Managing cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular and digestive health, cancer, hot flashes, great skin and hair…. what can’t 1-2 tablespoons of daily flaxseed do for you?
Tiny but mighty, flaxseed is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. The seeds come from flax, one of the oldest crops in the world. Flaxseed was first cultivated in Babylon in 3000 BC, followed by Egypt and China. King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flax seeds that he passed a law to make sure his subjects ate flaxseeds. Flaxseeds belong to the Linaceae family and are botanically known as Linum usitatissimum. It is called sana bija in Hindi.
Flax Seed Benefits for Health:
The therapeutic and health benefits of flax seeds are popular around the world. The health benefits of flax seeds come from the high amounts of fiber, antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids present in it. A tablespoon of ground flaxseeds contains 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids and 2 grams of fiber with just 37 calories.
1. High in Phytochemicals and Antioxidants:
Flaxseeds are one of the best sources of lignan, an estrogen-like chemical compound that scavenges the free radicals in the body. It contains 75-800 times more lignans than other plant-based foods. A 100 grams serving provides 0.3 grams of lignan. Lignans promote fertility and reduce the peri-menopausal syndrome. Flaxseeds have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which mitigate and protect against pneumonopathy.
2. Prevents Cancer:
The antioxidants in flaxseeds provide protection from cancer and heart diseases. Recent studies have concluded that flaxseeds can significantly lower the risk of developing breast, prostate and colon cancer. The lignans present in flaxseeds have antigenic properties. They prevent the tumors from forming new blood cells. The seeds contain ALA, an omega 3 fatty acid that inhibits tumor incidence and interferes with the growth and spread of cancer. Consumption of flaxseeds can also increase survival in breast cancer patients.
3. Improves Digestive Health:
Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber present in flaxseeds improves the movement of food through the intestines. The mucilaginous fiber in flaxseeds also improves the intestinal absorption of nutrients. The soluble fiber dissolves in the water and creates a gel-like substance, keeping the stomach full for a longer time.
4. Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases:
The amino and omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseeds can significantly lower high blood pressure. A diet rich in flaxseeds can prevent hardening of the arteries. It also prevents the deposition of plaque in the arteries by keeping white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessels’ inner linings. Lignans in flaxseed reduce the atherosclerotic plaque buildup by 75%. It is also useful in treating irregular heartbeat. The alpha linolenic acid in flaxseeds protects the blood vessels from inflammatory damage.
5. Reduces High Cholesterol:
Research has suggested that eating flaxseeds daily can reduce the cholesterol level significantly. It contains omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and lignan, which work together to reduce cholesterol. The low-density lipoprotein in the blood stream is often linked with heart diseases, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
6. Controls Diabetes:
Several researchers have concluded that daily intake of lignan-rich foods stabilizes blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity. According to research, people who consumed flaxseeds for 12 weeks noticed a significant drop in their insulin resistance. This is due to the drop in oxidant stress caused by its high antioxidant levels.
7. Fights Inflammation:
Inflammation is mostly caused due to the deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acid is a key nutrient for fighting inflammation in the body. ALA and lignans found in flaxseeds may reduce inflammation by blocking the release of certain pro-inflammatory agents. Consumption of flaxseeds increases the production of two other omega 3 fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), which provide further inflammatory protection.
8. Reduces Hot Flashes:
A study published in 2007 found that consuming 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds in women could reduce their hot flashes by half. Flaxseed is a potential aid in managing perimenopausal and post- menopausal symptoms.
Flax Seed Benefits for Skin
Flaxseeds and its oil contain several skin-friendly nutrients that can help to improve the health of the skin. Flaxseed oil is added to a number of skin care products like shower gels, moisturizers and sunscreen.
The high levels of lignans and omega 3 fatty acids promote healthy bowel movements, preventing skin diseases. Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely important for the healthy growth and development of the skin cells. The lignans present in flaxseeds improve the appearance of the skin by reducing the levels of DHT in the body.
10. Skin Healing:
The omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseeds increase the speed at which wounds heal. Flaxseed is best known for its high anti-inflammatory levels. You can successfully minimize skin irritation, rashes, inflammation and redness by regularly consuming flaxseeds. Thus, benefits of eating flax seeds are many for skin. It also shrinks the possibility of acne, dermatitis and psoriasis.
Dry skin can lead to several skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and other signs of ageing. The essential fatty acids in flaxseed keep the skin hydrated and moisturized. Regular intake of flaxseeds increases the body’s natural oil production, keeping the skin baby soft. A daily massage with flaxseed oil prevents irritants from entering the pores. It also locks moisture into the skin, keeping dryness at bay. Well-moisturized skin also delays the onset of wrinkles, right?
12. Prevents Skin Cancer:
A diet rich in flaxseeds may protect the skin tissues from radiation. Researchers have found that flaxseeds significantly reduce skin damage after sun exposure. The antioxidants present in flaxseeds fight the free radicals, preventing skin cancer.
13. Controls Acne:
Flaxseeds control the production of sebum, an oily substance produced by the skin glands, preventing the onset of acne. Eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of milled flaxseed daily to achieve healthy and younger-looking skin.
You can also prepare a scrub from ground flaxseeds to exfoliate the skin. Mix flaxseed powder with yoghurt, honey and mix well. Scrub your skin gently with it for 10 minutes and wash off. The scrub removes dead skin cells and rejuvenates it, leaving it silky smooth.
