Flaxseed is one of the richest omega-3 plant foods. However, because the nutrients are encapsuled in a strong outshell, flaxseed must be ground to gain the omega-3 health benefits. Flaxseed also retains water and thus gives soluble fiber benefits for optimal colon health.

Disease/Ailments:

Cardiovascular disease
Atherosclerosis
Arrhythmia
Elevated cholesterol
Cancer prevention
Digestive disorders
Chronic inflammation
Menopausal symptoms

Health benefits:

Omega-3’s: Flax seed are one of the highest omega-3 containing plant foods. The primary omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed is alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which has been found to inhibit tumor incidence and growth.

Lignans: These phytonutrient compounds found in flax seeds have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities.

Cancer prevention: The omega-3s and lignans are responsible for making flax seed a cancer-fighting food. Lignans provide some protection against cancers that are sensitive to hormones without interfering with the breast cancer drug tamoxifen. Some studies suggest that exposure to lignans during adolescence helps reduce the risk of breast cancer and may increase the survival of breast cancer patients.

Cardiovascular disease: Omega-3’s help the cardiovascular system by taking anti-inflammatory action and normalizing heartbeat. In addition, flaxseed has been shown to lower blood pressure and help prevent hardening of the arteries and keep plaque from being deposited in the arteries.

Lower cholesterol: Increased flaxseed intake is correlated to decreased LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. This benefit is due to the omega-3 ALA, fiber, and lignan content.

Digestion: Flaxseed contains both insoluble and soluble fiber, which helps in regulating bowel movements and making you feel fuller longer.

Anti-inflammatory: ALA and lignans may reduce the inflammation that accompanies certain diseases such as Parkinson’s and asthma by helping block the release of pro-inflammatory agents. Reducing inflammation associated with plaque buildup in the arteries may lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Menopause symptoms: By increasing regular consumption of flaxseed, women have reported that the intensity of their hot flashes is not as intense.

Good source of:

Omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, B1, fiber, magnesium

Purchasing, storing, & enjoying:

Purchasing: There is brown or golden varieties, but there is little nutritional differences between the two. Flaxseed can also be purchased whole or ground either in pre-packaged bags or in bulk bins. Don’t be confused by the different product names. Milled, ground, and flax meal are all the same product just with different names. When purchasing pre-ground flax, be cautious of rancidity from heat or prolonged exposure to air.

Storing: To keep the omega-3 fatty acids from oxidizing and losing its nutritional potency, pre-ground flaxseed should be stored in the freezer. Whole flaxseeds are stable at room temperature due to its hard outer shell but should be kept in a dark and cool place.

Enjoying: Flaxseed eaten whole passes through the intestinal tract undigested, which means the body does not get all of the health benefits. Therefore, whole flaxseeds must be ground in an electric coffee grinder or food processor before consumption.

  • Add ground flaxseed into dark, moist dishes such as dark sauces, smoothies, oatmeal, and soups. It will add fiber and anti-oxidants that will make any dish 100 times healthier!
  • Use it in baking! Ground flaxseed can be made into a faux egg for a thickening or binding agent. Mix 1 tablespoon of flax meal with 3 tablespoons of warm water and let it sit for 10 minutes in the refrigerator. Also, you can substitute ground flaxseed for part of the flour in recipes for quick breads, muffins, rolls, breads, bagels, pancakes, and waffles. Try replacing ¼ to ½ cup of flour with ground flaxseed for a recipe that calls for 2 or more cups of flour.

Resources & recipes:

Flaxseed egg substitute: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/flaxseed-egg-substitute.html
Vegan banana bread with dates and almonds: http://foodblogandthedog.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/vegan-banana-bread-with-dates-and-almonds/
Flax crackers: http://cleangreensimple.com/2011/05/flax-crackers/
Peanut butter flaxseed pancakes: http://minimalistbaker.com/peanut-butter-flaxseed-pancakes/

 

 

References:

Aberg UW, Saarinen N, Abrahamsson A et al. Tamoxifen and flaxseed alter angiogenesis regulators in normal human breast tissue in vivo. PLoS One. 2011; 6(9):e25720. Epub 2011 Sep 30. 2011.
Chahal N, McCrindle B, Manlhiot C et al. aA 4-week randomized clinical trial of flaxseed supplementation in children with hypercholesterolemia. Canadian Journal of Cardiology, Volume 27, Issue 5, Supplement, September–October 2011, Page S339. 2011.
Dodin S, Cunnane SC, Masse B et al. Flaxseed on cardiovascular disease markers in healthy menopausal women: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition, Volume 24, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 23-30. 2008.
Faintuch J, Bortolotto LA, Marques PC et al. Systemic inflammation and carotid diameter in obese patients: pilot comparative study with flaxseed powder and cassava powder. Nutr Hosp. 2011 Jan-Feb;26(1):208-13. 2011.
Fukumitsu S, Aida K, Shimizu H et al. Flaxseed lignan lowers blood cholesterol and decreases liver disease risk factors in moderately hypercholesterolemic men. Nutrition Research, Volume 30, Issue 7, July 2010, Pages 441-446. 2010.
Hallund J, Tetens I, Bugel S et al. The effect of a lignan complex isolated from flaxseed on inflammation markers in healthy postmenopausal women. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, Volume 18, Issue 7, September 2008, Pages 497-502. 2008.
Ibrugger S, Kristensen M, Mikkelsen MS et al. Flaxseed dietary fiber supplements for suppression of appetite and food intake. Appetite, Volume 58, Issue 2, April 2012, Pages 490-495. 2012.
Kristensen M, Jensen MG, Aarestrup J et al. Flaxseed dietary fibers lower cholesterol and increase fecal fat excretion, but magnitude of effect depend on food type. Nutrition & Metabolism 9.1 (2012). 2012.
Landete JM. Plant and mammalian lignans: A review of source, intake, Leyva DR, Zahradka P, Ramjiawan B et al. The effect of dietary flaxseed on improving symptoms of cardiovascular disease in patients with peripheral artery disease: Rationale and design of the FLAX-PAD randomized controlled trial. Contemporary Clinical Trials, Volume 32, Issue 5, September 2011, Pages 724-730. 2011.
Rodriguez-Leyva D, Bassett CMC, McCullough R et al. The cardiovascular effects of flaxseed and its omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Canadian Journal of Cardiology, Volume 26, Issue 9, November 2010, Pages 489-496. 2010.
Sturgeon SR, Volpe SL, Puleo E et al. Dietary intervention of flaxseed: effect on serum levels of IGF-1, IGF-BP3, and C-peptide. Nutr Cancer. 2011;63(3):376-80. 2011.
Taylor CG, Noto AD, Stringer DM et al. Dietary milled flaxseed and flaxseed oil improve N-3 fatty acid status and do not affect glycemic control in individuals with well-controlled type 2 diabetes. J Am Coll Nutr. 2010 Feb;29(1):72-80. 2010.
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=81
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/benefits-of-flaxseed


About the Author

Ashley Kim

"Our bodies are our gardens—our wills are our gardeners." – William Shakespeare

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