Some call it one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. There’s some evidence it may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.
Flaxseed was cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC. In the 8th century, King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it. Now, thirteen centuries later, some experts say we have preliminary research to back up what Charlemagne suspected.
Flaxseed is found in all kinds of today’s foods from crackers to frozen waffles to oatmeal. The Flax Council estimates close to 300 new flax-based products were launched in the U.S. and Canada in 2010 alone. Not only has consumer demand for flaxseed grown, agricultural use has also increased. Flaxseed is what’s used to feed all those chickens that are laying eggs with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Although flaxseed contains all sorts of healthy components, it owes its primary healthy reputation to three of them:
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids, “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
- Lignans, which have both plant estrogen and anti oxident qualities. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.Only two foods are significant sources of lignans — flaxseeds and sesame seeds — and flaxseeds have nearly eight times more lignans than sesame seeds. Lignans are called plant phytoestrogens because bacteria in the intestine convert them into enterolignans, which subsequently exert a mild estrogenic effect in your body.
- Fiber. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble types.
Flaxseed Nutrition Facts
When you look at the nutritional benefits of flax seeds, there are many things that will catch your attention.
A 1 ounce (3 tbsp) serving of flaxseeds contains:
- Omega-3 (ALA) 6,338mg
- Fiber 8g
- Protein 6g
- Vitamin B1 31% RDA
- Manganese 35% RDA
- Magnesium 30% RDA
- Phosphorus 19% RDA
- Selenium 10% RDA
- Also, flaxseeds contain a good amount of vitamin B6, Iron, potassium, copper and zinc.
The Health Benefits of Flax
Flax Seeds for Cancer
Lignans may help protect against cancer by blocking enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism and interfering with the growth and spread of tumor cells.
Dietary fiber is an important weight-loss nutrient and as little as 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed — containing 2 grams of fiber — may give you enough to make a difference. In a very small study reported in the journal Appetite in 2012, a drink containing 2.5 grams of flaxseed fiber helped suppress appetite and caused subjects to eat less. Dietary fiber adds bulk that fills your stomach. As a result, you feel full sooner and satiety lasts longer, which makes it easier to eat less food. The soluble fiber in flaxseed slows digestion and prevents glucose from spiking blood sugar. Balanced blood sugar helps you lose weight because any excess sugar is stored as fat. High blood sugar has another negative effect on weight loss. It triggers the release of insulin, which tells the body to stop breaking down stored fat. This means you won’t burn excess fat for energy.
The soluble fiber in flaxseed is fermented by bacteria in the colon which increases good bacteria and may help with weight loss. A small study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition in April 2015, reported that insulin sensitivity improved in overweight postmenopausal women when they consumed flaxseed. Insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic condition in which the body no longer responds to insulin in a normal fashion. If you’re insulin resistant, improving insulin sensitivity will help you lose weight.
Lignans may help prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol. They use their antioxidant action to fight inflammation and slow down cancer growth, but more research is needed to verify their effectiveness, according to a report in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2010.
The soluble fiber content of flax seeds trap fat and cholesterol in the digestive system so that it unable to be absorbed. Soluble fiber also traps bile, which is made from cholesterol in the gallbladder.
The bile is then excreted through the digestive system, forcing the body to make more, using up excess cholesterol in the blood and lowering cholesterol overall.
Flaxseeds are High in Antioxidants (Lignans)
Amongst its other incredible nutrition facts, flax seeds are also packed with antioxidants. Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits for anti-aging, hormone balance and cellular health. Lignans are also known for their anti-viral and antibacterial properties, therefore consuming flax regularly may help reduce the number or severity of colds and flus.
Healthy Skin and Hair
If you want healthier skin, hair and nails then consider adding 2 tbsp of flax seeds to your smoothie or 1 tbsp of flax seed oil to your daily routine.
The ALA fats in flax seeds benefits the skin and hair by providing essential fats as well as b-vitamins which can help reduce dryness and flakiness. It can also improve symptoms of acne, rosacea, and eczema. This also applies to eye health as flax can reduce dry eye syndrome.
Maybe the biggest flax seed benefits come from it’s ability to promote digestive health. The ALA in flax can help protect the lining of the digestive tract and maintain GI health. It has been shown to be beneficial for people suffering from Crohn’s disease or other digestive ailments, as it can help reduce gut inflammation.
You can also take 1-3 tbsp of flax seed oil with 8 oz of carrot juice to help naturally relieve constipation.
The lignans in the flax have been shown to have benefits for menopausal women. It can be used as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy because lignans do have estrogenic properties.
These properties may also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It can even help menstruating women by helping maintain cycle regularity.
Tips for Using Flaxseed
Many experts believe it’s better to consume flaxseed than flax oil (which contains just part of the seed) so you get all the components.
There are many great ways to add these super seeds into your diet including adding them to homemade muffins, breads and cookies.
One of the most common questions about baking with flax seeds is, does baking have any effect on omega-3 fatty acid?
According to many studies, you can bake flax seeds at 300F for 3 hours and the omega-3’s (ALA) in flax seeds remained stable.
Tips for including flaxseed in your diet include:
- Add 1-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to a morning smoothie
- Mix a tablespoon in with yogurt and raw honey
- Bake ground flaxseeds into muffins, cookies and breads
- Add to homemade sprouted granola
- Can be mixed with water and used as an egg substitute
However the very best way to experience flax seed benefits is to consume them in their sprouted form. Soaking flax seeds and then sprouting them eliminates phytic acid and may greatly increase mineral absorption. Make sure to take them with plenty of water or other fluids.