Flaxseeds are brown or golden seeds that are harvested from flax(Linum usitatissimim) a flowering plant that is planted very much like cereals.
Unlike cereals, the flax plants belong to a different family of plants(Linaceae family) and their seeds are used differently from cereals.
Flaxseeds are highly nutritious. They are rich in fiber, lignans, omega 3 essential fatty acids, and has been shown to have numerous health benefits.
These seeds have been cultivated since ancient times.
They are usually used in very small quantities; Flaxseed is often added to a grain base such as in oatmeal or breakfast cereals. They are also used as additional ingredients when making bread.
Flaxseed can be processed to produce flaxseed oil which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
Is flaxseed a whole grain?
Flaxseed isn’t a grain but a seed, and therefore not categorized as whole grains.
Instead, flaxseeds are grouped as oilseeds.
Other oilseeds are sunflower seeds etc.
From a technical perspective, true grains are cereals. However, there are a couple of other plants that are not true grains but because they are used as grains, they are classified as grains.
These plants are known as pseudocereals and they include plants such as amaranth quinoa and buckwheat.
It could be often confusing as sometimes when plants that are not cereals or pseudocereals are regarded as grains.
What is a grain?
Grains are an important part of our diet
True grains include cereals are members of the plant family podaceace, but other plants such as amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat which are not members of the family podaceace are considered grains.
They are known as pseudocereals.
Grains usually have three layers which are the bran, germ, and the endosperm
In whole grains these three layers are intact but in refined grains, part of these layers is removed and they are therefore less nutritious than the whole grains
Grains vs. seeds
To understand why flax is not a grain, let us take a look at a couple of differences between grains and other seeds
Seeds are the embryonic plant enclosed in a protective outer covering.
The seeds contain an embryo, endosperm, and a seed coat.
They are formed from fertilized ovules which are structures that contain the female reproductive cells of the plant.
When pollen which contains the male cells fertilizes the ovules, the ovules develop into the seed.
Grains are the fruits of true cereal plants.
Despite how small a grain of corn may seem, each grain is composed of both fruit and seed of these plants which are fused together.
In fleshy fruits such as mangoes, the pericarp is made up of three layers; the exocarp, mesocarp, and endocarp. The pericarp surrounds the seed but can be separated from it.
In grains, the pericarp is fused with the seed coat into one layer.
Flaxseed is available whole (not to be confused with whole grain)or ground, although they are nutritionally similar, the nutrients in the ground flaxseed are more readily available than it is in whole flaxseed.
They are rich in nutrients including fats; it is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, and also antioxidants and fibers and it has numerous health benefits
Flaxseed oil which is extracted by cold pressing is rich in ALA(alpha-linolenic acid), an omega 3 Fatty acid.