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Flax Seeds

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Flax seeds… touted for their amazing nutrients, are also known as the “holy binder” of raw foods. So what makes them so magical when it comes to using them in recipes? For being such a tiny, itty bitty seed, it has an outer hull consisting of five layers.

The Wonders of Flax

The outermost layer, called the epiderm, contains the mucilaginous material that is activated in the presence of liquid. Give it a stir and a little time to relax and bam (!) you have a slimy material known as mucilage, or gel.

Flax seeds contain both the soluble and insoluble types and can be very bulk forming in the colon. This process can be a real blessing for those who suffer constipation but it can also hinder movement when you don’t drink enough water with them.

Always Grind as Needed

To get the best bang for your buck in nutrition, grinding the seeds is the way to go. You can even just blitz them in a spice grinder, cracking the seeds… making it possible to benefit from the core nutrition of the seed. There is some benefit to just soaking the seeds in water and obtaining the mucilage. That mucilage is known to help to prevent toxic build-up in the bowel during fasting or a healing diet. Only you can feel your body’s response to individual foods, so pay attention. :)

Taste wise, flax seeds don’t have an overpowering taste so it won’t alter the flavor of your foods, unless you use too much. They can add a delightful nuttiness to just about any recipe. Some of you may be sensitive to the taste or don’t care for it. If this is you, chia seeds can often be used as a substitution or just be cautious in the volume you use in a recipe. For a standard, family-sized recipe, you don’t want to add more than about 3 Tbsp of flax flour to it if you are sensitive to the taste.

Ingredients: yields 1 1/3 cup flax flour / meal

  • 1 cup golden flax seeds


  1. Place the flax seeds in a dry blender grain container, Bullet, coffee or spice grinder.
  2. Grind until it resembles a flakey flour.
  3. Use right away. Store left overs in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

flax-seeds1Whole flax:

  • According to MayoClinic.com, whole flax seeds do not offer the same benefits as ground flax seeds. The whole seeds can pass through your digestive tract without breaking down, detracting from their health benefits. Ground flax seeds are sure to digest and supply your body with valuable fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
  • Many people used soaked flax seeds in recipes in their whole form… I too use to do this and do it from time to time but now find myself grinding it into a flour so my body can better assimilate it.
  • If you find a recipe using whole seeds and wish to convert it to ground flax, you might need to adjust the amount used. It will alter the texture as well.
  • When water is added to flax seeds, it will create a mucilage that suspends the seeds. You can not rinse this mucilage away. This is what creates a binder for recipes. When soaking, the volume will increase as much as 9x so be aware that a little bit goes a long way.

Ground flax:

  • The Omega-3 fatty acids (which help fight inflammation) present in flax seed are located inside the seeds and therefore the seeds need to be opened to access the nutritional value. You can grind the flax seed using a dry blender container used for grinding grains, coffee or spice grinder to ensure that you are reaping the benefits of flax seed.
  • I recommend grinding the seeds as needed because the oil in flax is highly unsaturated. This means that it is very prone to oxidation (rancidity) unless it is stored correctly. This step is required to make the nutrients available (otherwise they just “pass through”). Should you grind up t0o much at one time, you must protect those oils by storing it in the fridge or freezer, in dark containers, preferably being consumed within a few weeks of grinding.
  • Ground flaxseed is often sold or referred to as “milled flax,” “flaxseed flour” or “flaxseed meal.”
  • When ground flax is mixed with a liquid, it turns into a slurry and when allowed to sit for a short time, it forms a gel.

Here is a photo of what it looks like when soaked.

The liquid dripping from the colander is the mucilage that

I have been talking about.

Flax-seed-gel-4423I wanted to touch on a few things that I see some confusion with.  Flax seeds don’t require soaking and dehydrating in order to use them… like you do with nuts and seeds.  It’s true that flax seeds need to either be soaked or ground in order to get all the nutrients from them but what approach you use will depend on how you are using them in recipes.

Whole flax seeds:

If you wish to keep the seeds whole for aesthetic reasons you will need to soak them prior to adding to a recipe or add them to a recipe that has extra liquid in it.  That liquid will help to release the mucilage that is within the seeds, making them more digestible and absorbable. This mucilage that surrounds the whole seeds works as a binder and thickener. I used whole soaked flax seeds in my Italian Sun-Dried Tomato Flax Crackers. I wanted the visual effect of the whole seed, yet I needed them to act as a binder to hold the cracker together.

You can add either whole flax seeds to smoothies if you machine is powerful enough to grind the seeds down.  But you can also just add ground seeds if you already have them prepared.

