Flaxseed (Linseed)

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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a pile of flaxseeds before being prepared for babies starting solid food

When can babies eat flaxseeds?

It’s controversial. While flax is widely celebrated as a superfood, raw flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain naturally occurring plant compounds that can be toxic when consumed in large amounts.1 2 3 That said, no toxicity from flaxseed in the diet or from supplements has been reported in clinical studies.4 5

It is our professional opinion that small amounts of flaxseed or flaxseed oil may be introduced on occasion as early as 6 months of age and that the nutritional benefits of small amounts of flaxseed and flaxseed oil outweigh the risk of any exposure to toxins.

Humans have been consuming flaxseed for thousands of years. Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil come from a plant, whose Latin name Linum usitatissimum means “very useful”—which is an understatement. The flax plant is widely cultivated for its fibers, which are used to make linen and other textiles; its seeds, which are sold in bulk as food or used to make oil and other products; and for its decorative flowers, ranging in color from white to scarlet to periwinkle blue. Humans have been growing flax for centuries (cloth made of flax fibers was used by the Egyptians to embalm mummies) and the seeds have a long history in natural medicine strategies, such as Ayurveda, thanks to their powerful nutritional benefits.6

Quentin, 7 months, eats a cooked Brussel sprout with ground flaxseed.
Zeke, 10 months, eats a mango spear with ground flaxseed on it.

Are flaxseeds healthy for babies?

Yes, in small amounts. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil, while dense in essential nutrients babies need, contain naturally occurring plant compounds that can be toxic when consumed in large amounts.7 8 9 That said, at the time of this publication, there is no evidence of toxicity from flaxseed in the diet or from supplements in clinical studies.10 11

Some background: In 2019, the European Food Safety Authority completed a study that explored the impact of naturally occurring plant compounds in flaxseed. Among the discoveries, the study estimated that the diets of a small percentage of participating babies and toddlers could result in acute exposure to chemicals that are released by the plant compounds when food is broken down during digestion. In the same breath, the study pointed out that it is unlikely that the estimated exposure would result in adverse effects.12 

Nutritionally, flaxseeds are one of the best sources of alpha linoleic acid, an omega-3-fatty acid that supports heart and brain health and they are packed with protein and essential nutrients, including B-vitamins, copper, iron, selenium, and zinc. Flaxseeds also contain lignans (a type of antioxidant that helps build the immune system) and fibers that can help regulate bowel movements and relieve constipation.13 14 To maximize the bioavailability of the nutrients, grind or soak whole flaxseeds prior to serving, as whole flaxseeds are likely to pass right through your baby’s body.15 Alternatively, lightly toast or bake the seeds before grinding and serving to break down the plant compounds.16 17 Or, simply purchase ground flaxseed (also called “flaxseed meal”) or flaxseed oil, both of which are more easily absorbable than whole flaxseed.18

★Tip: Store whole flaxseeds and flaxseed oil in the fridge to extend the shelf life and keep the seeds and oil from going rancid. Also, don’t use flaxseed oil in cooking or any method of heating, as it turns bitter and rancid when exposed to heat. 

Are flaxseeds a choking hazard for babies?

No. Flaxseeds are not a choking risk as many other whole seeds are. That said, make sure you create a safe eating environment and always stay near your baby during mealtime.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Are flaxseeds a common allergen?

No. Flaxseed allergy is rare. However reactions have reported in both children and adults, some of which were serious.19 20 As consumption of flaxseed becomes more widespread, doctors believe flaxseed allergy may become more common in the future. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a very small quantity at first. This is especially important is your child has any other pre-existing seed allergy. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

★Tip: Got an egg allergy on your hands? Ground flaxseed mixed with water can be used in place of eggs in baked goods. The basic recipe to replace 1 egg is to combine 1 tablespoon of finely ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water, mix until gelatinous, and chill until ready to use. 

How do you prepare flaxseeds for babies with baby-led weaning?

 

6 to 12 months old: Sprinkle lightly toasted, ground flaxseeds (or purchase flaxseed meal) on top of soft foods like mashed vegetables, warm cereal, or yogurt. You can also pour a small amount of flaxseed oil in food or sprinkle flaxseed meal on grains like amaranth, farro, or quinoa. Flaxseed is a natural laxative, so don’t overdo it.

12 to 18 months old: Mix small amounts of flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed into soft foods… or try adding to your child’s smoothie.

18 to 24 months old: Add small amounts of ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil into your baby’s food for added nutrition. At this age your toddler is sure to love energy balls (recipe below) and ground flax can easily be added to any recipe for them.

For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.

★Tip: Flaxseed products (flour, meal, and oil) spoil easily when exposed to heat. Store in the refrigerator and never use flaxseed oil in place of cooking oils like olive oil. Flaxseed oil has a low smoke point and exposure to heat creates a bitter, rancid flavor. 

