Can you eat expired milled flaxseed?

Eating expired foods can be risky, but it’s not always dangerous. When it comes to milled flaxseed, there are a few factors to consider before deciding if it’s safe to eat after the expiration date has passed.

What happens when milled flaxseed expires?

Milled flaxseed has a relatively short shelf life compared to whole flaxseed. Whole flaxseed can last for over a year past its expiration date if stored properly. However, once the seeds are milled into a powder, the oils become more exposed to air, light, and heat. This causes them to oxidize and go rancid much faster.

The main sign that milled flaxseed has gone bad is a bitter, unpleasant odor and taste. The naturally nutty flavor will turn sour or stale. The powder may also darken in color. Mold growth may occur if the milled flaxseed has gotten very old and damp.

How long does milled flaxseed last after expiration?

An unopened package of milled flaxseed typically lasts for 3 to 4 months past its printed expiration date. However, once opened, it’s best to use milled flax within 30 days. The expiration date assumes the product is stored correctly at temperatures below 80°F.

If you refrigerate milled flaxseed after opening, it will stay fresh for about 2 months past the expiration date. The cold temperatures slow down oxidation and prevent the healthy fats in flax from going rancid as quickly.

Flaxseed meal and powder sold in vacuum-sealed bags may last a month or two longer than flax in boxes or plastic bags. Vacuum sealing removes the oxygen that causes early spoilage.

Does expired milled flaxseed make you sick?

Eating rancid flaxseed that has spoiled is not likely to cause serious illness in most people. However, the oxidized fats and degraded nutrients may lead to some mild symptoms like:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach ache
  • Diarrhea

Consuming large amounts of very old, expired flax meal or powder could potentially cause more adverse effects. But food poisoning is unlikely.

Can you still get the benefits from expired flaxseed?

The nutrition in flaxseed, including the omega-3s, fiber, protein, and lignans, start to break down as the oils go rancid. So consuming flaxseed a long time after the expiration date means you’ll get less of the nutrients.

One study found that storing milled flaxseed for 9 months at room temperature caused a big drop in the levels of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an anti-inflammatory omega-3.

The fiber content may remain stable past the expiration date. But overall, eating expired milled flax won’t provide all the same health benefits as fresh flaxseed. The antioxidants will also start to degrade over time.

Tips for storing milled flaxseed

To get the most nutrition and shelf life out of milled flaxseed, be sure to store it properly. Here are some tips:

  • Keep flaxseed meal/powder in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
  • Buy flaxseed in vacuum-sealed packaging when possible.
  • Keep it away from heat, moisture, and light which accelerate spoilage.
  • Don’t buy more than you can use up in a month or two.
  • Check for any clumping, odor changes, or signs of moisture before using expired milled flax.
  • Use packages with earlier expiration dates first.

Can you bake or cook with expired milled flaxseed?

Old milled flaxseed that has surpassed its expiration date can still be used in baked goods like breads, muffins, and cookies. The heat from baking will help minimize any rancid taste. Storing the baked goods in the fridge will also prevent the flaxseed from going bad quickly.

You can also use modest amounts of expired flaxseed in smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt. But avoid consuming large amounts of rancid flaxseed raw. Cooking helps neutralize off flavors and odors.

Should you throw out expired milled flaxseed?

Once milled flaxseed is more than 4 months past the printed expiration date, it’s best to throw it out. If it has been stored in less than ideal conditions, like heat or humidity, toss it after 2-3 months.

Discard any flaxseed meal that smells bitter or rancid. Also, if you see moisture clumping, significant color changes, or mold, the flax powder has spoiled and should not be eaten.

Whip up some recipes like muffins to use up flaxseed that is nearing expiration. But throw out flaxseed meal or powder that is very old. Eating rancid fats and oxidized nutrients is not beneficial.

The bottom line

Milled flaxseed lasts for 2-4 months after the sell by or use by date if stored properly. To extend its shelf life, keep flaxseed meal in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer after opening. Old flaxseed meal or powder with a rancid smell should be discarded.

