Many people are still unaware of the benefits of eating flaxseed and its possible applications in food. But the truth is that this small seed is one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids that exists and is incredibly rich in fiber and unique plant compounds. In fact, studies have shown that eating flaxseed reduces cholesterol and blood pressure, prevents digestive problems and even helps you lose weight. Learn what flaxseed is, what its best properties and healthy benefits are and learn what is the best way to consume it to get the most out of its virtues.
What is Flaxseed?
Flaxseed is the name given to flax seeds (Linum usitatissimum), a small-sized oilseed from the Middle East. In some countries, its use and cultivation are very old, but it is currently when flaxseed is becoming popular as a healthy food. In the beginning, flaxseed was mainly produced to produce industrial oil. However, recent discoveries about the benefits and properties of ground flaxseed in health have aroused new interest in this small seed. Flaxseed can be dark brown or light yellow and is marketed as whole, ground or roasted seeds or as an oil.
Note: ground flaxseed is the best way to take advantage of its healthy properties.
Flaxseed stands out for its high fiber and protein content and its reduced amount of carbohydrates. Regarding its nutrients, 100 grams of flaxseed (whole seeds) contain:
- Manganese: 124% CDR (recommended daily amount).
- Vitamin B1: 110% CDR.
- Magnesium: 98% CDR.
- Phosphorus: 64% CDR.
- Copper: 61% CDR.
- Selenium: 36% CDR.
- Iron: 32% CDR.
- Zinc: 29% CDR.
- Omega 3:81 g; one of the best vegetable sources of omega 3 fatty acids.
- Omega 6:9 grams.
- Fiber:3 grams.
- Protein:3 grams.
- Calories: 534.
Also, flaxseed has several plant compounds full of healthy properties:
- P-Cumaric acid: one of the main antioxidants present in flaxseed.
- Ferulic acid: antioxidants that help prevent certain chronic diseases.
- Cyanogen glycosides: These substances can form compounds, called thiocyanates, that can impair thyroid function in some people.
- Phytosterols: associated with the reduction of blood cholesterol.
- Lignans: Flaxseed is the richest source of lignans, as it contains 800 times more lignans than other foods.
Note: Brown flaxseed contains slightly more antioxidants than yellow flaxseed.
What is Flaxseed for?
1. Lowers Blood Cholesterol Levels:
Studies conducted in humans have revealed that daily consumption of flaxseed or flaxseed oil can reduce blood cholesterol levels between 6% and 11%. Flaxseed has also been shown to decrease the number of LDL cholesterol particles by 9-18%, which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Likewise, flaxseed “increases” the effects of drugs designed to reduce cholesterol: in a 12-month study, flaxseed caused an additional 8.5% reduction in LDL cholesterol: Apparently, this anti-hypercholesterolemic effect is due to its high content of fiber and lignans.
2. Contributes to Weight Loss:
If you are following a weight loss diet, add flaxseed to your diet. Flax seeds are rich in soluble fiber, a substance that, upon reaching your intestine, forms a kind of gel that delays the emptying of the stomach and, at the same time, increases the duration of the process of digestion and absorption of nutrients. In other words, the soluble fiber present in flaxseed reduces appetite and decreases calorie intake and cravings.
3. Regulates Blood Pressure:
Flaxseed is the most effective food that exists to lower blood pressure. According to a study conducted on people with hypertension for 6 months, the intake of flaxseed reduced systolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 7 mmHg. It is important to keep in mind that for each reduction equivalent to 5 mmHg and 2-5 mmHg in systolic and diastolic blood pressure respectively:
- The risk of stroke falls by 11-13%
- The risk of heart disease drops by 34%
4. Prevents the Development of Cardiovascular Diseases:
One of the extraordinary characteristics of flaxseed is the high amount of omega 3 fatty acids it contains, which are remarkably known for their positive effects on cardiovascular health. The main omega 3 fat present in flaxseed is alpha linoleic acid (ALA), which has been shown to:
- It reduces inflammation of the arteries.
- Prevents strokes, heart attacks and kidney disease.
- The risk of sudden death decreases by 73%.
5. Promotes the Digestive System:
Digestive problems, such as diarrhea or constipation, are very common disorders that affect a large number of people. Although they generally do not present serious complications, they can alter the day to day of the person who suffers them. In this case, flaxseeds positively affect both digestive disorders thanks to their fiber content:
- The insoluble fiber adds bulk to waste digestion, thus acting as a laxative and reducing constipation.
- The soluble fiber binds water in the digestive system and increases stool bulk, which prevents diarrhea.
6. Improves the Symptoms of Diabetes:
On the one hand, it has been confirmed that daily consumption of 10-20 g of ground flaxseeds for a period of 1 or 2 months can reduce fasting blood glucose by almost 20%.
“But, on the other hand, there are some studies that have not found links between flaxseed intake and blood glucose and insulin levels”.
However, if you are a diabetic person, you can take flaxseeds with ease, because in no case has it been shown to have negative effects on diabetes.
7. Protects Against Various Types of Cancer:
Flaxseed consumption has also been linked to the prevention of various kinds of cancer, such as breast, colon, skin or lung cancer. Increasing levels of sex hormones in the blood increases the risk of some cancers and it seems that flaxseeds may decrease serum levels of sex hormones in overweight women and thus prevent the occurrence of breast cancer. There are also studies that have confirmed that flaxseeds can protect you against prostate cancer.
Possible Risks of Consuming Flaxseed:
Generally, most people tend to tolerate flaxseed quite well and cases of allergic reactions are very rare. However, it is advisable to drink plenty of water when this seed is consumed. Regarding possible adverse effects caused by the intake of flaxseed, there are some special situations that must be taken into account:
People with thyroid problems should refrain from consuming large amounts of flaxseed. When the cyanogenic glycosides present in flaxseeds bind sulfur compounds in the body, they can form toxic substances that damage thyroid function in some people. This only happens when the amount of toxic substances, called thiocyanates, is very high. The maximum recommended dose of flaxseeds is 50 grams per day for totally healthy people, which is equivalent to about 5 tablespoons.
Flaxseed, like other seeds, contains phytic acid, which can act as an antinutrient and hinder the absorption of some minerals such as iron and zinc. However, this is not a big problem except for those who suffer from a lack of minerals.
The high fiber content present in flaxseeds can cause bloating, stomach pain, gas and nausea, as well as diarrhea. If you want to avoid these effects, incorporate flaxseeds into your diet little by little until you reach one or two tablespoons daily.
Some animal studies have revealed that flaxseed lignans can affect the development of the offspring reproductive system, mainly when flaxseeds is consumed during pregnancy. For this reason, it is advisable to limit the intake of flaxseeds during the period of pregnancy and lactation.
If you suffer from any bleeding disease or are taking anticoagulant drugs, consult your doctor before consuming flax seeds. High intake of omega 3 fatty acids may have anticoagulant effects.
Flaxseed are an incredibly nutritious food rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and unique plant compounds. Consume it every day and you will reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, avoid digestive problems and even lose weight in a totally healthy, natural and delicious way.