In the past couple of decades, flax has gone from humble ornamental plant and source of linen cloth to a supersupplement known for its lignans and Omega-3 fatty acids—and fiber.

But how much benefit do you really get from the tiny flax seed? Two articles published on the same day offer divergent views. In an article titled “Flax Power” in the San Jose Mercury News (registration required; try BugMeNot for a login), flax is touted as “a bargain-priced nutritional powerhouse that trumps fish on the omega front—it’s a safe, mercury-free source of omega-3 fatty acids.” According to “Just the Flax, Please” in the San Francisco Chronicle, however, fatty acids in fish are where “the real health benefits” are found, and “the benefits of eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids far outweigh the risks of mercury exposure.”

Furthermore, says the Chron, while “[s]ome people believe that sprinkling a little flax meal or flax seed on top of your foods or smoothies helps increase fiber content,” nutritionist Christopher Gardner says not to bother.

“Only if you eat a bowl full of it will it do any good. But it won’t hurt you, either,” Gardner is quoted as saying.

Flax on, flax off? As Mr. Miyagi once said, “Go, find balance.”

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