Flaxseeds are a healthy functional food recommended by many a fitness or health guru. Whether it is postmenopausal women looking for relief from hot flashes or men trying to ward off heart disease or prostate cancer, flaxseeds seem to have something to offer to all of us. You’ve also probably heard that the nutritional benefits of flaxseeds are numerous. Well, we’ll spell them out for you here!
Here’s what’s driving the use of the distinctive little brown seeds.
Nutritional Benefits Of Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds may seem diminutive, but these tiny brown seeds pack a punch.
- They are a source of high-quality protein and dietary fiber.
- They have phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and vasodilatory actions.
- They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are essential fatty acids your body requires, –
- They are high in nutrients like folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus.
- These seeds are also among the richest sources of lignans, usually found in grains and cereals.1 2
Health Benefits Of Flaxseeds
1. Tackle Your Weight
The high fiber content in flaxseed helps fight obesity. Consuming these filling seeds can help keep you satiated longer due to their high protein and fiber content. Both these nutrients have been identified as satiating foods and can help you cut calorie intake and potentially aid weight loss.3
A tablespoon of the seeds contains nearly 2 gm of protein and about 2.8 gm of dietary fiber with just 55 calories.4 Just sprinkle flaxseeds some over your cereal or into your meals to fill up without loading on calories.
2. Fight Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis affects 50 percent of women aged 45 and over. This skeletal disorder is something postmenopausal women run the risk of developing as a result of ovarian hormone deficiency.5 Due to this connect, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one route chosen for treatment. However, HRT is replete with side effects including a possible risk of cancer, making people seek alternatives.
According to research, the lignans in flaxseed can act as phytoestrogens or plant estrogen, offering an alternative to HRT to maintain and improve skeletal health.6 Also, the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in the seeds can lower rate of bone resorption – that is, the breakdown of bone tissue and the subsequent release of minerals into the blood.
As one study found, consuming flaxseed in the diet over two six-week periods, back to back, helped reduce the rate at which bone resorption happened in the body. Test subjects were postmenopausal women who were given 38 gm a day of flaxseeds, incorporated into their diet through bread and muffins.7
3. Boost Cardiovascular Health
The dietary fiber, omega 3 fatty acid ALA, and the phytoestrogen lignans in flaxseeds all combine to offer good protection against cardiovascular diseases, including coronary heart disease. Research has found that eating flaxseed daily can help lower total cholesterol by between 6 and 11 percent. The bad low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol drops by as much as 9 to 18 percent. For those who have hypercholesterolemia, total and LDL cholesterol drop by 5 to 17 percent and 4 to 10 percent, respectively. In addition, the seeds have an anti-inflammatory mechanism that prevents plaque from forming in your arteries.8
4. Offer Benefits For Renal Disease
If you have lupus nephritis or other renal diseases, you may benefit from consuming the lignans in flaxseeds. Studies have leveraged the properties of ALA and lignans in flaxseeds to treat lupus nephritis. In one test, 30 gm of flaxseed consumed every day helped improve renal function and brought positive changes to atherogenic and inflammatory mechanisms affected by the illness.9
5. Treat Hyperglycemia
Flaxseed gum can help limit diabetes risk thanks to its role as a dietary fiber. It can reduce the blood glucose response and keep the glucose profile in check, reducing spikes and dips. If you have glucose intolerance, you will benefit from this improved blood glucose control.10
The protein in flaxseed can also help stimulate insulin secretion, thus lowering the glycemic response. This makes it a valuable addition to the diet of anyone who is hoping to treat hyperglycemia.11
6. Improve Digestive Health
Flaxseeds contain a high amount of fiber in a small portion. This makes them a good digestive aid to keep your bowel movements regular and digestive system working well. In fact, they can help treat not just constipation but also diarrhea, by virtue of the laxative action and antidiarrheal activity of flaxseed oil and mucilage in the seedcoat.12
7. Exert Anti-Cancer Effect
Flaxseed intake is believed to have protective effects against cancer, specifically those of the breast/mammary glands and the prostate. Omega 3 fatty acids and phytoestrogens both have anticancer properties. Animal studies have found that a diet that includes flaxseeds helps inhibit the growth of breast cancer and can also prevent it from spreading to other organs like the lungs and lymph nodes.13
A human study of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer evaluated the effects of taking 25 gm flaxseed in a muffin every day for an average of about 32 days each. Consuming flaxseed slowed tumor growth and induced death of tumor cells.14
In another study, prostate cancer patients were given 30 gm of flaxseed a day for around 30 days in the period leading up to their prostatectomy. Proliferation rates in men who took the flaxseed were significantly lower than in those who were on the control or low-fat diet only. There were no new side effects as a result of this intake, leading researchers to suggest that the seed could help offer protection against prostate cancer safely.15
8. Alleviate Menopausal Symptoms
Women going through menopause can get relief from symptoms of menopause including vaginal dryness and hot flashes with the help of flaxseeds. Phytoestrogens in flaxseed flour, when consumed by postmenopausal women, have been found to help boost estrogen activity.16
Who Can Benefit From Having Flaxseeds?
Due to the benefits with menopausal symptoms and protection against breast cancer, there is a strong case for women consuming flaxseed in their diet. In addition, the cardiovascular benefits and digestive health benefits make it good for the wider population as a whole, including men who can get protection against the scourge of prostate cancer. The seeds can be easily incorporated into your everyday diet.
