What are flaxseeds?
Flaxseeds, otherwise known as linseeds, are tiny seeds that were cultivated as early as 3000 BC in Babylon. They are found in many processed foods, from crackers to frozen waffles. The American Flax Council estimates close to 300 new flax-based products were launched in the U.S. and Canada in 2010 alone.
Why is flaxseed good for you?
A WebMD article by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD lists the health benefits of this little seed that packs a huge punch in the healthy food stakes.
The myriad health benefits of flaxseed can be attributed to three main factors:
- Flaxseeds are one of the best plant-based sources of essential omega-3 fats. Flaxseeds contain 50 to 60 per cent omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). A tablespoon of flaxseeds contains about 1.8 grams of omega-3.
- Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods. Lignans are phytoestrogens which researchers have found helpful in preventing heart disease, protecting against inflammatory disorders and certain cancers, and lowering your cholesterol.
- Flaxseeds are also rich in B vitamins, dietary fibre, protein and potassium.
Golden vs Brown Flaxseed
There are two types of flax seeds, golden and brown coloured flaxseeds. Brown flax seeds is usually easier to find than golden flax seeds. Some argue that golden flax seeds are superior than brown but according to a recent study done by Canada Grain Commission, evidence points to nutritional equality of brown and golden flax seeds
Lignans may help protect against cancer by blocking enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism and interfering with the growth and spread of tumor cells. Studies indicate that flaxseed may have a protective effect against breast cancer, as well as other cancers such as prostate cancer, and colon cancer.
Plant-derived omega-3 fats may help the cardiovascular system through several different mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory action and normalizing the heartbeat. New research also suggests significant blood pressure-lowering effects of flaxseed.
“Lignans in flaxseed have been shown to reduce atherosclerotic plaque build-up by up to 75%,” says Kelley C. Fitzpatrick, director of health and nutrition with the Flax Council of Canada.
Eating flaxseed daily may also help manage your cholesterol levels. The level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the bloodstream has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
Findings published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition found that the seeds (not flaxseed oil) can reduce total and LDL (bad) cholesterol by a significant amount, particularly in post-menopausal women. A study published in the Journal Of Clinical Oncology found that ground flaxseed slow the growth of prostate cancer tumours.
How should you use flaxseed in your diet?
- Add flaxseed (ground or whole) on cereal, added to homemade bread, mixed into soups and stews, or blended into smoothies.
- Make flaxseeds gel by combining ground flaxseed with water, and use it to thicken soups or dessert.
- Make flax-egg by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water and used it as an egg replacement in baked goods.
Do you have flaxseed in your diet, and if so, how do you consume it?
Further Reading and References: