Flaxseeds contain omega-3s, lignans and fiber. Learn how flaxseeds protect you against cardiovascular disease, cancers and other degenerative diseases.
“Wherever flaxseed becomes a regular food item among the people, there will be better health.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Flaxseeds are found in all sorts of foods these days ranging from crackers to bread to pancake mix. These tiny, brown and golden seeds have proven to be quite the health warrior against diseases like certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and stroke.
History of Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds were first cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC. In the eighth century, King Charlemagne felt so strongly about the health benefits of flaxseeds, that he passed laws for his people to consume them.
Hippocrates himself even used them as one of the original medicines. These historical figures may have been on to something now that we fully understand all the extraordinary health benefits that come from the tiny seeds.
Flaxseeds Are High In Omega-3’s
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are considered to be one of the best sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid that the body can’t make. It must be consumed in the diet. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of omega-3s.
The health benefits of omega-3s are overwhelming, including protecting against cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, arthritis and many other degenerating diseases. Omega-3s may play a role in maintaining the heart’s natural rhythm, therefore may be useful in treating arrhythmia and heart failure. Lignans also reduce atherosclerotic plaque and lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Studies have shown that ALA inhibits tumor incidence and growth in animals.
ALA also decreases inflammation in the body which benefits arthritis-sufferers. By reducing inflammatory reactions associated with plaque buildup in the arteries, flaxseeds also protect against heart attack and stroke. While the majority of flaxseed’s “healthy fats” are the omega-3s, there is also a nice balance of omega-6’s and heart healthy omega-9s.
Flaxseeds Contain Lignans
Lignans protect against hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast, uterine and prostate cancers. Lignans may help to protect against these cancers by blocking certain enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism.
Lignans increase sex-hormone binding globulin, which binds to estrogen and helps it get out of the body. Lignans break down in the gut and interfere with the cancer-promoting effects of estrogen. One of the reasons that vegetarian women have lower rates of breast cancer is probably because of their high lignan consumption.
In a test tube, researchers have found that lignans inhibited the growth of human prostate cancer cells. Research at Duke University showed that men with prostate cancer who were given three tablespoons of flaxseed per day, in combination with a low-fat diet, had decreased cancer cell growth.
Lignans in flaxseeds are phytoestrogens, which help relieve menopausal symptoms. Flaxseeds can be as effective as hormone replacement therapy in reducing mild menopausal symptoms in menopausal women.
Daily intake of the lignans in flaxseeds may modestly improve blood sugar in diabetics.
Flaxseeds are High in Fiber
Eating flaxseeds is a good way to increase your fiber intake. As they cannot be digested by the body, eating them whole is a really good way to prevent and relieve constipation. That said, ground flaxseeds, otherwise known as flax meal, may also help keep things moving along with eight grams of fiber per quarter cup. Flaxseeds contain both important types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.
Buying and Storage
You can buy flaxseeds whole and then grind them up in a coffee grinder yourself or buy them already ground or milled. Whether you buy them whole, ground or milled, they should be stored in the freezer to protect them from oxidation. They can spoil very quickly and lose nutritional potency. They do not clump or change texture at all in the freezer.
There is no nutritional difference between the brown and golden flaxseeds.
Adding Flaxseed to Your Diet
- Sprinkle it on salads, cereal, pasta and sauces.
- Mix it into meatloaf, meatballs and casseroles.
- Use it in baking.
- Substitute ground flaxseed for part of the flour in quick breads, pancakes, waffles, breads, muffins and rolls.
http://www.webmd.com, “The Benefits of Flaxseed” (accessed October 17, 2010).Bowden, Jonny. The 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth. Fair Winds Press: Gloucester, 2007