Flaxseeds are a small seed that may seem insignificant at a glance, however, these smooth, dark brown seeds are packed full of a wide variety of essential nutrients. They have been consumed for around 6,000 years, but have recently regained their popularity as a powerful super food and rich fiber source. Flaxseeds can improve digestion, skin health, lower cholesterol, reduce sugar cravings, balance hormones, fight cancer, promote weight loss and improve mental health. Flaxseeds, sometimes called linseeds, are small, brown, tan or golden-colored seeds that are the richest sources of a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This form of omega-3 fats isn’t quite as good as those in fish, but they are still beneficial. Flaxseeds are also one of the best sources of plant compounds called lignans. Flaxseeds contain about 7 times as many lignans as the closest runner-up, sesame seeds. Lignans are co-passengers with fiber, and they serve as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents with cancer-fighting properties. Anti-inflammatory is becoming increasingly more known for its ability to fight off depression and other mood disorders. Flaxseeds contain a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals as well.
Flaxseeds are packed full of some of the most vital nutrients needed by the human body. They contain all of the main macronutrients including essential fatty acids, the best type of carbohydrates—fiber, protein, and a variety of valuable minerals, including selenium which is a powerful antioxidant; iron which is needed to carry oxygen to your brain and the rest of your body; magnesium, which is needed in over 300 biological functions in the human body; electrolytes needed for fluid and pH balance; and B-complex vitamins needed for energy metabolism and cellular functions. Flaxseeds are so small and easy to eat, but contain so many nutrients. Here are 10 benefits of flax seeds:
- High in Fiber, but Low in Carbs: One of the most extraordinary benefits of flax seeds is that they contain high levels of mucilage gum content. Mucilage is a gel-forming fiber that is water-soluble and has incredible benefits on the intestinal tract. The mucilage can keep food in the stomach from emptying too quickly into the small intestine, which can increase nutrient absorption. Also, flax is extremely high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, which can support colon detoxification, fat loss and reduce sugar cravings. A good target for fiber intake is 25-30g/day.
- Healthy Skin and Hair: The ALA fats in flax seeds benefits the skin and hair by providing essential fats, as well as b-vitamins, which can help reduce dryness and flakiness. It can also improve symptoms of acne, rosacea, and eczema. This also applies to eye health as flax can reduce dry eye syndrome. Try adding 2 tbsp of flax seeds to your smoothie or 1 tbsp of flax seed oil to your daily routine for healthier hair, skin and nails. Flax seed oil is another great option since it has an even higher concentration of healthy fats. You can take 1-2 tbsp internally to hydrate skin and hair. It can also be mixed with essential oils and used as a natural skin moisturizer.
- Weight Loss: Since flax is full of healthy fats and fiber, it will help you feel satisfied longer so you will eat fewer calories overall which may lead to weight loss. ALA fats may also help reduce inflammation. This is important for weight loss in that an inflamed body will tend to hold on to excess weight. Add a couple of teaspoons of ground flaxseed to soups, salads, or smoothies as part of your weight loss plan.
- Lower Cholesterol: The Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that adding flax seeds into your diet can naturally reduce cholesterol levels. The soluble fiber content of flax seeds trap fat and cholesterol in the digestive system so that it unable to be absorbed. Soluble fiber also traps bile, which is made from cholesterol in the gallbladder. The bile is then excreted through the digestive system, forcing the body to make more, using up excess cholesterol in the blood and lowering cholesterol overall.
- Flaxseeds are Gluten-Free: Using flax is a great way to naturally replace gluten-containing grains, which are inflammatory, with an anti-inflammatory choice. So, flax seeds are great for those who have Celiac disease or have a gluten-sensitivity. Flaxseeds can also be used as a grain-free option for those who follow a Paleo-type diet. It can be used in baking along with coconut or almond flour.
- Flaxseeds are High in Antioxidants (Lignans): Amongst its other incredible nutrition benefits, flax seeds are also packed with antioxidants. Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that have antioxidant, cell-protecting benefits. Lignans help reduce signs of aging and balance hormones. Polyphenols also support the growth of probiotics in the gut, which helps improve digestions and gut health, keep the body’s detoxification system running smoothly, strengthen the immune system (70-80% of which is in the gut), and other benefits. Lignans are also known for their anti-viral and antibacterial properties; therefore consuming flax regularly may help reduce the number or severity of colds and flu’s.
- Digestive Health: One of the major benefits of flaxseed is that it aids in digestion. Its high fiber content helps keep matter moving smoothly through your intestinal tract. The ALA in flax can help protect the lining of the digestive tract and maintain GI health. It has been shown to be beneficial for people suffering from Crohn’s disease or other digestive ailments, as it can help reduce gut inflammation. Flax is not only very high in soluble and insoluble fiber, but is a great source of magnesium, which among many functions, helps keep your intestinal tract moving smoothly. Two tablespoons of flaxseeds contains about 5 g of fiber, or 1/5 of the RDA. The fiber found in flaxseeds provides food for friendly bacteria in your colon that can help cleanse waste from your system.
- Flax Seeds for Cancer: Flaxseeds have been found to be beneficial in fighting breast, prostate, ovarian and colon cancer. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Cancer Research discovered that consuming flax seeds might decrease the risk of breast cancer. The three lignans found in flaxseeds can be converted by intestinal bacteria into enterolactone and enterodiol to naturally balance hormones, which may be the reason flax seeds reduce the risk of breast cancer. Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the lignans in flaxseeds may also reduce the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer.
- High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: We hear a lot about the health benefits of fish oil or omega-3 fats, especially relating to their role in reducing depression and improving our mental health. Fish oil contains EPA and DHA, two omega-3 fats that are critical for optimal health. Although flaxseeds do not contain EPA or DHA, they do contain ALA, another type of omega-3 fat. Human being do not convert ALA to EPA and DHA as efficiently as fish do, so consuming fish give us better forms of omega-3s than do plant sources such as flax, however, ALA still bring benefits. A study published in Nutrition Reviews has shown that approximately 20% of ALA can be converted into EPA, but only .5% of ALA is converted into DHA. Also, surprisingly gender may play a big role in conversion where young women had a 2.5-fold greater rate than men. Regardless of conversion, ALA is still considered a healthy fat and should be included in a balanced diet.
- Menopausal Symptoms: Speaking of lignans again, they have been shown to have benefits for menopausal women. They may be beneficial for menstruating women by helping maintain cycle regularity. Flax has even been used as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy because lignans do have estrogenic properties. These properties may also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
How to Use Flax Seeds:
Baking is an easy way to add more flaxseed into your diet. You may wonder if baking has any effect on omega-3 fatty acids. According to studies, you can bake flax seeds at 300F for 3 hours and the omega-3’s (ALA) in flax seeds remain stable.
Tips for including flaxseed in your diet include:
- Add 1-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to a morning smoothie
- Mix a tablespoon in with yogurt and raw honey
- Bake ground flaxseeds into muffins, cookies and breads
- Add to homemade sprouted granola
- Can be mixed with water and used as an egg substitute