Flaxseed is one of the oldest foods consumed by humans. Many people consider it to be one of the world’s first cultivated superfoods! Today, flaxseed is used in all kinds of foods, from crackers to cakes to oatmeal to smoothies.
Its nutty taste and aroma are liked by many. Another reason behind its popularity is its nutritional value that provides many health benefits.
The three most important nutritional elements of flaxseed are omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and mucilage. Plus, flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber along with vitamin B1, protein, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
Flaxseed is also gluten-free, so it is a valuable alternative if you are allergic to wheat or suffer from celiac disease.
Flaxseed comes in two basic varieties— brown and yellow or golden. It is readily available in the market in whole, ground, oil or supplement form. Make sure to consult your doctor before taking flaxseed supplements.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of flaxseed.
1. Protects Against Heart Disease
Flaxseed contains many heart-healthy nutrients that can keep many heart diseases at bay. It is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids that are important to keep your heart in optimal heath.
Evidence shows that people who eat a diet rich in alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) are less likely to have a fatal heart attack.
Plus, flaxseed helps reduce heart disease and stroke by reducing the build-up of plaque in the arteries, and inflammation which is known to promote hardening of the arteries.
You can include ground flaxseed in your diet for a healthier heart.
2. Eases Menopausal Symptoms
A 2013 study found that flaxseed can be very effective for menopausal women to fight the symptoms of menopause. The lignans in flaxseed have estrogenic properties that can help reduce hot flashes, mood disturbances and vaginal dryness.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests that women take 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed 2 or 3 times per day to treat menopausal symptoms. It can even help menstruating women maintain a regular cycle and promote fertility.
3. Lowers Bad Cholesterol
Regular intake of flaxseed can help reduce bad cholesterol from your body. A 2010 study published in Nutrition Research found that consuming 100 mg of flaxseed daily is effective at reducing blood cholesterol levels and also lowering the risk of liver disease in men with moderately high levels of cholesterol.
Several flavonoids found in flaxseed help lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, and may also reduce your risk of heart disease. Flaxseed also contains soluble fiber that helps prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the body.
Consume 2 to 4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily to help lower your LDL.
4. Promotes Weight Loss
The three main components in flaxseed that aid weight loss are omega-3 essential fatty acids, fiber and lignans. The healthy fat and fiber help suppress your appetite and help you stay satisfied and fueled for a longer time. Plus, flaxseed has B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and zinc, which are essential in weight loss.
Also, flaxseed reduces inflammation, which is important for weight loss. It has been found that an inflamed body will tend to hold on to excess weight.
When it comes to weight loss, use ground flaxseed rather than the whole ones. Sprinkle it on your salads, soups, yogurt, smoothies or any vegetable or mixed juice.
5. Reduces Cancer Risk
Studies supported by the American Institute for Cancer Research indicate there is a link between flaxseed and reduced risk of cancer. Initially, it was found that flaxseed is effective against breast cancer, but now studies have found it is also beneficial in fighting prostate, ovarian and colon cancer.
The high levels of lignans found in flaxseed protect against breast cancer by blocking enzymes involved in hormone metabolism and responsible for the growth and spread of tumor cells. Plus, both ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil are high in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that is beneficial against cancer.
You can add ground flaxseed to yogurt or a smoothie. Also, add flaxseed oil to salad dressings and baked goods.
6. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Daily intake of flaxseed can improve blood sugar levels in people who have Type 2 diabetes. A 2007 study published in Public Library of Science One found that people who consumed flaxseed-derived lignan supplements for 12 weeks had lower blood sugar levels.
Plus, flaxseed has alpha-linolenic acid, as well as protein and fiber that are important for controlling high blood sugar. Maintaining a normal blood sugar level can also prevent complications like kidney failure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
You can consult your doctor and take flaxseeds along with your medicines for controlling diabetes. Keep monitoring your blood sugar levels to avoid the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
7. Improves Digestive Health
Flaxseed is high in fiber that is essential for a healthy digestive system. It can help smooth passage of food through the intestines and even improve intestinal absorption of nutrients. The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed also protect the lining of the digestive tract and help maintain gastrointestinal health.
Plus, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil work as natural laxatives and can alleviate constipation. However, when consuming ground flaxseed, make sure to also drink a good amount of water or it can cause side effects.
Note: People suffering from diarrhea and chronic digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, or diverticulitis should avoid flaxseed because of its laxative effect.
8. Aids Detoxification
The main purpose of detoxifying your body is to make sure harmful toxins, cholesterol and other waste products processed by the liver are eliminated properly. Flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber that are very effective in flushing out toxins from the intestinal tract.
Plus, flaxseed is loaded with essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 faty acids that are essential for many cleansing functions and maintaining a healthy immune system.
When the body is free from toxins, there is less chance of suffering from chronic fatigue, weakness, inflammation, and congestion.
You can use both whole and ground flaxseed for detoxification. Soak 1 tablespoon of whole flaxseed in a cup of water overnight. The next morning, eat both the seeds and gel. Repeat daily for 2 weeks. You can also add 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed to any green detox smoothie.
9. Solves Hair Problems
Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that nourish hair follicles to make them strong and healthy. The vitamin E in flaxseed provides nourishment to the hair roots, shafts and the scalp and helps treat hair loss and prevent baldness. In fact, it can even help people recover from psoriasis-related hair loss.
So, include freshly ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil in your regular diet. Those with curly and frizzy hair can also use a hair gel prepared by boiling flaxseeds in water.
10. Makes Skin Healthy
The healthy fats and B vitamins in flaxseed and flaxseed oil are beneficial for the skin. Flaxseed can help reduce dryness and flakiness and improve symptoms of acne, rosacea, eczema, skin allergies and sunburn.
As flaxseed has anti-inflammatory properties, it can minimize skin irritation, rashes, tissue inflammation and redness. Plus, the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed help keep your skin hydrated and smooth. Also, it can speed up healing of skin wounds.
Mix flaxseed oil with a few drops of an essential oil and use it as a natural skin moisturizer. Also, eat flaxseed on a daily basis for healthier and younger-looking skin.
- Pregnant women and possibly breastfeeding mothers should avoid taking ground flaxseed or flaxseed supplements.
- People taking blood-thinners, should consult their doctor before taking flaxseed for health purposes as it can increase the risk of bleeding. Those suffering from prostate cancer, high triglycerides, hypothyroidism, and hormone-sensitive conditions should also take flaxseed with caution.
- When using flaxseed along with diabetes medications to stabilize your blood sugar levels, make sure to monitor your blood sugar levels.
- When taking flaxseed for health purposes, make sure to drink plenty of water as well otherwise it may cause gastrointestinal side effects.
- Do not take large amounts of flaxseeds as it may cause intestinal obstruction.