How To Get Flaxseeds Into Your Diet
With flaxseeds, it is important to remember that a little goes a long way. Most research studies use an average of 2–3 tablespoons of flaxseeds, flaxseed flour, flaxseed meal or milled or ground flaxseeds. If you can get organic flaxseeds that’s good, but the regular brown flaxseed or golden flaxseed at the local store should work fine too. If you’re likely to get lazy about roasting, grinding, or milling some each time you need it, whip up a batch and store it. Try and have a couple of spoons a day.
Here are some ideas for how to add flaxseed to your food. However, when you have flaxseeds, remember to always roast them first, always!
- Flaxseed muffins: Simply add a spoonful of flaxseed powder or whole roasted flaxseed to bring a lovely nutty flavor to each muffin you bake.
- Flaxseed bread: Bake a batch of multigrain bread or just add flaxseed to normal bread that you make. If you don’t like to chew on the seeds, roast and powder the flaxseed and then mix it into your bread dough instead.
- Flaxseed cereal and porridge: Sprinkle a spoonful of flaxseed powder or whole roasted flaxseeds over your salads, cereal or porridge, smoothies, oatmeal, or even a serving of yogurt.
- Flaxseed crumbed chicken/fish: Add some crunch to your crumbed chicken or fish by tossing in flaxseed.
- Flaxseed pancakes: Sneak in some flaxseed in a barely perceptible manner by adding some to pancake batter.
- Flaxseed in meatballs: Swap out some of your breadcrumbs for flaxseeds in your meatball or meatloaf recipes.
- Flaxseed-enriched soups and stews: Hot casseroles, stews, and soups too can hold their own with that extra dash of ground roasted flaxseed.
Side Effects Of Flaxseeds
Flaxseed may cause some digestive side effects like bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea and even intestinal blockage unless consumed with adequate fluids or water. They can also be potentially dangerous if consumed when pregnant due to the possible mild hormonal effects. If you have them raw, you may expose yourself to toxins in the seeds, so always roast before eating.17
|↑1, ↑4||Seeds, flaxseed. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑2||Shahidi, Fereidoon, and Chi-Tang Ho. Phytochemicals and phytopharmaceuticals. The American Oil Chemists Society, 2000.|
|↑3||Chambers, Lucy, Keri McCrickerd, and Martin R. Yeomans. “Optimising foods for satiety.” Trends in Food Science & Technology 41, no. 2 (2015): 149-160.|
|↑5, ↑7||Venkatesh, Shreevidya, and Dilshad A. Khan. “Flaxseed supplementation positively influences bone metabolism in postmenopausal women.” FROM THE EDITORS 1, no. 2 (1998): 27.|
|↑6||Arjmandi, Bahram H. “The role of phytoestrogens in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis in ovarian hormone deficiency.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 20, no. sup5 (2001): 398S-402S.|
|↑8||Bassett, Chantal MC, Delfin Rodriguez-Leyva, and Grant N. Pierce. “Experimental and clinical research findings on the cardiovascular benefits of consuming flaxseed.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 34, no. 5 (2009): 965-974.|
|↑9||Clark, William F., Anwar Parbtani, Murray W. Huff, Evelyn Spanner, Helen de Salis, Ian Chin-Yee, Diana J. Philbrick, and Bruce J. Holub. “Flaxseed: a potential treatment for lupus nephritis.” Kidney international 48, no. 2 (1995): 475-480.|
|↑10||Oomah, B. Dave. “Flaxseed as a functional food source.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 81, no. 9 (2001): 889-894.|
|↑11||Oomah, B. Dave, and G. Mazza. “Bioactive Components of Flaxseed: Occurrence.” Phytochemicals and phytopharmaceuticals (2000): 106.|
|↑12||Palla, Amber Hanif, and Anwarul-Hassan Gilani. “Dual effectiveness of Flaxseed in constipation and diarrhea: Possible mechanism.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 169 (2015): 60-68.|
|↑13||Chen, Jianmin, P. Mark Stavro, and Lilian U. Thompson. “Dietary flaxseed inhibits human breast cancer growth and metastasis and downregulates expression of insulin-like growth factor and epidermal growth factor receptor.” Nutrition and cancer 43, no. 2 (2002): 187-192.|
|↑14||Thompson, Lilian U., Jian Min Chen, Tong Li, Kathrin Strasser-Weippl, and Paul E. Goss. “Dietary flaxseed alters tumor biological markers in postmenopausal breast cancer.” Clinical cancer research 11, no. 10 (2005): 3828-3835.|
|↑15||Demark-Wahnefried, Wendy, Thomas J. Polascik, Stephen L. George, Boyd R. Switzer, John F. Madden, Mack T. Ruffin, Denise C. Snyder et al. “Flaxseed supplementation (not dietary fat restriction) reduces prostate cancer proliferation rates in men presurgery.” Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers 17, no. 12 (2008): 3577-3587.|
|↑16||Touré, Alhassane, and Xu Xueming. “Flaxseed lignans: source, biosynthesis, metabolism, antioxidant activity, bio‐active components, and health benefits.” Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety 9, no. 3 (2010): 261-269.|
|↑17||Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.|