Brown Flax Seeds vs. Golden Flax Seeds

Flaxseeds are incredibly nutritious, making them a popular grocery staple for many health-minded consumers. They’re available in two colors, but recipes that call for flaxseeds rarely distinguish between them.

Are there any significant nutritional or culinary differences between brown flax seeds vs. golden flax seeds? I’ll compare the two in this post, discussing important considerations like nutrition profile, health benefits, flavor, culinary uses, and price. Afterward, you’ll have a stronger understanding of when to use each and how they can support your health.

Bowl of brown flax seeds and bowl of golden flaxseeds on a marble countertop

Brown flax seeds vs. golden flax seeds – a quick comparison

The biggest differences between brown and golden flaxseeds are the color and flavor. Brown flaxseeds are darker and have a more pronounced roasted flavor, while golden flaxseeds are lighter with a mild, slightly nutty flavor. 

They’re nearly identical in terms of their nutrition content, with golden flaxseeds being slightly higher in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a form of omega-3 fats found in plant-based foods.

Nutrition profile

As you can see in the chart below, the nutritional value of brown and golden flax seeds are almost exactly the same. To get the best comparison, I’ve included the nutrition information for the brown and golden flax seeds sold by Bob’s Red Mill in the chart below with additional information obtained from USDA Food Data Central.

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Omega-3 fats

The only difference in nutrition content is the amount of ALA omega-3 fatty acids. Golden flax seeds are slightly higher with 1.8 grams of ALA in 2 tablespoons, while brown flax seeds contain 1.7 grams. 

It’s recommended that adult men get 1.6 grams of ALA and adult women get 1.1 grams every day. You can easily get this amount from only 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds!


There are 3 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds. While they aren’t a particularly high source of protein, they’ll add a few grams to your smoothies, oatmeal, and baked goods.


Flax seeds are low in carbohydrates and contain 3 grams of dietary fiber per 2-tablespoon serving. Pretty impressive for such a small serving size!

Vitamins & minerals

Both brown and golden flaxseeds contain small amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, copper, zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. They aren’t particularly high in any of these micronutrients, but they can help you meet your overall nutrient needs when included as part of a nutrient-dense diet.

RELATED: Flax Seeds vs. Hemp Seeds – Is One Better?

Health benefits

Let’s look more closely at why flaxseeds are such an important part of a healthy diet.


Lignans are a unique type of polyphenol known for their anti-inflammatory and anti-estrogenic properties.

As a type of phytoestrogen, lignans can block the action of mammalian estrogen in certain areas of the body. This effect may partially explain the association1 between higher lignan consumption and the reduced risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.

It just so happens that flaxseeds are higher in lignans than any other food, making them beneficial for reducing chronic inflammation in the body and potentially reducing the risk of breast cancer.


As a plant-based food, flaxseeds are rich in antioxidants, compounds that help fight oxidative stress in the body. We’re regularly exposed to oxidative stress from poor diets, sedentary lifestyles, environmental pollutants, and even as a natural result of some metabolic processes in the body. 

Including plenty of antioxidant-rich foods in the diet can help prevent chronic diseases related to oxidative stress, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, gout, and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a 2022 clinical trial2, brown flaxseed was found to be higher in antioxidants than golden flaxseed. This difference isn’t likely to make much of a practical difference in terms of health benefits, but it may be helpful for anyone trying to maximize their antioxidant intake.

Gut health

Both brown and golden flaxseeds are rich in dietary fiber, known for helping with regular bowel movements. 

Flaxseed may also act as a prebiotic3, feeding the beneficial, anti-inflammatory bacteria in the gut and helping them flourish. This is likely thanks to its soluble mucilage fiber4, which has been studied for its prebiotic effects.

Interestingly, both brown and golden flax seeds may help reduce intestinal permeability, as shown in a study2 conducted with perimenopausal women. In this study, golden flaxseeds were especially effective. 


Flaxseeds can help support healthy vision thanks to their lutein and zeaxanthin content. These are two types of carotenoids (antioxidants) present in certain parts of the eyes that offer protection from oxidative stress and the damaging UV rays in sunlight. Eating foods high in these carotenoids may also protect against aging-related vision impairments5 such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

It’s recommended to get 10 milligrams of lutein and 2 milligrams of zeaxanthin every day to support eye health. This is much more than you’d get from flax seeds alone, but they can help you meet this goal when consuming other foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, including:

  • Leafy greens (kale, spinach, collard greens, parsley, romaine lettuce, etc.) 
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Pistachios
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Corn

Culinary uses

The two primary factors that determine which type of flaxseed to use in cooking are color and taste.

Golden flaxseeds are lighter in color, so they’re great for dishes where you don’t want dark specks altering the color, such as a vanilla protein smoothie or lemon cake. Their mild, nutty taste also lends well to these types of foods.

Brown flaxseeds, on the other hand, are darker in color and have a stronger toasted flavor. They’re perfect in whole-grain breads and muffins or chocolate oatmeal.

Of course, you’re free to use either type in any dish you like. The best ways to use ground flaxseeds are in:

  • Fruit smoothies
  • Hot oatmeal
  • Overnight oats
  • Baking (as a binder, egg replacer, or to add nutrition)
  • Homemade crackers
  • Meatless meatballs or veggie burgers (as a binder)
Three loaves of bread on a wooden serving board

Price lists the following prices for different flaxseed varieties:

From these prices, purchasing whole, non-organic flaxseeds and grinding them yourself will save you about $1 per pound.

USDA Organic flaxseeds are a little more expensive at $5.99 per pound, while organic flaxseeds that are also certified gluten-free are the most expensive at $7.99 per pound. There is no price difference between brown and golden varieties. 

Brown Flax Seeds vs. Golden Flax Seeds – Which should you choose?

If you’re looking for the most nutritious option, brown and golden flaxseeds have almost the exact same nutrition profile. If you want to maximize your omega-3 intake, golden flaxseeds have a little more of these healthy fats.

If you’re using flaxseeds in a recipe with a mild flavor or that would look unappetizing with dark flecks in it, I’d recommend using golden flaxseeds. Brown flaxseeds go well in recipes with stronger flavors or that are darker in color, as in whole wheat bread compared to white bread.

RELATED: Hemp Seeds vs. Chia Seeds

The scientific information in this article was accurate at the time of publishing but may change over time as new research becomes available.


  1. Buck K, Zaineddin AK, Vrieling A, Linseisen J, Chang-Claude J. Meta-analyses of lignans and enterolignans in relation to breast cancer risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(1):141-153. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28573
  2. Sant’Ana CT, Amorim AD, Gava AP, et al. Brown and golden flaxseed reduce intestinal permeability and endotoxemia, and improve the lipid profile in perimenopausal overweight women. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2022;73(6):829-840. doi:10.1080/09637486.2022.2052820
  3. Ma J, Sun J, Bai H, et al. Influence of Flax Seeds on the Gut Microbiota of Elderly Patients with Constipation. J Multidiscip Healthc. 2022;15:2407-2418. Published 2022 Oct 20. doi:10.2147/JMDH.S379708
  4. Puligundla P, Lim S. A Review of Extraction Techniques and Food Applications of Flaxseed Mucilage. Foods. 2022;11(12):1677. Published 2022 Jun 7. doi:10.3390/foods11121677
  5. Johra FT, Bepari AK, Bristy AT, Reza HM. A Mechanistic Review of β-Carotene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin in Eye Health and Disease. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(11):1046. Published 2020 Oct 26. doi:10.3390/antiox9111046

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