Research-backed

Flaxseed For Babies: Safety, Benefits And Precautions To Take

Image: Shutterstock

IN THIS ARTICLE

Flaxseeds or linseeds are among the richest natural sources of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), an essential fatty acid. The seeds also contain dietary fiber and several functional compounds that improve long-term health.

One can use flaxseeds whole, powdered, or in the form of cold-pressed flaxseed oil. Experts recommend regular consumption of flaxseed to reap health benefits. But does flaxseed have any benefits for babies?

This post answers all your queries about the use of flaxseeds for babies, its potential benefits, and precautions to take while feeding flaxseeds to babies.

When Can Babies Have Flaxseeds?

According to the NHS, babies can consume finely powdered seeds from the age of six months (1). You can add powdered flaxseeds to puree, mash, porridge, and soup. You can also use flaxseeds to make different baby food preparations, such as flaxseed bread with guacamole.

Flaxseeds are usually well-tolerated by babies but might cause side effects in sensitive babies. Therefore consult a pediatrician or pediatric nutritionist before feeding any form of flaxseeds to your baby.

Nutritional Value Of Flaxseeds

Flaxseed has abundant dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and other health-promoting plant compounds. One teaspoon (2.5g) of ground flaxseeds can add the following nutrients to your baby’s diet (2) (3) (4).

NutrientsAmountAI(7-12 months)
Energy13.4Kcal
Protein0.457g
Total lipid (fat)1.05g
Carbohydrate, by the difference0.722g
Fiber, total dietary0.683g
Calcium, Ca6.38mg260mg
Magnesium, Mg9.8mg75mg
Phosphorus, P16mg275mg
Potassium, K20.3mg860mg
Folate, total2.18µg80µg

AI = Adequate intake – nutrient level assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy.

Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University

Besides these, flaxseeds contain certain bioactive compounds, such as lignans, which promote long-term health on regular consumption (5).

Possible Health Benefits Of Flaxseeds For Babies

Flaxseeds served as a part of a balanced diet could provide the following benefits to your baby.

  1. Provides several nutrients: A teaspoon of flaxseed powder a day can offer ample dietary fiber, minerals, and bioactive compounds that can contribute to your baby’s overall health.
  1. Aids brain development: Flaxseeds provide high amounts of ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid from which the body synthesizes DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) (6). DHA is a vital element for the healthy brain development of your baby and toddler (7).
  1. Maintains healthy bowel: Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fibers. The insoluble fiber absorbs the water and increases the bulk. It helps maintain a healthy bowel, keeping constipation at bay (5). In this regard, coarsely ground flax seed works more efficiently than finely ground flaxseed.
  1. Boosts gut microbiota: The human gut contains healthy microorganisms known as probiotics that ferment compounds called prebiotics to produce substances that promote health (8). Flaxseed fiber and polysaccharides act as prebiotics, enhancing the probiotics (9). A healthy gut is necessary for a robust immune system.

Besides these benefits, flaxseeds provide compounds, such as lignans, phenolic acids, and flavonoids (10). These compounds possess antioxidant properties that can support overall health in the long-term.

Tips To Select And Store Flaxseeds

Below are some tips that can help you select and store flaxseeds appropriately.

  1. Flaxseeds come in golden yellow and brownish colors. You can select either to feed your baby as both are nutritionally similar (11). Usually, brown flaxseeds are more commonly used due to their better taste and appearance.
  1. Avoid raw and unripe flaxseeds as they may contain potentially toxic compounds that can be harmful in large doses (12).
  1. Buy packaged whole flaxseeds from a reputable and trustworthy brand. It is necessary to ensure the product’s safety.
  1. Purchase ground flaxseeds sold in refrigerated vacuum packs. Ground flaxseeds are more susceptible to oxidation, which makes the product rancid. Alternatively, you can buy whole flaxseeds and ground them at home.
  1. Check the date of packaging and date of expiry when buying whole or ground flaxseeds. Every credible manufacturer mentions these details on the packaging.
  1. Keep the flaxseeds in their original packaging until you use them. Transfer the flaxseeds in an opaque, airtight container for extended shelflife.
  1. Store flaxseeds’ container in the refrigerator, away from heat and moisture. Ground flaxseeds stored in such a manner can stay edible for upto six months. You can freeze whole flaxseeds in the freezer for up to a year.

Precautions To Take While Using Flaxseeds For Babies

Observing precautions ensures the safe ingestion of flaxseeds in babies.

