Walnut Oil: A Healthy Sub for Flax Oil

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

omega 3 rich walnut oilAlmost twenty years ago when I first got into eating organic produce and clean meats, I discovered the wonders of walnut oil.  I was introduced to this high omega 3 oil by an Ayurvedic MD who was coaching me on some very necessary diet and lifestyle changes as I was living a completely stressed out corporate life at the time that had begun to make me incredibly miserable.

Prior to Dr. Wright’s recommendation to add walnut oil to my diet, I had never before heard of the wonders of omega 3 fatty acids.  I certainly had never heard of cod liver oil as my introduction to the work of Dr. Weston A. Price was still quite a few years away.

I was delighted by the slightly nutty clean flavor of walnut oil and enthusiastically started using it on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, the usual way I would take my walnut oil was drizzled on a bowl of organic amaranth breakfast flakes, not exactly the best way to start the day! However, I was moving in the right direction and any progress at all in my diet at that time proved to be extremely helpful to my health.

Walnut Oil a Better Choice Than Flax Oil?

Flax oil is the usual choice by people seeking to add plant based omega 3 fats to the diet.  However, flax oil is known to sometimes exacerbate hormonal issues.   This comment from Raine Saunders, of the fantastic Agriculture Society blog on a recent post I wrote titled Why Flax Oil is Not a Good Substitute for Cod Liver Oil:

“Something I try to be mindful of are foods which are very high in estrogenic properties. Even natural foods like flax seeds and flax oil, like many other foods (soy, sesame seeds, and various beans), are very high in estrogen and can make certain health issues worse such as fibroids or fibrocystic breast conditions. Even if you have a traditional, balanced diet, even moderate consumption of these foods could be problematic anyway because of all the xeno-estrogens in our environment from plastics and other chemicals, which are increasingly pervasive in the world due to industry use and production of new chemicals.”

Some other people also commented on that post about how flax oil caused them hormonal difficulties.  Clearly there are potential dangers to consuming flax in this modern age with all the estrogen mimicking chemicals literally everywhere.

For this reason, walnut oil seems to be a better choice than flax oil for adding plant based omega 3 fats to the diet.  Plant based omega 3 oils are never a good substitute for animal forms of omega 3 fats, but can be a healthy addition to salad dressings in very small amounts.

How to Use Walnut Oil

Like any omega 3 oil, walnut oil is extremely delicate and can go rancid very easily.  After purchasing, it must be kept in the refrigerator and can never, ever be heated or used as a cooking oil.

One or two teaspoons added to your homemade dressings adds delightful flavor and nutrition to your salads.   Remember that even though healthy, omega 3 fats are still polyunsaturated oils and should comprise a very small percentage of the diet, so don’t overdo!

Please note that walnuts are slightly goitrogenic the same as flax, so if your thyroid is a problem, it may be best to stick entirely with animal based forms of omega 3 fats.


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Sources and More Information

Dr. Oz Gets is Really Wrong about Pumpkin Seed Oil

The Many Shades of Palm Oil

Five Fats You Must Have in Your Kitchen

Selecting a Healthy Cooking Oil and Reusing it Safely

Caution When Using Chicken Fat for Cooking

Cooking with Olive Oil: Yea or Nay?

How Vegetable Oils Make Us Fat

Is Rice Bran Oil a Healthy Fat?

How Argan Oil Benefits Health

Red Palm Oil Benefits Rival Coconut Oil

Picture Credit


Comments (45)

  1. i have been using flax oil in dressings for many months because of finding out about all of the fake olive oil. many women on my mother’s side had male pattern hair loss. i have been shedding a lot lately and stumbled upon a board where people were commenting that flax was causing them to lose hair. so i stopped using the flax oil and found a good olive oil instead. i am not shedding as much already. now i read this, too. thanks for all of the great info!!

  2. I was going through menopause last year and my period had stopped for several months. I started eating flax seed meal in muffins ( an instant food for celiac, pop in microwave), 2 tbsp per day say 5 days a week. Was loving it because had very positive affect on digestion….then the migraines, irritable, breasts really really hurt(agony)… And the i got my period back…my doc took hormone level test and estrogen was thru the roof!!! It took awhile to figure it was the flax becuase so much positive info about it. Took Dim and cold turkey the flax…took several months, but now i am happily on the other side of that misery..triggered viruses and epstein- barre…like high estrogen put sooooo much stress on my body!now i have chia seed in kombucha or in cocnut milk with hemp seed and shredded cocnut and have with berries for snack for the digestion. Thinking about Green Pasture Cod liver oil…my Irish grandmother always said take your cod liver oil…

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  4. Well, I tried walnut oil and had skin rashes. I’m not 100% sure if it was because of the walnut oil but I’ve stopped taking it. Strange because when I eat walnuts I don’t have this.

