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Brown Flax Seeds, or Golden?

Which colour of flax seed should you buy? Some ads suggest golden flax seeds are more nutritious than brown ones, but the brown seeds taste and look good. Nutritional comparisons indicate you should be wary of over-exuberant claims from a particular U.S. supplier that golden flax is superior to brown flax.

On the North American prairies, thousands of acres of prime growing land produce flax plants with either brown or yellow flax seeds. In Canada, which is the world leader in flax production, almost all flax seeds produced are reddish brown. In the United States, and in South Dakota in particular, a golden-seed flax, called "Dakota Gold", is popular.

Is flax seed of one colour better for you than the other? A recent comparison of "Dakota Gold" flax with Canadian brown-seed flax shows golden and brown seeds are very closely matched in oil content (on a dry-matter basis). The analysis conducted on two "Dakota Gold" flax seed samples by the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) showed the golden seed contained between 43 and 44 per cent oil (see table below). This compared with the 44 per cent oil of Canadian brown flax seed found in the July 2001 CGC analysis. However, the brown seed surpassed the "Dakota Gold" in the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic component of that oil. The July 2001 brown flax seed samples contained almost 59 per cent omega-3 fatty acid compared to about 51 per cent in the "Dakota Gold" samples. Thus, the evidence points to nutritional equality of brown and golden flax.

Superior oil quality and higher oil content have long been major features of Canadian flax seed, attributed to Canada's climate. These qualities have contributed largely to Canada's current position as the world's leader in flax production and quality. 

                 Comparison of Canadian Brown Flax Seed and "Dakota Gold" 


Brown flax seed*

"Dakota Gold"

Oil content**,
dry moisture basis



Alpha-linolenic fatty acid,
% of total fatty acids



          * July 2001
         ** based on petroleum ether FOSFA extraction
         Source: Canadian Grain Commission, Grain Research Laboratory


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