Grown since the beginning of civilization, flaxseeds are one of the oldest crops. There are two types, brown and golden, which are equally nutritious. A typical serving size for ground flaxseeds is 1 tablespoon (7 grams). Just one tablespoon provides a good amount of protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, in addition to being a rich source of some vitamins and minerals.
If you are a vegetarian or don't eat fish, flaxseeds can be your best source of omega-3 fats. They are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a mostly plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. ALA is one of the two essential fatty acids that you have to obtain from the food you eat, as your body doesn't produce them. Animal studies have shown that the ALA in flaxseeds prevented cholesterol from being deposited in the blood vessels of the heart, reduced inflammation in the arteries and reduced tumor growth.
Lignans are plant compounds that have antioxidant and estrogen properties, both of which can help lower the risk of cancer and improve health. Interestingly, flaxseeds contain up to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods. Observational studies show that those who eat flaxseeds have a lower risk of breast cancer, particularly postmenopausal women. Additionally, according to a Canadian study involving more than 6,000 women, those who eat flaxseeds are 18% less likely to develop breast cancer. However, men can also benefit from eating flaxseeds. In a small study including 15 men, those given 30 grams of flaxseeds a day while following a low-fat diet showed reduced levels of a prostate cancer marker, suggesting a lower risk of prostate cancer
Lignans found in the flaxseed have been shown to have many benefits for menopausal women. In fact, flaxseed can be used as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy in some cases or as a complementary approach to balancing hormones due to the estrogenic properties that lignans have.
Due to flax’s ability to balance estrogen, flaxseeds may also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It can even help menstruating women by helping to maintain cycle regularity, such as encouraging a normal length luteal phase (the period between ovulation and menstruation).
Just one tablespoon of flaxseeds contains 3 grams of fiber, which is 8–12% of the daily recommended intake for men and women, respectively. This fiber duo gets fermented by the bacteria in the large bowel, bulks up stools and results in more regular bowel movements. On one hand, soluble fiber increases the consistency of the contents of your intestine and slows down your digestion rate. This has been shown to help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol .
Another health benefit of flaxseeds is their ability to lower cholesterol levels. In one study in people with high cholesterol, consuming 3 tablespoons (30 grams) of flaxseed powder daily for three months lowered total cholesterol by 17% and "bad" LDL cholesterol by almost 20%. Another study of people with diabetes found that taking 1 tablespoon (10 grams) of flaxseed powder daily for one month resulted in a 12% increase in "good" HDL cholesterol .
Studies on flaxseeds have also focused on its natural ability to lower blood pressure. A Canadian study found eating 30 grams of flaxseeds daily for six months lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg and 7 mmHg, respectively. For those who were already taking blood pressure medication, flaxseeds lowered blood pressure even further and decreased the number of patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure by 17%. Furthermore, according to a large review that looked at data from 11 studies, taking flaxseeds daily for more than three months lowered blood pressure by 2 mmHg.
Type 2 diabetes is a major health problem worldwide. A few studies have found that people with type 2 diabetes who added 10–20 grams of flaxseed powder to their daily diet for at least one month saw reductions of 8–20% in blood sugar levels.
This blood sugar-lowering effect is notably due to flax seeds' insoluble fiber content. Research has found that insoluble fiber slows down the release of sugar into the blood and reduces blood sugar.
Overall, flax seeds can be a beneficial and nutritious addition to the diet of people with diabetes.
Why is flaxseed good for your hair? Flaxseeds benefits for hair include making it shinier, stronger and more resistant to damage. The ALA fats in flaxseeds benefits the skin and hair by providing essential fatty acids as well as B vitamins, which can help reduce dryness and flakiness. It can also improve symptoms of acne, rosacea and eczema. The same benefits also apply to eye health, as flax can help reduce dry eye syndrome due to its lubricating effects.
Using flax is a great way to naturally replace gluten-containing grains in recipes. Grains, especially those containing gluten, can be hard to digest for many people, but flax is usually easily metabolized and also anti-inflammatory.
Because flax can absorb a lot of liquid and help bind ingredients you’re using in cooking/baking recipes, but it does not contain any gluten, flaxseeds are a good choice for those who have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. As a gluten-free method of baking, you can use flaxseed along with coconut flour in recipes to add moisture, form a desirable texture and get some healthy fats. They are also a good alternative to getting omega-3 fats from fish.
If one were to conjure up an ideal, imaginary plant that could provide food, offer healing, and produce many useful products, one could not improve on the multiplicity of the flax plant.
Scientists and product manufacturers are still discovering new ways to use the flax plant, an unassuming herb whose attractive blue flowers do not even bloom for an entire day.
Archeological remains indicate that several plants were first cultivated about the same time in Mesopotamia before traveling southward to Egypt. These plants included flax, emmer wheat, barley, einkorn wheat, peas, lentils, chickpeas, and bitter vetch.
In establishing an acquaintance with flaxseeds, one cannot ignore its strong connection to the linen fibers derived from the plant. Linen was used to wrap the mummies of ancient Egypt dating back at least 5,000 BCE.
In his epic poem The Iliad (8th century BCE) Homer writes that linen was used for cord and sail-cloth, an indication that the Greeks were cultivating flax plants and were, no doubt, consuming the seeds as well. The Latin name for the flax plant is linum , derived from the Greek linon. The plant's common name, flax, is Middle English, originally from the Old English fleax, and related to the German flachs that means to plait, or interweave, such as in braiding. The plaiting or weaving connection grew out of the linen fibers taken from the flax plant and spun into thread.
The ancient Greeks made nourishing, high-fiber bread by combining flaxseeds with corn.
Flax Oil In the Middle East flaxseed oil provided the base for Ful Medames, a traditional dish consisting of cooked fava beans seasoned with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt that remains a favorite today.
The Germans prepare a linseed bread called Leinsamenbrot, a heavy, dense bread containing whole flaxseeds, mainly as a remedy for constipation. However, its whole-grain composition and rich flavor make the bread a tasty health food.
For centuries, flaxseeds have been prized for their health-protective properties. In fact, Charles the Great ordered his subjects to eat flaxseeds for their health. So it's no wonder they acquired the name Linum usitatissimum, meaning "the most useful." Nowadays, flaxseeds are emerging as a "super food" as more scientific research points to their health benefits.
Preparation: It is best to start slowly when adding flax seeds to your diet. Drink plenty of water. The soluble fiber in flax will soak up water, and if you don't drink enough, constipation may result. Add a teaspoon of flax seed flour to a cup of water and drink it in the morning, or add it to your smoothies, shakes or soup.
Flax is often used as an egg substitute in baked goods. The soluble fiber adds structure to the food. About 2/3 to 3/4 cup of flaxseed yields 1 cup of flax meal.
Raw or toasted: Sprinkle over cottage cheese, ricotta, yogurt, or breakfast cereal. Use it in shakes and it will thicken them somewhat. Cooked in a hot cereal: For example, try hot flax peanut butter cereal. Cooked into other foods: Try meatloaf, meatballs, or casseroles.
Precaution: Flax seed is safe in prescribed amounts. However, be aware that flaxseed acts as a blood thinner, so if you’re taking any blood thinners such aspirin or other NSAIDs, you should consult your physician. Additionally, avoid flaxseeds if you have hormone-sensitive breast or uterine cancer, and use with caution if you have high cholesterol and are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.
FDA Disclaimer: These statements and products have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. Always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.
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