Flaxseeds are sometimes called as the most powerful plant foods in this universe dating back to the Babylonian Empire. Certain evidences show that flaxseeds can be used to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. It makes one wonder regarding the advantages of such a tiny little seed that’s been around since ages.
Foods like dairy, pulses, nuts and seeds are called as ‘triple threats’ as they contain a mix of proteins, fats and carbs making them well balanced from a macronutrient standpoint. Flax seeds are the best of this lot.
Flaxseeds are a part of many kinds of foods today, right from crackers to frozen waffles and oatmeal because of its healthy components. Out of many, the three main nutrients in flax seed include:
Omega-3 fatty acids: More than half the fat content of flax seeds is the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is a plant-based source of omega-3s. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
Lignans: These help to reduce the risk of breast cancer as they have antioxidant qualities along with plant estrogen. Flaxseeds contain 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
Fiber: Flaxseeds are a great source of both soluble (20-40%) and insoluble fiber (60-80%). Soluble fiber helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Whole flax seeds contain 55 calories per tablespoon while ground flax contains 37 calories. Ground flaxseed is better compared to whole ones as they enable the body to absorb all the nutrients fully. Instead of buying the readymade form of ground flaxseeds, it is better to buy whole ones and grind them as and when needed as ground flaxseeds sitting in supermarket shelves for a long time can turn stale. Refrigerate any form of flax seed for longer life.
Why are Flax Seeds Personified to be Superfoods?
None of the health benefits of flax seeds listed below are conclusively established while research suggests that flax seeds may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and lung disease.
Cancer: Lignans present in flax seeds function as phytoestrogens (like estrogens these plant compounds compete with them to bind on receptor sites on cells). More they fight against each other, less the chance of hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast, uterine and prostate cancers.
Heart Disease: Omega-3s and fiber content of flax seeds play a crucial role in reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL levels, blood pressure, oxidative stress and inflammation in the arteries. The cholesterol-lowering effect of flax seeds is due to the combined effect of omega-3 ALA, fiber and lignans.
Diabetes: The lignans and the soluble fiber in flax seeds help to reduce blood glucose levels decreasing the chances of diabetes.
Inflammation: ALA and lignans in flax seeds can reduce the inflammation which is associated with certain illnesses such as arthritis, high blood pressure and certain autoimmune conditions by helping block the release of certain pro-inflammatory agents.
Digestive health: Ground flax seeds help to prevent diarrhea and constipation because of the soluble and insoluble fiber present in them. Flax is an excellent source of food for good bacteria to thrive upon.
Weight loss: Thick paste made from ground flax seeds and water helps to suppress appetite and cravings to promote weight loss.
Who Can & Cannot Use Flax Seeds
Pregnant and breast-feeding women are advised against consuming ground flax seeds.
Too much of flax seeds (5 tablespoons) can impair the thyroid gland and can also cause bloating, gas and nausea in people not used to eating too much fiber.
Flaxseeds are considered to a superfood and have become popular because of their high fiber and omega-3 content, both of which are said to have a whole lot of health benefits. But there is nothing called as superfood and this term is just a gimmick used for marketing. Read more on superfoods and their falsely advertised claims from the website www.firsteatright.com. It is advisable to consume one or two tablespoons of ground flax seed daily for overall health and nutrition.