Flaxseeds are high in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential amino acids. They also contain lignans, phytosterols, and polyphenolic compounds.
Flaxseeds have many health benefits including reducing cholesterol levels, improving digestion, lowering blood pressure, and helping with weight loss. But did you know that flaxseed oil has even more health benefits? It contains anti-inflammatory properties, helps prevent heart disease, lowers bad LDL cholesterol, improves brain function, and protects against cancer.
Flaxseeds are a great addition to any diet because they provide lots of nutrition without adding calories. 1 tablespoon of flaxseed provides 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, and 6 grams of carbohydrates.
If you’ve never tried flaxseed before, here are 9 reasons why you should add it to your daily routine.
Health Benefits of Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds provide the following health benefits.
1. High in omega-3 fatty acids
Flaxseeds are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALAs), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that’s important to heart health and is found predominantly in plants. ALAs, are one of the two essential fats we must obtain from our diet because our bodies don’t make them. Studies show that increasing ALA consumption reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL (good) cholesterol.
In addition, animal research suggests that the ALA in whole flax seeds may help reduce inflammation and protect against cardiovascular disease. A recent study on 8,886 people showed that those who consumed the most ALA had lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and a lower risk of developing coronary artery disease.
Another study in 9,984 participants found that eating more ALA lowered triglyceride levels and improved insulin sensitivity. And another study in 7,049 women found that those who ate about three tablespoons per day had a 35% reduction in the risk of having a heart attack compared to those who didn’t consume it.
Finally, numerous studies have shown that high ALA intake lowers the risk of stroke. One large review of over 30 studies even suggested that ALA might decrease the risk of death due to heart disease.
What’s more, there is evidence that ALA may increase bone density and improve muscle function.
2. May help protect against cancer
Flaxseed is rich in phytoestrogens, plant chemicals that act like hormones in our bodies. Lignans are found mainly in seeds such as wheat, barley, rye, oats, and sunflower seeds. They are also present in some nuts and legumes. Studies suggest that eating flaxseed might reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. However, more research is needed to determine whether it does.
Lignans are similar to estrogen in many ways, including how they work in the body. Like estradiol, lignans bind to receptors in cells, where they affect cell division and reproduction. In addition, recent evidence suggests that lignans may play a role in preventing cancer and heart disease.
Studies in animals and test tubes suggest that lignans may inhibit tumor growth. For example, one study showed that rats fed diets containing flaxseed had fewer colon tumors than those given soybean oil. Another animal study suggested that lignan levels in the diet could prevent mammary gland tumors in mice.
In vitro studies also show promising results. Researchers observed that lignans inhibited the proliferation of human prostate cancer cells. Other studies showed that lignans slowed down the growth of human liver cancer cells.
However, researchers haven’t determined exactly how lignans work to fight cancer. One theory is that the compounds activate enzymes that break down carcinogens. This theory is supported by findings showing that lignans increase the activity of detoxifying enzymes in the liver.
Another possibility is that lignans interfere with hormone pathways that promote cancer growth. Scientists think that high concentrations of lignans block the production of sex hormones in men and women. This may explain why lignans have been linked to decreased risks of several types of cancers.
A third possibility is that lignan metabolites stimulate immune system cells, making them less likely to become cancerous.
3. Rich in fiber
Flaxseeds contain about 7 grams of dietary fiber per tablespoon. This amount provides approximately 5% and 8% of daily recommended intakes for men and women, according to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Flaxseed also contains both soluble and insoluble fibers, which are important for promoting healthy digestion and helping keep you regular. Studies suggest that people who eat more whole grains tend to experience fewer gastrointestinal problems like constipation and diarrhea.
4. May lower cholesterol levels
Flaxseed contains about 20 grams of dietary fiber per 30-gram serving. Fiber binds to bile salts before being eliminated in the stool. Lowering cholesterol levels is one of the benefits of eating flaxseed.
Eating flaxseed can reduce body fat and increase HDL (good), or “healthy,” cholesterol. In addition, it reduces blood pressure and triglycerides.
5. May reduce blood pressure
Flaxseed contains omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, selenium, biotin, and folate. These nutrients are known to improve cardiovascular health. One study found that taking flaxseed daily lowered systolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 2 mm Hg over 12 weeks. Another study showed that eating flaxseed once per day could decrease blood pressure within 24 hours.
6. May stabilize your blood sugar levels
Flaxseed contains soluble dietary fibers, which help lower blood sugar levels. Whole flaxseed may also help you manage your blood glucose level better than flaxseed oils.
