Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is gaining popularity due to its impressive list of potential health benefits. It’s a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, containing both soluble and insoluble forms.
Studies have shown that flaxseed can help reduce cholesterol levels, improve digestive health, lower the risk of certain cancers, and even improve skin and hair health.
Fortunately, it’s easy to incorporate flaxseed into your diet with its many uses in cooking.
Let’s take a look at the health benefits of flaxseed and learn how to add this nutrient-dense food to your meals to maximize its potential health benefits.
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The Nutritional Profile of Flaxseed
Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is an ancient crop that has been cultivated for centuries. It can be found in two forms – brown and golden – both of which pack a punch nutrition-wise.
Just one serving provides protein, fiber, omega-3 fats and numerous essential vitamins and minerals. These include thiamine (a B vitamin involved in energy metabolism) and copper (which promotes brain development, boost immune health and iron metabolism).
One tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed contains:
- Calories: 37
- Fat: 3 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Protein: 1.3 grams
- Thiamine: 10% of the Daily Value
- Copper: 9% of the Daily Value
- Manganese: 8% of the Daily Value
- Magnesium: 7% of the Daily Value
- Phosphorus: 4% of the Daily Value
- Zinc: 3% of the Daily Value
- Selenium: 3% of the Daily Value
- Vitamin B6: 2% of the Daily Value
- Iron: 2% of the Daily Value
- Folate: 2% of the Daily Value
Health Benefits of Flaxseed
The health benefits of flaxseed are plentiful and numerous.
1. Flaxseed Can Reduce Risk of Heart Diseases
Studies have shown that consuming flaxseed can offer numerous benefits to your health. Flaxseed is an excellent source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
ALA has been linked to a lower risk of ischemic heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as a decreased risk of stroke.
In addition, studies suggest that increased ALA intake may also help reduce inflammation, prevent cholesterol from being deposited in the blood vessels, and reduce the risk of dying from heart disease.
2. Flaxseed Can Lower Cholesterol Levels
Eating flaxseed has been linked to lower bad cholesterol levels. A 1-month study involving people with peripheral artery disease found that consuming 4 tablespoons (30 grams) of milled flaxseed a day reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol by 15%.
Another study on over 100 people with high blood pressure reported similar effects and showed that 4 tablespoons (30 g) flaxseed per day also helped lessen BMI, total cholesterol, and blood pressure.
Research suggests that the fiber in flaxseed may be responsible for this as it binds to bile salts before being excreted from the body, leading to the liver retrieving cholesterol from the blood which lowers levels overall.
3. Flaxseed Can Reduce Blood Pressure
Renowned for its ability to reduce blood pressure levels, flaxseed’s has been studied extensively. A review of 15 studies suggests that supplementing with flaxseed can significantly decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, making it particularly effective for those with high levels.
Furthermore, taking 4 tablespoons (30 grams) of flaxseed per day can lower blood pressure by up to 2 mmHg over the course of 12 weeks.
This is significant as even such a small reduction can substantially reduce the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.
4. Flaxseed Can Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
Whole flaxseed may help with the regulation of blood sugar levels, as per the results of twenty five studies. Its soluble fiber content is thought to be the cause for such an effect, as it slows down absorption of sugar in the bloodstream and thus reducing overall blood sugar levels.
Flaxseed might prove to be particularly beneficial to those with type 2 diabetes.
However, note that it should be the whole flaxseed being consumed – its corresponding oil does not offer any special effects in regards to blood sugar level control, due not containing any fiber whatsoever.
5. Flaxseed Can Manage Your Weight
Eating flaxseed may be beneficial for those trying to manage their weight. Studies suggest that consuming flaxseed helps reduce hunger and appetite, likely due to the fact that its soluble fiber slows digestion, causing you to feel full for a longer period of time.
Further research has shown that supplementing one’s diet with flaxseed can lead to lower body weight, BMI, and belly fat.
6. Flaxseed Can Protect Against Cancer
Studies have found that flaxseeds contain powerful compounds known as lignans, which may be effective in fighting a range of cancers.
Based on evidence from animal and test-tube studies, flaxseed has been associated with a lower risk of breast cancer and other types of cancers, such as colorectal, skin, blood, and lung cancer.
However, more research is needed to confirm these results in humans.
How to Include Flaxseed in Your Diet
When looking for ways to incorporate flaxseed into your diet, the possibilities are almost endless. Here’s how to add these tiny seeds to your daily diet.
- You can stir a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into oatmeal or smoothies, sprinkle it on salads or use it as a vegan egg replacer in recipes.
- You can also find a variety of products that contain flaxseed like breads, cereals and energy bars.
- For best digestive health, add ground flaxseed to your diet instead of whole grains. The outer shell of the seed is difficult for the intestines to break down so grinding them helps to make them easier to digest.
- Flaxseed oil is a vegetable-based oil that is extracted from flaxseeds through a process known as cold pressing. This process helps to preserve the nutritional benefits of the oil, making it popular for use in cooking and baking.
No matter how you choose to consume it, adding flaxseed in your diet is an easy way to increase your daily nutrients and reap the benefits of this powerful superfood.
How Much Flaxseed to Consume?
To enjoy the potential health benefits of flaxseed, most experts recommend consuming one tablespoon (about 7 grams) per day.
It’s important not to overdo it though; consuming more than around 4-5 tablespoons (28-35 grams) per day can lead to consuming too much fiber — so try incorporating it into a balanced and healthy diet.
Side Effects of Flaxseed
Eating flaxseed has numerous health benefits, however caution is advised since it can have unwanted side effects such as:
- Common digestive issues such as gas and bloating may arise if eaten in excess due to its high fiber content (2 grams of fiber/tablespoon).
- There is also a potential for allergic reactions or an interaction with certain medications, including blood thinners and antiplatelet medication.
- Those on hormone therapy or with hormone-sensitive cancers should check with their doctor before consuming, as well as pregnant and nursing women.
Flaxseeds vs Chia seeds
Flax and chia seeds are two great plants sources of protein, dietary fibre, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
While they both offer similar benefits for heart health, blood sugar levels and digestion, flax seeds have an advantage when it comes to reducing hunger, appetite and the risk of certain cancers.
Plus, they’re typically more affordable than their chia counterpart. Overall, either seed is an excellent addition to your diet!
What are the benefits of flaxseed?
Flaxseed consumption has a variety of health benefits including improved digestive health, relief from constipation and the potential to reduce heart disease risk by reducing total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. Additionally, it is a great source of dietary fiber as well as essential fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins.
How should you eat flaxseeds?
Flaxseeds can be incorporated into your diet in several different ways. One way is to add flaxseed powder, or freshly ground flax seeds, to water, smoothies or cereals. Another way is to mix it into yogurt or sprinkle it on salads. For an added flavor and extra fiber, you can also drizzle some flaxseed oil onto salads as a replacement for the usual salad dressing.
Can I consume chia and flaxseeds together?
Yes, it is perfectly safe to combine both chia and flaxseeds in your diet. Doing so adds numerous nutrients to your diet including fiber, plant protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Furthermore, flaxseeds contain lignans that are not present in chia seeds, thus adding another beneficial nutrient combination.
Is it safe to eat flaxseed every day?
Many nutrition experts agree that having 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed per day is a perfectly healthy amount to add to your diet.
Can I eat flaxseeds directly?
Although it is possible to consume flaxseeds without preparation, it is not recommended as the rigid hull of the seeds will pass through your digestive system unprocessed. For maximum benefit, grind them first to make them easier to digest.