  5. Aloha,

    Who would have guessed about flax seed meal? Going thru the change this past year and all of a sudden started getting period again and migraines, gained weight, breasts hurt so much and felt awful. I was making muffins in a cup with 2 scoops flax meal…blood test revealed estrogen had shot up and neighbor brought it to my attention! It took a couple of months, but now estrogen low, no periods! Wow!

  6. Your article mentions that Walnut Oil should not be heated or cooked with. Guess I should have read the article before I tried to cook with it. What happens to it when it is heated?

    • Oils turns carcinogenic when heated on high. They change they molecular structure. Butter & ghee & coconut oil are safe oils for high hears.

  7. Kristine Winniford via Facebook September 22, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Thanks! They cold press it and don’t expose it to any heat or acids, so I’m happy with their process; I just haven’t come across any “Real Foodie” opinions.

  8. Kristine Winniford via Facebook September 22, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    On the subject of plant based omega 3’s, anyone have any thoughts on Camalina oil? We have an organic local source and their sales pitch is reasonable but on the other hand it doesn’t seem to be a very “traditional” fat (although they claim that Europeans have been using it for hundreds of years).

  9. Judith Scott via Facebook September 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    which beans? i have a dinosaur egg in my uterus. gives me no real problems and for the most part we live together in understanding and respect..i don’t do any flax. LOVE homemade sesame milk. and i eat beans.

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  11. I am still confused as to animal sources of omega 3s. Is there a way to supplement this? Or are whole foods the only way to get animal omega 3s? (I ask knowing that there is a small amount in CLO, but because the vitamins are so concentrated, it is really not a good omega 3 supplement…also knowing about the yucky processing involved in fish oil supplements…)

    • Hi Leila, Green Pasture Products does not highly process its cod liver oil and it does have a decent dose of omega 3’s. It is the only brand I choose to use or recommend for this reason. It is my family’s main source of omega 3 fats although we do use plant based oil like walnut on occasion for dressings primarily.

  12. I was just thinking walnut oil would be a great replacement for the sunflower oil you suggest for mayonnaise. Sunflower oil has high omega 6s right? We are very social and tend to eat at others’ houses a lot, so I know our omega 3-6 ratio suffers. Would you recommend a mayonnaise of walnut oil only or cut it with olive oil or coconut? Though every time I use any olive oil I don’t like the mayonnaise. Also, what about peanut or almond or macadamia nut oil for mayonnaise?

    • Hi Joy, not sure about the flavor of the mayo with walnut oil. Might be a little too nutty flavored. I don’t care for the mayo with olive oil either. Peanut or almond would make the mayo too flavored I’m thinking. Not sure about the macademia nut oil but last time I tried it had quite a distinctive flavor as well. The mayo works best with an oil that has a very very mild flavor which is why I prefer sunflower. But, try some of the various healthy oils and see what flavors you prefer.

      You might even want to try ghee. A friend of mine makes her mayo with ghee (butter oil) as says it is fabulous.

      • Oh, Sarah, I think that’s a great idea to make homemade mayo using ghee. What would the proportions be? Hmmm, might be worth instructions and video, perhaps?
        : )

  13. It’s fabulous! I lick the spoon when I’m done making salad dressing out of walnut oil because of it’s yummy flavor. It’s also great for dipping bread, like olive oil.

    • Tanya, I’m curious about that as well. I’d love to get the low-down on oils for cutting boards. I’ve heard conflicting things on using oils such as olive or walnut and some people do not recommend them on cutting boards because they go rancid. I bought a teak cutting board once at a Danish furniture shop and they recommended using mineral oil, which I wouldn’t do because it’s a petroleum product. I wonder what stable, food grade oil is best to use.

  14. Everytime I think I got it right, I get a wrench thrown in! I just starting using flax meal again for both myself and my baby! Didnt realize this was estrogenic!!? Yikes! Also, looking back during my pregnancy when I foudn out I was having twins, I was so nervous about getting enough nutrition for them (Note: Dr. Lukes book on mulitple gestation preganancies will make anyone insane – just crazy that was) that I started adding whey protein (never soy had something right) to my food.
    Sarah do you completely avoid all flax? this is the first im hearing of this about flax!

  15. What brand do you use? The only walnut oils I’ve seen in supermarkets and specialty shops are refined or toasted, so I’ve avoided them.


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