Flaxseeds have numerous health benefits. Actually, they are one of the healthiest foods in the world, a superfood. To get the most of flaxseeds, they should be consumed in ground form, as whole flaxseeds can pass through the digestive tract undigested.
Surprising Facts about Flax Seeds
- According to Wikipedia, world production of flaxseeds was 2.65 million tonnes (2014), led by Canada with 33% of the global total. Other major producers were Kazakhstan, China, and Russia
- Flax is one of the oldest fiber crops in the world. It has been cultivated in ancient Egypt and China. The earliest evidence of humans using wild flax as a textile comes from the present-day Republic of Georgia, where spun, dyed, and knotted wild flax fibres were found in Dzudzuana Cave and dated to the Upper Paleolithic, 30,000 years ago.
- Because of its link to good health, flax is fast becoming a new food in many diets. Bakers and commercial food companies use flax as a unique ingredient in everything from yeast breads, to bagels and cookie mixes.
- Omega-3 enriched eggs from hens fed rations containing flax contain 8 to 10 times more omega-3 fatty acids than regular eggs. Two of the enriched eggs supply more than half Health Canada’s recommended daily intake of omega-3s for adults.
Flax Seeds Nutritional Value
- Flaxseeds contain high levels (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of protein, dietary fiber, several B vitamins, and dietary minerals.
- 10 grams of flaxseed contains 1 gram of water-soluble fiber (which lowers blood cholesterol) and three grams of insoluble fiber (which helps prevent constipation).
- Flaxseeds are especially rich in thiamine, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus (over 90% of the Daily Value)
- The seeds contain high levels (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of protein, dietary fiber, several B vitamins, and dietary minerals.
- Flax seeds are very rich in α-linolenic acid, Omega-3 fatty acid.
- Of total fat, flaxseeds have 54% of Omega-3 (mostly α-linolenic acid) and 6% of Omega-6 (linoleic acid), the most beneficial ratio.
- Over 90% of all the carbs in flax seeds are fiber.
- In every 100g of flaxseed, there are 49mg of health-beneficial phytosterols.
- Flaxseeds are naturally gluten-free and cholesterol free.
What Makes Flax seeds Different?
Flaxseeds contain hundreds of times more lignans than other plant foods. The lignans are a large group of polyphenols found in plants. Lignans are one of the major classes of phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-like chemicals and also act as antioxidants.
7 Reasons to include flax seeds in your diet
There is a lot of research being done to explore the health benefits of flax seeds.
1. Flax seeds may protect from cancer
There have been several studies suggesting that the lignans in flaxseed may help protect against a breast cancer, prostate and colon cancers, especially if consumed regularly as a part of a diet. At least two of the components in flaxseed may have a protective effect, says Kelley C. Fitzpatrick, director of health and nutrition with the Flax Council of Canada.
In a study of 161 men, it is stated that consuming flaxseeds appeared to stop prostate cancer tumours from growing, especially if the men also consumed a low-fat diet. The authors suggested that anti-cancer properties of flaxseeds were connected to the extremely high content of lignans, which is over 800 times higher than that of other foods. (“Flaxseed Supplementation Reduces Prostate Cancer Proliferation Rates in Men Pre-surgery”, “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention”, 2008)
One large study found that flaxseed in the diet reduced the risk for breast cancer. (“Consumption of flaxseed, a rich source of lignans, is associated with reduced breast cancer risk”, “Cancer Causes & Control”, 2013)
2. Flax seeds lower bad cholesterol
The flax seeds are rich in fiber, phytosterols, Omega-3 and lignans, the mix of nutrients that help protect against cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. A study published in “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” (2009) showed that consuming flaxseed may reduce total and LDL-cholesterol in the blood. Published in the “Journal of Nutrition” (2015), a meta-analysis has shown that consumption of flaxseed for more than 12 weeks produced small reductions in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.
3. Flax seeds prevent cardiovascular diseases
Research suggests that plant omega-3s help the cardiovascular system through several different mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory action and normalizing the heartbeat. Those effects may be due to both the omega-3 fatty acids as well as the amino acid groups found in flaxseed.
4. Flax seeds are beneficial for people with Type2 diabetes
Over 90% of all the carbs in the seeds are fiber, which is not digested by the body. Fiber is not the type of carbohydrates that raises blood sugar and requires insulin to be disposed to treat it. Actually, fiber shouldn’t count as a carb. This leads scientists to believe flaxseeds may have great benefits for diabetics.
5. Flax seeds prevent constipation
Flax seeds help to keep your bowels healthy by providing a good amount of dietary fibre which is important for a healthy digestive system. The seeds are rich in both soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, and insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water. This helps keep movement through the gut regular.
6. Flax seeds are beneficial for vegans
Flax seeds are one of the healthiest and nutrient-dense plant foods and the major source of Omega-3s for vegans.
7. Flax Seeds are good for weight loss
According to the study published in “Obesity Reviews” in 2017, consumption of more than 30 grams of flaxseed daily for more than 12 weeks reduced body weight, body mass index and waist circumference.
The Budwig Diet
The Budwig diet is an “anti-cancer” diet developed in the 1950s by Johanna Budwig (1908–2003). She was a German biochemist and author. Budwig was a pharmacist and held doctorate degrees in physics and chemistry. Based on her research on fatty acids she developed a diet that she believed was useful in the treatment of cancer.
The diet is rich in flaxseed oil mixed with cottage cheese, and emphasizes meals high in fruit, vegetables, and fiber; it avoids sugar, animal fats, salad oil, meats, butter, and especially margarine.
Dr. Budwig claimed that within 3 months, some patients on this diet had smaller tumors, some had no tumors left, and all felt better. However, Cancer Research UK say, “there is no reliable evidence to show that the Budwig diet … helps people with cancer”. People with cancer who delay or forgo effective treatments as a result of using diets such as the Budwig Diet might suffer relapse, experience unnecessary disease progression, and experience continuing cancer-related symptoms.
Health Risks of Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds are generally recognized as safe for human consumption. They are nontoxic. However, adding too much flaxseed to the diet might increase the number of bowel movements each day. It might also cause bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, and stomach ache.
How Many Flaxseeds Can You Eat Per Day?
One ounce of flax seeds (28g or about 2 tablespoons) per day is often recommended.
How to Eat Flax Seeds?
Ground flax seeds are your best bet to get the most the seeds have to offer. Grinding the seeds makes them easier to digest and helps release their nutrients. However, keep in mind that whole flax seeds are chemically stable, but ground flaxseed may go rancid fast: if they are left exposed to air at room temperature it only takes as little as one week because of oxidation. So, buy whole flax seeds and grind them yourself at home when you need it. All the tools you already have in your kitchen: a coffee grinder, food processor or blender.
*Percent Daily Value (%DV) is a guide to the nutrients in one serving of food. For example, 40% for protein means that one serving provides 40% of the protein you need each day. It helps you make informed food choices. DVs are based on a 2,000-calorie diet for healthy adults.