Ground flax seeds:

First of all, it is best to always grind your own flax seeds to ensure that they are fresh and haven’t gone rancid.  It will also retain more of the nutrients. It is very easy to do.  You can use a Vitamix or Blendec machine, spice grinder or coffee grinder.  Or even by hand with a mortar and pestle.  A good rule of thumb… once ground it doubles the volume.  So 1/4 cup of flax seeds turns into 1/2 cup of ground.

Ground flax seeds are used in raw recipes to create a binding effect with ingredients and also as a thickener.  For instance I used them in my Raw Caraway and Dill Onion Crackers (nut-free).  Another recipe where I used ground flax seeds was in my Raw Churro Pastries with Chocolate Dipping Sauce.  I used the ground flax as a binder and to add bulk to my churros. In my Raw Spicy BBQ Flax Crackers, I used both whole and ground flax seeds. I wanted the visual effect of the seeds, the binding effect from the mucilage and then by adding in ground flax seeds, I created a thickener, giving the cracker more body. (also doubling up as a binder)

I hope this helps!  amie sue


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38 thoughts on “Flax Seeds

  1. Sarah Whiddett says:

    I’m writing to you from the UK. Am I correct that flax and linseed are the same thing? Also, what is flax meal – is it just ground up flax seeds, or is it something I have to buy? I can’t find it on Google.

    Love your site btw. I haven’t quite got my head around raw yet, but I’m loving some of the recipes on the site.

  2. Marva says:

    I soak flax seeds to make hair gel, but have been ingesting a lightly ground version in oatmeal, salads, meatballs, you name it. Then, I’m reading all the health benefits of soaking, and alive food is my thing, so I soaked some flax seed and was totally unable to dehydrate them for sprinkling as is my habit. They stuck like glue to the coffee filters I lined the dehydrator with. So, how can I accomplish this better? Or will I have to be satisfied with wet seeds? I could soak them with other nuts which they would stick to and I might not mind this when all is dry. I Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks so much for your help and guidance.

    • amie-sue says:

      Hello Marva,

      Once you soak the flax seeds, you can’t drain them from the mucilage that they create. But in order for nutrients to be absorbed in the body from them, you must eat them ground or soaked. The wet soaked seeds are used in smoothies, salad dressings, raw crackers, desserts, etc. The ground flax can be used in all those things as well but also can be sprinkled on salads, etc. I hope this helps. amie sue

      • Rachael says:

        I’m still a bit confused about how to get them dry after soaking them. I’d like to use mine in granola. I’ve already soaked and dehydrated my oats and almonds. I wanted flax in the granola as well so I soaked them. Can I dehydrate them and put them in my granola? Or have I “ruined” them for that purpose and I now have to find ways to use them in their gooey form? Thank you.

        • amie-sue says:

          Hi Rachael.

          To use the flax seeds in your granola, soak them till the water that you added is soaked up, then add them to the rest of the recipe and mix everything really well. The seeds will stick to the other ingredients. Then spread the granola out and dehydrate. Nothing is ruined. :) You can spread your soaked flax seeds out on a teflex sheet and dry them but they will dry in clumps and you will have to break the clumps up… but I would just mix them up with the rest of the granola recipe and it will be perfect. Does that help? Have a great day, amie sue

          • She could grind them up dry as well, couldn’t she? That would be just as good, right? I discovered that total inability to drain them after soaking once when I was making a cake that called for flax. Ha ha! I just ground up the slush in a blender and used them like that and it was fine. BTW, I love your site. I think you did some choc hazlenut icecream recipe that I have saved to make later. And now I’m looking for something else and your site pops up again! Thanks for the info. I am sure I will have a couple of questions for you also on oats . . .

            • amie-sue says:

              Yes she could Joy… there are many ways to use flax :)

              • paz says:

                I accidentally drained my flax seeds, is there anyway to fix this? If I add more seeds to them? I had no idea what to do until I was done and went to look it up since my boyfriend wasn’t around.

                • amie-sue says:

                  Hello Paz,

                  So you soaked the flaxseeds in water, and had some excess in which you drained off? How long were they soaking prior to doing this? What are your plans for the flaxseeds? These questions will help me in answering you. :) amie sue

                  • paz says:

                    They didn’t soak for very long (about an hour), but I not only drained, I had also rinsed the seeds. To use them in a smoothie. But I was scared of the smiley material, and panicked.

                    • amie-sue says:

                      It’s all ok Paz… I can understand, flax mucilage is something to get use to at first. :) It’s just a learning process. You could easily add water back into the dish and let them soak for a few hours. It’s hard for me to know exactly how much mucilage they released without seeing it in person. I would add about 1″ extra water that sit on top… then just give them a stir every once in a while to see how they are doing.

