronic inflammation has been linked to all kinds of health problems,” says nutritionist Devon Pier, “including obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.”
It may also be effective in treating constipation. Several animal studies cited by Healthline suggest that flaxseed oil acts as a natural laxative to promote regularity. And the world of cosmetics positions it as an essential ingredient in skin care.
Although it is a safe product, some things should be kept in mind. As the Mayo Clinic emphasizes, flaxseed oil should be avoided during pregnancy. Sometimes, it can also cause an allergic reaction.
Because flaxseed oil might slow blood clotting, the clinic advises to “discontinue use 2 weeks before elective surgery.”
How to use linseed oil in the kitchen
Flaxseed oil has a strong flavor, which becomes more bitter over time due to oxidation. So one of the best ways to use it in your recipes is to mix it with other oils. For example, it is ideal for salad dressings and sauces.
Of significant relevance, particularly in vegetarian and vegan diets, is the inclusion of omega-3 when animal sources such as fish cannot be used. Other ways to consume it include adding it to smoothies, juices, infusions or as an ingredient in cookies.
Please note that it should not be used for cooking, as it can form harmful compounds when exposed to high temperatures, according to Healthline.