Most nutrition experts recommend eating flax seed due to its health benefits. But what is flax seed and what’s in flax seed? Let’s learn about the 3 top benefits that make flax seed so unique: its high fiber content, the benefits of lignans and the specificity of flaxseed omega-3 content.
What is flax seed? Where does flax seed come from?
Flax seed is a little seed which comes from a plant: the flax plant, which is believed to have originated in Egypt. Flax is a food and fibre crop that is grown in cooler regions of the world; it grows throughout Canada and Northwestern United States.here are two types of flax seed: brown and golden. Although the color and price differ, the nutritional benefits are the same. The exception is a type of yellow flax called solin, which has a completely different oil profile and is very low in omega-3.What is in flax seed? What are the benefits of flax seeds?Flax seed contains notable health benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants, and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. It is an excellent source of nutrients like magnesium, manganese, thiamin and fiber. It also naturally contains protein, lignans and omega-3.
Note: Flax seeds produce a vegetable oil known as flaxseed oil, which provides omega-3 and vitamin E. However flaxseed oil is not a source of fiber or the other nutrients noted above and does not naturally contain lignans.
What is good about fiber?
Flaxseed is a very good source of fiber – containing both soluble and insoluble fiber. Here is how it works: when it comes in contact with water, it adds bulk to stool and helps it move more quickly through the gastrointestinal tract. Indeed fiber from flaxseed helps reduce constipation, but must be used with plenty of fluids.
Because flax is high in soluble fibre, it also absorbs bad fats from the body and helps to reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Flaxseed and phytochemicals. What are lignans?
Flax seed is high in phytochemicals, including many antioxidants. It is perhaps our best source of lignans, which are phytoestrogens – plant compounds that act like the hormone estrogen. Some studies suggest that lignans in flaxseed may promote fertility, reduce peri-menopausal symptoms, and even reduce the risk of certain cancers such as breast cancer.
The link between flaxseed and/or lignan to cancer risk is relatively well-studied. Most research has focused on breast, prostate and colon cancer.
Flaxseed Omega 3 content:
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are known to reduce inflammation. Flaxseed contains a type of Omega-3 called Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA).
What are the health benefits of Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)?
Preliminary research has found evidence that ALA is related to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Other studies have shown it helps to reduce anxiety, stress level, and even the risk of cancer. It is also very beneficial for skin health.
Inflammation plays a part in many chronic diseases which is enhanced by having too little Omega-3 intake (such as in fish, flax, and walnuts), especially in relation to Omega-6 fatty acid intake (in most nuts and oils). Flaxseed can help in balancing the ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6.Note: some studies show that ingestion of flax oil and milled flaxseed deliver significant levels of ALA to the plasma whereas whole flaxseed does not. Indeed it is best to consume flaxseed oil for its omega-3 content.Flax seed oil or fish oil for omega-3?ALA is an Omega-3 that is a precursor to the fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty cold-water fish (EPA and DHA). The problem is not everyone is able to easily convert ALA into EPA and DHA (DHA is the most prevalent fatty acids in the brain). Despite the good effects of ALA of its own, it is recommended not to rely solely on flax for Omega-3 intake. There is also mercury contamination to think about concerning fish. If you are concerned about mercury, fish oil capsules might be a good choice.
What you need to know before eating flax seed…
Flaxseed and flaxseed oil supplements seem to be well tolerated. Few side effects have been reported.
However, there are risks to consider:
- Whole flax seeds are chemically stable, but ground flaxseed can go rancid at room temperature in as little as one week. Keep ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil refrigerated!
- Flaxseed should be ground prior to ingestion or it won’t be able to provide benefits for the health conditions described.
- Excessive consumption without liquid can result in intestinal blockage. Ask your doctor or dietitian for advice.
- Avoid flaxseed oil if you are allergic to flax. Even if a flax seed allergy is very rare, some people may have sensitivity or an allergy to flax seed.
- Never eat raw or unripe flaxseed – it could be poisonous!
- Some researchers think flaxseed should not be taken if you are pregnant, because it may act like estrogen in the body. Ask your doctor before taking flaxseed if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- If you’ve had estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer, use flaxseed products in moderation. In addition, the NIH states that flaxseed may interfere with blood thinners, muscle relaxers, and medications for acid reflux.
- Flaxseed can also be troublesome for people with diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.