                      If you want to add flaxseeds in a smoothie, you can usually just add them right into the blender at the time of making your drink. The blending process should grind them up, releasing all the good nutrients. You can also grind them up in a spice grinder and add directly to your smoothie too. You have many options here. Does this help Paz? Have a glorious day. amie sue

  3. Manish says:

    Are flax seed bad for health as some web research reflects..?

    • amie-sue says:

      Personally, I think they are wonderful. But in the end, it depends on how your body/digestive system likes them. :) I am not sure what negative articles you are reading about them so I can’t really comment on those, but my main advice is to eat / use them in moderation and listen to your body as to how you feel over-all when you eat them. Have a great day, amie sue

  4. sandhya says:

    the best way to consume flax seeds for good skin is soaked or grounded?

    • amie-sue says:

      Both ways are good Sandhya. With doing both techniques the body can absorb all the that have to offer. :) Have a blessed day, amie sue

  5. Andrew says:

    Amie, as someone who wants to extract as much nutrition and goodness from each grain of whole food that I can, would you recommend soaking the seeds, possibly even sprouting them, dehydrate, and then grounding them up into the flax meal that you use in so many of your recipes?

    Or possibly even skip the dehydrating part and just ground the soaked or sprouted flax in a blender, and then throw it together in a lot of the recipes that call for the flax meal which has some moisture anyways.

    Your Italian bread is absolutely AMAZING by the way. I am seriously on a roll making so many of your recipes. You are a genius and I’m beginning to understand why flax is such a great ingredient for these recipes, which is of course making me want to know how to extract as many nutrients as possible from these powerhouses.

    • amie-sue says:

      I understand your position and I think it is safe to say that that is all of our main goals as well.

      There are two ways to extract the nutrients from flax seeds… soaking and grinding. I personally don’t believe that you gain any further nutrition is you soak, dehydrate and grind them. Flax seeds don’t “sprout” like a grain do.

      How you use them (soaked or ground) will always depend on the recipe and what their role is in the recipe. As you are learning through the bread recipes, it is used as a binder. Also, some people don’t like the texture of small seeds, they opt to grind them.

      I am thrilled that you are enjoying the bread recipes. They are by far my favorite as well. :) Have a wonderful day, amie sue

  6. deb says:

    Hi. I have a recipe that calls for two table spoons of “soaked flax see meal.” How on earth do I soak flax seed meal? I know it sounds silly, but in the video to the recipe I found they mention how it’s like a gelatin.
    Do I just add water and let it sit until it forms this gelatin like form?
    BTW, nice site. I’m just changing my eating habits and stumbled on to your site. I’ll be back. :)

    • amie-sue says:

      Hello Deb… Yes, you are correct. Add water to the flax meal (ground flax seeds), stir really well and let it sit for about 10 minutes or so, it doesn’t take long. It will be like a super thick gel. Good luck on your journey to better eating! I am cheering you on. :) amie sue

  7. ej says:

    possibly first dude here. anyway.. what abour soaking and then grinding. this is just going to be used in my smoothie anyway. but i want to soak for the release of live enzymes. any idea on soak times? thanks

    • amie-sue says:

      Hello Ej…. not the first dude here… but nice to have you here :) For smoothies it is great to soak them first then blend the flax gel into the smoothie. You can even grind the seeds into a powder before soaking to get them to break down even further for digestion. Enjoy! amie sue

  8. Alex says:

    Hello there.

    I have some queries. Does grinding and soaking them afterwards, for the night, neutralize the inhibitors and cyanide-like content in the seeds? Or do these two unwanted substances remain in the water in which you soaked the powder? I’m not sure if you should throw the water out, because some nutrients might be released in it now that the seeds are finely ground, and it would also be very hard to separate the mixture.

    In case the two negative aspects (cyanide and inhibitors) don’t get neutralized after 24 hours of soaking, would it be better to first soak them whole and rinse, and then grind them somehow afterwards? After which you leave them in some more water to get the same homogenized mixture as in the first case. Or would that also make them loose some nutritional quality? I’ve read that the cyanide-like content does get neutralized to some extent when soaking the seeds.

    I’ve recently started consuming them like in the first case: grinding them and soaking 3 tablespoons in a cup per day, after leaving them overnight. But then I found out about the cyanide. Even before finding out this piece of info, I didn’t experience anything adverse, but on the contrary. The problem is that I want to consume them for a long period of time, and it gives me some concerns. At least if it is possible I would like to prepare them without loosing out on the nutritional benefits. Also no cooking them since that doesn’t make them alive anymore.

    Thank you.