Flax Seed Benefits for Hair:
Flaxseeds are packed with nutrients like protein, calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron and omega 3 fatty acids, which are required for the growth of your hair. A daily dose of flaxseeds can make your hair healthy, vibrant and strong.
15. Prevents Hair Breakage:
The high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseeds increase the hair’s elasticity, making it less prone to breakage. It endows you with stronger hair.
16. Reduces Dandruff:
The anti-inflammatory properties of flaxseeds reduce the possibility of dandruff, eczema and other scalp conditions. The seeds stimulate the production of sebum in the scalp, preventing flaking and dandruff.
17. Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Flaxseed is one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids. A deficiency in this essential nutrient can cause dry and brittle hair. Healthy consumption of flaxseeds may make your hair stronger.
18. Prevents Cicatricial alopecia:
Including flaxseeds in your diet can help to ameliorate several hair conditions. The anti-inflammatory properties of flaxseeds prevent cicatricial alopecia, a permanent hair loss condition. Cicatricial alopecia damages the hair follicles severely, preventing the growth of healthy hair.
19. Prevents Male Baldness:
The alpha linolenic acid in flaxseeds inhibits 5 alpha reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT shrinks the hair follicles, leading to baldness. The ALA, linolenic acid and oleic acid in flaxseeds are used as natural remedies to treat male baldness. It also prevents hair loss due to Telogen effluvium.
Nutritional Value of Flax Seeds:
There are two types of flaxseeds- brown and golden. The nutritional profile of both the varieties is almost the same.
Flaxseeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants. It is high in B complex vitamin, manganese and magnesium. Additionally, flaxseeds are low in carbohydrates, making it ideal for people who are on a weight loss and diabetic diet.
|(Source: USDA National Nutrient database)|
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||42.16 g||170%|
|Dietary Fiber||27.3 g||68%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.985 mg||20%|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0%|
|Vitamin C||0.6 mg||1%|
|Vitamin E||19.95 mg||133%|
|Vitamin K||4.3 µg||3.5%|
Availability and Storage:
Both brown and golden varieties of flaxseeds are easily available in the supermarket and at health stores. They are mainly sold in bulk and packages. Whole flaxseeds last over a year if stored correctly. It is advisable to purchase whole flaxseeds and grind them into powder at home itself. Whole flaxseeds are best stored in a cool and dry place.
The oil present in flaxseed is highly unsaturated. This means that it can turn rancid if stored incorrectly. Flaxseeds are best stored in their own shell. They can easily last for a year if not exposed to heat. It is best consumed within a few weeks of opening.
- Flaxseeds are often used as an egg substitute in baked goods. The soluble fiber in this seed adds structure to the cake and muffins.
- Sprinkle ground flaxseeds over oats, cereals, yoghurt and smoothies.
- You can cook flaxseeds in casseroles, meatball and curries. Use 4 to 8 tablespoons of flaxseeds in a dish serving 6 to 8 people.
- It also goes well with dosa, chapatti dough, buttermilk, chutney and upma.
- The seeds from the flax plant can also be pressed to make vegetable oil, commonly known as linseed oil.
- Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to your cheese spread or mayonnaise when making a sandwich.
Most nutrition experts recommend ground flaxseeds over the whole ones. Whole flaxseeds pass through the intestine undigested, preventing you from getting all the benefits. Flaxseeds need to be ground to make the nutrients available to the body. You can use a processor or blender to grind the flaxseeds at home.
Ground flaxseeds lose their nutritive value if exposed to air or sunlight. Store ground flaxseeds in the refrigerator in a cool and dry place to prolong its shelf life. Unlike the seeds, flaxseed oil does not contain fiber or phytochemicals. It is not recommended for this reason.
Flaxseed Oil Side Effects:
- Flaxseeds are extremely high in calories and can have a laxative effect if consumed in large quantities. People with irritable bowel syndrome can have a strong reaction to it.
- People suffering from a seizure disorder should avoid flaxseed supplements as it can aggravate the condition.
- People taking blood thinning, blood sugar, topical steroids, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering medications should avoid eating flaxseeds.
- Flaxseeds contain small amounts of cyanide compounds, which can have neurotoxic effects in the body. They should not be consumed in large quantities. Heating the flax seeds can help break these compounds. Our body can also neutralize a certain amounts of these compounds.
- Pregnant and lactating mothers should not supplement their diet with ground flaxseed. It has estrogen-like properties that can affect the pregnancy outcome. It may also cause birth defects and spontaneous abortion in pregnant women.
- Drink plenty of water while consuming flaxseed, so that it does not swell up or obstruct the throat or digestive tract.
- Other side effects of flaxseeds include itching, rashes and shortness of breath.
Flaxseeds may block the normal absorption of medicines. Take medicines an hour or two before consuming flaxseeds. The seed and oil may react with painkillers, blood thinners and medicines for high blood pressure.
Never eat unripe or raw flaxseed, as it could be poisonous. People suffering from bleeding disorders, diabetes and high triglycerides should seek medical advice before consuming flaxseeds. Speak to your doctor before taking or increasing the dietary levels of flax seeds. Doctors recommend 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds for daily consumption.
Hope you got to know the flax seed benefits and side effects, the nutritional value and uses! Have you ever used flax seeds or knew its benefits before? In which way they benefited you? You can feel free to share your feedback with us in the below comment section!