  1. Do not give whole flaxseeds to your baby. Instead, provide ground flaxseeds added to different baby foods. Whole flaxseeds mostly pass undigested from the gut, making it nearly impossible for the baby to reap their benefits (13).
  1. Check the freshness of whole or ground flaxseeds before adding them to the food. If the seed or powder smells or tastes rancid, discard it.
  1. Begin with one-fourth of a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds added to a food item that the baby is already eating comfortably.
  1. If the baby shows signs and symptoms of intolerance or sensitivity, discontinue feeding and try later. In case the signs and symptoms persist or worsen, consult a pediatrician and do not feed flax seed suntil the doctor approves it.
  1. Gradually increase the amount to a teaspoon or two depending on the baby’s digestibility. You can also use flaxseed oil, but do not heat it as heat eliminates its nutritional properties.
  1. Ensure the baby consumes plenty of fluids or water along with ground flaxseed to prevent digestive problems, such as gas and flatulence, which may occur in sensitive babies.
  1. Flaxseed allergy isn’t common but possible, especially in babies with a family history of flax allergy. Discontinue feeding flaxseed in any form to your baby if you notice signs of an allergic reaction, such as itching, swelling, red rashes (hives), nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  1. Drug interaction is a possibility with flaxseed ingestion. If your baby is on any medication, consult a pediatrician before serving flaxseeds in any form. Flaxseed ingestion is not advisable if the baby has gastrointestinal stricture or inflammation (12).

Recipes To Include Flaxseeds In Babies’ Diet

Now that you know about flaxseeds, let’s learn some flaxseed recipes you can try for your baby and toddler.

1. Fruity yogurt with ground flaxseeds (6+ months)

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1cup unsweetened Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries (chopped)
  • ½ cup ripe mango (chopped)
  • 1 ripe banana (mashed)
  • 1tsp ground flaxseeds

How to prepare: 

  1. Blend all the ingredients into a smooth-flowing, lump-free fluid.
  1. Pour the fluid into a feeding bowl and feed immediately.
  1. You can add dry fruit powder, a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a teaspoon of jaggery powder to scale up the recipe’s nutritional profile.

2. Flax oatmeal porridge (8+ months)

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup instant oats
  • 1tsp jaggery powder
  • 1tsp ground flaxseeds
  • ½tsp dry fruit powder

How to prepare: 

  1. Heat water in a saucepan. As the water begins bubbling, add oats and ground flaxseeds. Cook until the oats are adequately cooked.
  1. Add jaggery powder and dry fruit powder and mix well. Turn off the heat and set the saucepan aside.
  1. Transfer some porridge to a feeding bowl and let your baby self-feed.

3. Flax and carrot muffin (10+ months)

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 2 cup carrot (grated)
  • 2 cup apple (grated)
  • 1 cup cranberries (dried)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup ground flaxseeds
  • ¾ cup rolled oats flour
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2tsp cinnamon powder
  • 2tsp baking soda
  • 1tsp unsalted butter
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 eggs

How to prepare:  

  1. Preheat the oven at 350°F (176°C). Grease a muffin tray with butter and set aside.
  1. Meanwhile, grind oats to make oat flour and grate carrots and apples.
  1. Mix all the ingredients, except milk, eggs, and vanilla bean paste in a mixing bowl.
  1. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and mix with milk and vanilla bean paste. Add this mixture to the previous bowl, mixing them thoroughly to prevent any lumps.
  1. Pour the batter into the muffin tray and bake for ten to 15 minutes.
  1. Once done, transfer the muffins to a plate and serve one to your baby for self-feeding.

4. Flaxseed bread (12+ months)

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 cup wholewheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins (chopped)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ⅓ cup jaggery powder
  • ¾ cup flaxseeds
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • ¼tsp salt

How to prepare: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Lightly grease a loaf pan and set aside.
  1. Put raisins in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them. Add baking soda, mix well, and let stand for five minutes.
  1. Add flaxseeds, flour, rolled oats, jaggery powder, baking powder, salt, and milk. Stir well until everything is mixed well.
  1. Pour the mixture of loaf batter into the loaf pan. Bake for about 60 to 75 minutes until the bread rises and develops a deep brown crust.
  1. Once done, keep the loaf pan on a wire rack to cool. Cut the loaf into thin slices and put one or two slices on the plate.
  1. Apply homemade spread and serve with a cup of plain yogurt.

Flaxseeds are a healthy choice for babies and can offer several long-term benefits when consumed as a part of a well-balanced diet. You can feed it to babies in ground form by adding it to different foods. Serve small amounts initially and gradually increase the quantity to a teaspoon or two. You can include flaxseeds in several baby food recipes to make them a part of a baby’s healthy balanced diet.

References:

1. Complementary feeding (weaning) your baby; NHS
2. Seeds, flaxseed, FDC ID: 169414; Fooddata Central; USDA
3. Infant Nutrition and Feeding; USDA
4. Potassium; Oregon State University
5. Sunita Mishra and PoojaVerma; Flaxseed- Bioactive compounds and health significance; IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science
6. Essential Fatty Acids; Oregon State University
7. Mihir Parikh et al.; Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health; NCBI
8. Probiotics: What You Need To Know; NCCIH
9. Flaxseed fiber ferments in gut to improve health, reduce obesity; Science Daily
10. PriyankaKajla et al.; Flaxseed—a potential functional food source; NCBI
11. Flaxseed (Golden); USDA
12. Flaxseed; University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester
13. Are flax seeds good for me?; British Heart Foundation