Recipe: Flaxseed Protein Balls

Ingredients

Makes 16 balls

  • I cup soft, pitted dates
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter or nut or seed butter of choice
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats or unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Zest from 1 orange (optional)
  • Coconut or olive oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Pulse the dates in a food processor until they soften and form a ball.
  2. Lightly toast the ground flaxseeds until they start to turn golden and smell nutty, about 1 minute. Add to the food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Pulse until combined.
  3. Working with one spoonful at a time, roll the sticky mixture in a ball between the palms of your hands. Toddlers and older children love helping with this part! If it’s too sticky, spread coconut oil or olive oil on your palms.
  4. Roll out all balls and enjoy immediately. Store extra balls in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Flavor Pairings

Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil can have nutty flavor, but it is typically very mild, so treat flax as a nutritional boost (not the main star!) in all sorts of meals, from warm cereals, to yogurt parfaits, to salad dressings and baked goods.

  1. National Center for Complementary Integrative Health. (2016). Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil. Retrieved September 10, 2020
  2. Basch, E., Bent, S., Collins, J., Dacey, C., Hammerness, P., Harrison, M., Smith, M., Szapary, P., Ulbricht, C., Vora, M., & Weissner, W. (2007). Flax and Flaxseed Oil (Linum usitatissimum): A Review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, 05(03), 92.
  3. Torborg, L. (2017). Mayo Clinic Q&A: Flaxseed – A Nutritional Powerhouse. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 10, 2020
  4. Goyal, A., Sharma, V., Upadhyay, N., Gill, S., & Sihag, M. (2014). Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. Journal of food science and technology, 51(9), 1633–1653. DOI:10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9.
  5. Parikh, M., Maddaford, T. G., Austria, J. A., Aliani, M., Netticadan, T., & Pierce, G. N. (2019). Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health. Nutrients, 11(5), 1171. DOI:10.3390/nu11051171.
  6. Goyal, A., Sharma, V., Upadhyay, N., Gill, S., & Sihag, M. (2014). Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. Journal of food science and technology, 51(9), 1633–1653. DOI:10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9.
  7. National Center for Complementary Integrative Health. (2016). Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil. Retrieved September 10, 2020
  8. Basch, E., Bent, S., Collins, J., Dacey, C., Hammerness, P., Harrison, M., Smith, M., Szapary, P., Ulbricht, C., Vora, M., & Weissner, W. (2007). Flax and Flaxseed Oil (Linum usitatissimum): A Review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, 05(03), 92.
  9. Torborg, L. (2017). Mayo Clinic Q&A: Flaxseed – A Nutritional Powerhouse. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 10, 2020
  10.  Goyal, A., Sharma, V., Upadhyay, N., Gill, S., & Sihag, M. (2014). Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. Journal of food science and technology, 51(9), 1633–1653. DOI:10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9.
  11. Parikh, M., Maddaford, T. G., Austria, J. A., Aliani, M., Netticadan, T., & Pierce, G. N. (2019). Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health. Nutrients, 11(5), 1171. DOI:10.3390/nu11051171.
  12. European Food Safety Authority. (2019). Evaluation of the health risks related to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides in foods other than raw apricot kernels. EFSA Journal, 17(4). DOI: 10.2903/j.efsa.2019.5662. Retrieved September 10, 2020
  13. Goyal, A., Sharma, V., Upadhyay, N., Gill, S., & Sihag, M. (2014). Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. Journal of food science and technology, 51(9), 1633–1653. DOI:10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9. Retrieved September 10, 2020
  14. Hanif Palla, A., Gilani, A.H. (2015). Dual effectiveness of Flaxseed in constipation and diarrhea: Possible mechanism. The Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 169, 60-68. DOI:10.1016/j.jep.2015.03.064. Retrieved September 10, 2020
  15. Austria, et al. Bioavailability of alpha-linolenic acid in subjects after ingestion of three different forms of flaxseed. J. Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Apr;27(2):214-21. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2008.10719693.
  16. Dzuvor, C. K. O., Taylor, J. T., Acquah, C., Pan, S., & Agyei, D. (2018). Bioprocessing of Functional Ingredients from Flaxseed. Molecules : A Journal of Synthetic Chemistry and Natural Product Chemistry, 23(10).
  17. Torborg, L. (2017). Mayo Clinic Q&A: Flaxseed – A Nutritional Powerhouse. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 10, 2020
  18. Austria, et al. Bioavailability of alpha-linolenic acid in subjects after ingestion of three different forms of flaxseed. J. Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Apr;27(2):214-21. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2008.10719693.
  19. O’Keefe, A., Kapur, S., Rex, G., & Watson, W. (2010). Flaxseed allergy in children: an emerging allergen?. Allergy, Asthma, and Clinical Immunology: Official Journal of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 6(2), P6. DOI:10.1186/1710-1492-6-S2-P6. Retrieved September 10, 2020
  20. Kang, Y., Park, S. Y., Noh, S., Kim, J., Seo, B., et al. (2017). Case report: A first case of flaxseed-induced anaphylaxis in Korea. Medicine, 96(49), e8220. DOI:10.1097/MD.0000000000008220. Retrieved September 10, 2020