Flaxseeds are good sources of many nutrients. Their health benefits are mainly due to their content of omega-3 fats, lignans and fiber. Flaxseeds are a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Plant-based ALA fatty acids are proven to have heart health benefits and are linked to a lower risk of stroke. Also flaxseeds contain a group of nutrients called lignans, which have powerful antioxidant and estrogen properties. They may help in preventing breast and prostate cancer, as well as other types of cancer. With so much fiber packed in each tiny seed, adding flaxseeds to your diet promotes regular bowel movements and can improve your digestive health.
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.
Drink plenty of water. The soluble fiber in flax will soak up water, and if you don't drink enough, constipation may result. Remember to start slowly if you aren’t used to a high-fiber diet. If you purchase the whole seeds, you need to grind them up to get the benefit. 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.
If you're not sure how to start incorporating flaxseed into your diet, try the suggestions below:
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.
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
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.
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