While not very likely, eating expired milled flaxseed that has gone rancid could potentially cause some stomach upset. To get the most benefits from flaxseed, it’s best to use it while it’s still fresh.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does ground flaxseed last at room temperature?

At room temperature, milled flaxseed will stay fresh for about 4 months from the expiration date printed on the package. Keeping it in an airtight container away from heat, moisture, and light can help extend its shelf life by a few weeks.

Can you freeze ground flaxseed?

Yes, freezing ground flaxseed can keep it fresh for up to 1 year past the expiration date. Use an airtight freezer bag or container. Make sure to remove as much air as possible before freezing. Thaw it in the fridge before using.

Why does flaxseed go bad so quickly after grinding?

Flaxseed contains fragile polyunsaturated fats that are sensitive to heat, air, and light. Grinding the seeds ruptures the hard outer shells and exposes the oils. This causes the fats to oxidize faster leading to rancidity sooner than with whole flaxseed.

Can rancid flaxseed make you very sick?

It’s uncommon for rancid flaxseed to cause major illness if consumed in small amounts. Some stomach upset may occur. Very old, spoiled flaxseed that contains mold could potentially cause more adverse health effects if a large amount is eaten.

How can you tell if milled flaxseed has gone bad?

Signs that flaxseed meal has spoiled include a bitter, unpleasant smell, darkened color, moisture clumping, mold growth, and a sour taste. Checking for changes in odor and appearance can help determine if it has gone rancid.

Nutrition Information

Here is the nutrition information for 3 tablespoons (30g) of milled flaxseed:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 150
Fat 12 g
Omega-3 fatty acids 6 g
Protein 5 g
Carbs 8 g
Fiber 8 g
Manganese 20% DV
Thiamin 14% DV

Flaxseed meal is high in healthy fats, fiber, protein, manganese, and other vitamins and minerals. It provides key nutrients, making it a great addition to a balanced diet.

Tips for Incorporating Flaxseed into Your Diet

Here are some simple ways to enjoy flaxseed meal and get the best nutrition:

  • Add 1-2 tablespoons to smoothies or shakes
  • Mix into yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal
  • Bake into bread, muffins, or cookies
  • Sprinkle on top of salads
  • Blend into protein balls or energy bites
  • Stir into soups for added nutrition

Pair flaxseed with berries, nuts, or chocolate chips to enhance the flavor. Drink plenty of water when eating flaxseed to aid digestion.

Health Benefits of Flaxseed

Regularly eating flaxseed meal can provide many potential wellness advantages. Here are some of the top evidence-based health benefits of adding flaxseed to your diet:

1. Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Flaxseed contains high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fat. ALA has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce chronic inflammation.

2. Fiber for Digestive Health

Flaxseed is very high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber adds bulk to stool and acts as a prebiotic to support the growth of probiotics in the gut for improved digestive health.

3. Helps Regulate Blood Sugar

The fiber in flaxseed can slow digestion and the absorption of sugar, helping to prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.

4. May Support Heart Health

The omega-3s, fiber, and lignans in flaxseed support heart health by reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and improving cholesterol.

5. Contains Antioxidants

Flaxseed is high in antioxidants like lignin and flavonoids that can help neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body.

While flaxseed offers many benefits, it’s always best to enjoy it as part of an overall healthy diet containing a variety of nutritious foods.

Potential Side Effects of Flaxseed

Flaxseed is generally well tolerated, but there are some possible side effects to be aware of:

  • Bloating or gas due to the high fiber content
  • Allergic reaction in those with flaxseed allergy
  • Choking risk if not sufficiently chewed, especially with whole flaxseed
  • Drug interactions due to flax binding with certain medications

Introduce flaxseed slowly and drink enough water to minimize digestive issues. Speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with medications or health conditions.


Expired milled flaxseed may be safely consumed but it’s best to use flaxseed meal within 2-4 months for maximum nutrition benefits. Check for signs of spoilage and store flaxseed properly in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer. Incorporating freshly milled flax into your diet can provide important nutrients and offer many potential wellness advantages.

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