    • amie-sue says:

      Great questions Alex. I will some time to dedicate some further research about all this. I just wanted you to know that I got your comment and will be working on it. Blessings, amie sue

  9. Ryan says:

    Hi. I’m just starting out with healthy eating. I’m guessing a blender wouldn’t be able to dry-grind just 1 teaspoon of flax seeds so I was wondering – is it safe to soak 1 teaspoon of seeds in water overnight and then blend the seed/water ‘gel’ in the morning before adding it to a smoothie to make sure the seeds are broken down? (My blender is old so I don’t think it would be able to break down the seeds if I just added them whole with all the other smoothie ingredients.)


    • amie-sue says:

      Hello Ryan,

      Your right, the blender won’t do a good job at with grinding down such a small quantity. The soaking process alone will help in making them easier to absorb and digest, so you are correct in your thinking. I think that adding it to the smoothie ingredients and blending would be good enough. Just blending the flax gel might cause the gel to just spin around and break down any further. As a side note, purchasing a $10 spice grinder would be handy for grinding down small amounts of flax. Have a great day, amie sue

  10. meg says:

    I recently bought golden flaxseed in bulk from winco and used them in my Nutribullet to make a smoothie and they made my smoothie SUPER GELATINOUS!
    Like jello thickness.
    I have been using golden flax from Trader Joes regularly without this problem.

    My question is: What is the difference, and what makes the seeds do that?
    Both seeds look the same in color and name, yet TJ’s seeds never did that to my smoothie.
    I’m super puzzled…help!

    • amie-sue says:

      Boy that is a puzzle. I never seem to get different reactions from different brands of flax-seeds. I can see that flax-seeds can differ in taste if they have gone rancid. Did you use any other ingredient that you normally don’t? amie sue

      • Meg! says:

        The only thing I can think of is that the TJ ones are roasted and winco bulk seeds are not.
        I’ve experimented a little and if I soak the winco brand for about 10 mins, the smoothie doesn’t get gelatinous.
        Either way, I’m sticking to the Trader Joes brand-they seem to be better all around.

        • amie-sue says:

          Ah, you didn’t tell me that bit of info. ;) I would always use untoasted flax-seeds to get the most of them nutrient wise. amie sue

  11. Marcy says:

    What ratio water to flax seed do you use?

    • amie-sue says:

      Hello Marcy,

      When soaking flax seeds it all depends on how you will be using them. The less water, the thicker and more dense the mixture will be… the more water added, the loser. There isn’t an exact ratio because again, it will depend on the recipe. The main thing to remember is that you don’t drain the liquid from the flax once it is soaked. When the flax seeds are soaked, they will have absorbed the water, creating a musalige which has wonderful binding powers in recipes. Have a great evening, amie sue

  12. paz says:

    I couldn’t post a reply to the replies. I can’t even see the buttons, but thank you so much! They’re all slimey and good now! Thank you! I was worried and felt like I should let them go through the whole process since I usually rush and abrupt things and they probably had more to go. They’re fine now, it coats my fingers (it’s very dense). But thank you so much for your input and it actually calmed me down. Have a beautiful day. Thank you again <3

    • amie-sue says:

      You are on the right path with slimy flax-seeds. hehe We learn from all our experiences… next time it will be a cinch. :) And you are so welcome. Glad that I could be of assistance. :) Blessings, amie sue

  13. Kenza says:

    i soaked a bunch of whole flax seeds for 10 hours and I put them in the oven at 170 ( this is the lowest temperature my oven can go to) for 12 hours , as I usually do with my nuts. The result is like a whole piece of dry seeds sticking to each other. Should I keep them this way and ground some of it when I need to or should I ground the whole piece and store it?

    • amie-sue says:

      Hello Kenza… I am not sure why you soaked and dehydrated all the flax seeds. To get the nutrients from flaxseeds they either need to be ground (no soaking required) or they can be soaked. But I only do this in batches as needed. It depends as to how you are going to use them and what a recipe calls for.

      But since you have a large sheet of dried flax seeds, I would leave them in larger chunks and just grind them as needed. Flax has good natural oils in them and if you grind them now and don’t use them for a while, the nutrients will lesson and they have a chance of going rancid. I always keep my seeds in the fridge or freezer to prevent them from going rancid as well.

      Does this help? Happy to work through this with you. :) amie sue

  14. amie-sue says:

    Hello Audrey,

    Yes you can… there are tons of flax cracker recipes that use soaked flax seeds. If you were to dehydrate them as is, this would papery thin and have an odd taste, unless you just love the taste of flax by itself. :) Check out my cracker recipes if you want. Have a great day, amie sue

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