Flax seed meal as a substitute for olive oil


I’ve been using the Hacker School recipe with generally pretty good results for over a month now, doing breakfast and lunch soylent and regular food for dinner with regular food for most of the weekend.

It seems like it would be a bit more convenient to eliminate the olive oil and up the flax seed meal to make up the fat. When I google it, I see that half a cup of flax seed meal meets just about all of your fiber and fat needs.

Is this a good idea or am I missing some relevant fact about the kind of fats?


I would be interested to know as well. I am currently using MCT Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and ground up flax seed. But just noticed the other day that the originator for the soylent recipe that I am following just eliminated flax seed and is now on chia seeds.

Read the Note section on his reasons for MCT Oil and chia seeds: http://diy.soylent.me/recipes/quidnycs-superfood-for-him


While it’s possible that I’m biased toward @snowboardutah’s wise approach, I’m inclined to agree that caution is warranted here. I recently decided to cut the flaxseeds out of my recipe because of the potential harm that could be caused by their lignan content. The hormonal risks would be amplified if you went further and tried to make them do “extra duty” as your primary source of lipids.

I think it would also be problematic from the standpoint of your overall lipid balance. While the only “essential” fatty acids happen to be polyunsaturated fats, you only need a relatively small amount of those, and the human health consensus in this area is that the total amount of PUFA should be minimized. It’s certainly not a good idea to consume them for the large majority of your energy from fatty acids (as you would if you were getting them all from flax). Rather, the majority of lipid energy should come from monounsaturated and saturated fats in some combination (there are two schools of thought on the optimal split between these latter two, but both schools are in agreement that PUFA should be kept down below ~15% of total energy).

If you’re really looking for a shortcut, maybe look into powdered MCT oil. It is produced by stabilizing MCT oil with maltodextrin, so it’s about 50/50 carb/fat (you’d have to adjust your other carb sources down significantly). I wouldn’t say it’s the best way to go, but if you want an all-powder mix I’d take that over loads of flax.


Thank you Quid, I think I will probably continue to stick with olive oil. It isn’t broken, other than requiring me to add one thing to the liquid mix, which isn’t a lot of hassle, and well worth it if it makes a difference.

So Polyunsaturated fat should be 15% of your fat, or 15% of your calories? Do you have any links on that?


Heart.org seems to disagree with you on polyunsaturated fats in this article here:


Do you have any links where I can read in more detail the argument for keeping them below 15% of total?


Here are a couple of sources that point to risks that arise from PUFA intake higher than 10% total energy:

Other studies (some of them actually designed to confirm the older conventional wisdom that saturated fat was bad and replacing with PUFA would help) point to the heightened risk of oxidative stress arising from excessive PUFA intake:

Long story short, there has been a long, drawn-out process of empirically overturning the former conventional wisdom about dietary fats (and saturated fats in particular) from decades past. The material you linked to above is emblematic of a somewhat older variant of the conventional wisdom (i.e., that saturated fat is bad, and that replacing with “heart healthy” PUFA will help). More recently, this conventional wisdom has shifted toward the view that monounsaturated fat is the “good” fat (still shunning saturated fat and de-emphasizing PUFA somewhat).

The alternative hypothesis – which I think is better supported by the evidence – is that saturated fatty acids are “good.” They’re actually a safer form of energy that is less prone to oxidative stress due to their molecular structures. PUFA are rather more risky for the opposite reason – they’re especially prone to oxidative damage. Monounsaturated fats are somewhere in the middle.

And of course this is complicated by the fact that the only two essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) happen to be PUFA.

All of this is probably going overboard in terms of detail. In my view, the single most important thing is to make sure your sources of dietary PUFA – no matter how much they add up to – are derived from fresh sources and handled / stored in a manner that minimizes oxidative stress.

If you’re doing that, and if you are getting the bulk of your lipids from a (primarily monounsaturated) source like extra virgin olive oil, then I’d say you’re in good shape whether the amount of PUFA represents 10% or 25% of total energy.

Also, there is a fair bit of research that suggests the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is probably more important than the total amount you consume. A very high ratio is harmful (the standard American diet can be 15+), and the ideal range is thought to be between 2.3:1 and 1:1.


Thank you! I was vaguely aware of some changes in the way some people were thinking about fats, and was hoping to find the hard data.


Nice bit of info.
I’m currently using a 1:1 ratio in my soylent for the omegas. Out of my total fats, a little over a 3rd is mono, 1/10th is saturated, and the remaining is split evenly between polys and omegas 3&6.
I’m keeping my newest set of cold ground flaxseed in the fridge (no light), and store all my other ingredients in the basement.

Related question - I know that baking can break down fats and certain vitamins, but would it oxidate the omegas, or is sustained exposure the real concern?


@isaackotlicky, All forms of cooking can increase oxidative stress in polyunsaturated fats, proportionally reducing the benefit you’re getting from essential fatty acids and eventually rendering them more harmful than beneficial (at very high temperatures, you could start producing significant quantities of trans fats).

That said, the studies done in this area seem to suggest that when PUFA is cooked within its original organic structure (e.g., cooking ground flaxseed or a fish fillet, rather than directly heating the extracted oil), it is surprisingly stable. Here is an article that outlines some of the findings, but you can find some of the original studies if you search around online:

To sum up, baking your flaxseed at normal oven temperatures shouldn’t create any significant problems.


Once again, thank you all for being so awesome!


I like having an all-powder mix, and I’m doing it with liquid oils. After mixing up the powder, I mix in my liquid oils (1/2 MCT, 1/2 cold pressed canola) in with the powder in a huge mixing bowl. The oil makes little balls in the powder which I then smash and stir with a spoon. Soon I have just a powder again that looks just slightly moist from the oil.

I store the powder mix in the fridge, and mix the amount I want just before consumption. I never make a liquid batch for later. At work I always have a Blender Ball cup with a meal’s worth of powder in the fridge ready to go.


Sorry to bring up an old topic, but how do I calculate what percentage of energy pufas represent in my recipe?

EDIT: also, @QuidNYC why would you remove flax seeds because of the lignans? I thought that, unlike phytoestrogen sources of plant estrogen, the vast majority of research shows that lignans are healthy?


I’ve done precisely that, olive oil is just too much fat.


Also note that flax seed has more phytoestrogens per gram than soy, whether that matters is currently beyond my knowledge.


So it is, and here I thought I was doing my best to avoid highly phytoestrogenic food. But a slightly more thorough search has reveals that, if one’s diet is going to be mostly plant based, it is pretty much impossible to avoid phytoestrogen. I too, am confused by the research. As I noted above, nutritionists seem to extol the virtues of phytoestrogen in flax while lambasting it in soy. It seems there is some bias. Or perhaps this is because soy’s phytoestrogen is in the form of isoflavones, while flax contains lignans? It would be nice to see a study that compares the hormonal effects of different phytoestrogen sources on a wide group of people, but alas, I am yet to find one, most simply use a single source.


It turns out Japan’s average soy consumption is several times higher than the US. If there was a real problem with phytoestrogens , the 150 million people consuming so much more of them for multiple centuries now would be showing signs of something wrong, and they live longer.

So I think it’s safe to disregard all the fear about Phytoestrogens , and all fears that defy readily available evidence in this way



Seems to be. Although I’m pretty sure if one was sticking to a diet rich in these ingredients it would exceed the average soy consumption of Japan. Also, genetic traits could play a role in this as well (as they have been exposed to soy for quite some time), or that could be nonsense.

The only concern I have is we wouldn’t be consuming anywhere near a moderate amount if it was used in a DIY that was maintained 100%.