by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Imagine… There’s a little bowl of seeds that people say can control your blood sugar level, improve digestion, help with various heart conditions, and potentially hold the power to kick cancer in the teeth. Would you believe it? Luckily, such seeds exist, and they are known as flaxseed.
Let’s dive deeper into the benefits offered by these tiny seeds full of nutrition. Here’s what you need to know about flaxseed.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition or disease. You should always consult with your doctor before adding any supplements to your regimen to ensure you are healthy enough to do so and to ensure the supplements will not interact with any medications you may currently be taking.
What is Flaxseed?
Flaxseeds, also known as Linseeds, are the most versatile seeds that can enhance the taste and texture of any recipe. It has a mild and nutty flavor with a crunchy consistency and can be an excellent addition to pancakes, smoothies, oats, or even burgers.
Flaxseed originated in the Middle East thousands of years ago but has recently gained a lot of popularity as a healthy addition to the food. It is linked to various health benefits like improving digestion, reducing the risk of heart diseases, and more. This is due to the presence of omega-3s, fiber, and various plant compounds in the flaxseed.
Here are a few health benefits of flaxseed backed by science:
1. Lowers the risk of cancer
Flaxseeds contain lignans, which are known to have cancer-fighting properties. Lignans are plant compounds that are known to reduce the risk of developing various types of cancer like breast, lung, prostate, and colon. In flaxseeds, lignans are up to 800 times higher than any other plant compound.
A study shows that flaxseeds help to lower the risk of breast cancer, most importantly, for postmenopausal women.
2. Controls cholesterol levels
High cholesterol is known to be linked to various heart diseases. Flaxseed is known for its ability to help lower cholesterol levels. Studies show that consuming flaxseed can help reduce cholesterol by 6-8%. Plus, there is also a 9-18% reduction in LDL.
These cholesterol-lowering effects are due to the presence of high fiber and lignin content in flaxseed. Both of these substances bind with the cholesterol-rich bile acid and carry them down your digestive tract.
3. Reduces blood pressure
Another study shows that consuming 30 grams of flaxseed per day helps to reduce blood pressure in those with high levels.
4. Stabilize the blood sugar levels
If you have diabetes, flaxseed can be a great addition to your diet.
Flaxseed is known to help stabilize blood sugar levels. As per studies, flaxseed can reduce blood sugar levels and prevent insulin resistance. This blood sugar lowering effect is due to the presence of soluble fiber content. Research says that soluble fibers slow down sugar absorption in the blood, which in short, helps to reduce the blood sugar level.
Flaxseed helps with Type 2 diabetes, and you must note that this benefit applies only in the case of whole flaxseed and not flaxseed oil, as it lacks fiber.
Ground Flaxseed —Whole Flaxseed — Flaxseed Oil
It is recommended to consume ground flaxseed as compared to whole flaxseed as they are easier to digest because the intestines find it difficult to break the hard outer shell.
Flaxseed oil is produced through cold pressing and is very sensitive to heat and light. And this is why it is not suitable for high-heat cooking like frying.
Recommended Daily Dosage
It is best to limit your flaxseed intake to around 4-5 tsp (28-35 grams) per day.
Risks Associated with Using Flaxseed
Though flaxseed is known for its various benefits, there are downsides as well. Since flaxseed is high in fiber, consuming it in large amounts can lead to digestive issues, bloating, and more.
Apart from that, flaxseed can also interact with various medications like blood thinners. It should be noted that if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, be extra cautious when consuming flaxseed. And it is better to consult your healthcare professional before adding flaxseed supplements to your routine.