7. May help you manage your weight
Flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, making them a great addition to your diet. They’re also rich in soluble fiber, which helps keep your digestive system healthy and regulates cholesterol levels. Flaxseed may help you manage your weight. Research suggests that eating just 2.5 grams of soluble fiber each day may decrease hunger and blood glucose levels while increasing satiety. This could lead to fewer calories consumed throughout the day.
Facts About Flaxseeds
Did you know there are several different types of flaxseed out there? And that each type has unique benefits? Here are some facts about flaxseed you didn’t know.
1. Flaxseeds come in three main forms: whole seeds, ground seeds, and oil. Whole flaxseeds are typically sold hulled, meaning they’ve been stripped of their outer shell. Ground flaxseeds are simply the entire seed, while flaxseed oil is extracted from the inside of the seed.
2. Flaxseed is high in fiber, protein, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, phosphorus, potassium, and lignans. Lignans are plant compounds that act like hormones in our bodies. They’re linked to lower rates of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression.
3. Flaxseed contains essential fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA helps reduce inflammation throughout the body. EPA and DHA help protect against cardiovascular disease and improve brain function.
4. Flaxseed is often used in baked goods, cereals, dressings, dips, granola bars, hot cereal, ice cream, meat products, salad dressing, soups, yogurt, and breading.
5. Flaxseed is best stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Once opened, store flaxseed in an opaque container away from light.
6. If you want to add flaxseed to your diet, start slowly. Start with half a tablespoon per serving once or twice daily. Gradually increase the amount over time.
Tips for adding flaxseed to your diet
Ground flaxseeds are best absorbed into the bloodstream when consumed whole rather than ground. This is because grinding reduces the size of the seed, causing it to pass through the digestive system too quickly. Whole flaxseeds contain about 30% lignans, while ground flaxseeds contain less than 10%. Lignans are phytoestrogens found in plants that act like estrogen in the human body. They protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Flaxseed oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, including ALA, DHA, and EPA. These essential fats play a role in brain development, vision, and immune function. Omega 3 fatty acids are good for pregnant women because they promote fetal growth and prevent premature birth. Some studies suggest that eating fish regularly during pregnancy helps prevent certain types of childhood cancers.
Adding flaxseed oil to meals is easy. Simply sprinkle some onto cereal, salads, yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, soups, baked goods, or even salad dressings. You can also use flaxseed meals in place of breadcrumbs in meatloaf or chicken nuggets.
You can find flaxseed oil in most grocery stores. Look for products containing no added sugar or salt. Store flaxseed oil in the refrigerator.
Consume ground seeds instead of whole
Ground flaxseeds are easy to digest and contain lignans which help prevent cancer. They’re also easier to store than whole flaxseeds.
What about flaxseed oil?
Flaxseed oil is extracted from ground flax seeds. The flax seed oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins A & E, and minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, copper, manganese, potassium, selenium, iodine, and vitamin B12.
The main types of flaxseed oil include:
• Refined flaxseed oil – This type of flaxseed oil is produced by extracting the oil from the seeds. It does not contain any additional nutrients.
• Unrefined flaxseed oil -This type of flaxseed is unprocessed and retains the nutritional value of the original plant.
• Organic flaxseed oil – This type of flax seed oil is derived from organic sources.
• Almond oil – This type of oil is obtained from almonds. It is high in monounsaturated fat and low in saturated fat.
• Coconut Oil – This type of oil comes from the coconut fruit. It is rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs are easily absorbed into the body and provide energy quickly.
Are there any risks to eating flaxseed?
Flaxseed contains lots of dietary fiber and may help lower cholesterol levels. But it could also cause digestive issues if consumed in large amounts. And those who are pregnant or nursing should avoid consuming flaxseeds, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The seed itself is a fruit, and it grows inside a pod. When you crack open the shell, you expose the seeds within. You can eat the whole thing raw, grind it up into flour, or use it in baked goods.
But some people don’t like the taste of flaxseed because it tastes similar to linseed oil. If you’re worried about the flavor, try mixing it into yogurt or oatmeal. Or just sprinkle it over salads.
In conclusion, flaxseeds have been used throughout history as a source of nutrition. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytosterols. Flaxseed oil has also been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease. And if that wasn’t enough, studies show that consuming flaxseed may even increase bone density. So next time you’re looking for ways to improve your diet, consider adding flaxseeds to your daily routine.
Bharat Sharma is a Delhi-based writer who loves reading and writing research-based topics revolving around health, fitness, and nutrition. His love for writing started during his teenage and continues till date. After his graduation, he worked for GE Money, and IBM, but later found his true love i.e. blogging.