Flax seeds are one of the most cultivated superfoods. The perfect finishing touch to a fulfilling bowl of oatmeal, a healthy salad, a delicious smoothie, or a hearty soup, flax seeds have garnered significant popularity owing to their countless benefits. From maintaining hormonal balance to improving digestion, skin, cardiovascular health, to regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, there is so much that this tiny seed can do for your body.
Benefits of Flax Seeds
Flax seeds come bearing a mountain of gifts for your health. Following is a list of some of the most prominent benefits of flaxseeds.
1. Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Antioxidants, and Fiber
Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids harbor incredible anti-inflammatory properties. Flax seeds have alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is an n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid. Research proves that ALA helps reduce the risk of heart disease and hypertension along with improved platelet function, reduced inflammation, reduced arrhythmias, and enhanced arterial function.
Flax seeds are rich in fiber but low in carbohydrate content. A tablespoon of flaxseeds contains 3 grams of fiber, which accounts for approximately 12% of the daily intake recommended for men and women, respectively. Flaxseeds contain two types of dietary fiber. These include soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber slows down your digestion rate and increases the consistency of intestinal contents. Additionally, it helps regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber results in softer stools by allowing more water to bind to the stools and increasing their bulk.
Thus, fiber is useful for preventing constipation and for those who have irritable bowel syndrome or diverticular disease. The peculiar feature that makes flaxseeds a standout grain is their high mucilage gum content. Mucilage is a gel-forming fiber that is water-soluble and moves through the digestive tract smoothly. It prevents the food in the stomach from digesting too quickly, thereby making you feel fuller for longer. It also aids nutrient absorption, colon detoxification, fat loss, as well as kick cravings to the curb. Eating approximately two tablespoons of flaxseeds daily can suffice for about 25% of your body’s daily fiber needs.
Oxidants are cells that are produced in the body to aid protection from germs and viruses. However, these cells often lose electrons, which results in the production of free radicals. Free radicals are incredibly damaging to the body as they can even contribute to cancer development in the body. Flaxseeds harbor anti-aging, cell-regenerating, and hormonal balancing effects owing to their high lignan content.
Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that reduce free radical damage. Lignans and omega-3 fatty acids heighten the functionality of the immune cells and help to keep them strong. The amount of lignan present in the body is affected by unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, obesity, antibiotics, and poor gut health. Lignans also possess antiviral and antibacterial properties and are phytoestrogens that can mimic the effect of estrogen. Thus, they are capable of altering estrogen metabolism instigating an increase or decrease in estrogen activity depending on your hormonal status.
2. Rich in Nutrients
Flaxseeds are rich in vitamins and vitamins. These include vitamins B and E, iron, and many others. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that is excellent for hair, skin, and eye health. Vitamin B is one of the essential vitamins for the body as it helps cell metabolism. It helps steady blood cell development and keeps nerves healthy and functional at their optimum capacity, thereby aiding healthy brain function.
Iron is a vital mineral for proper body functioning, and iron deficiencies are quite prevalent amongst the masses. An iron deficiency directly affects hemoglobin function. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to the muscles. Impaired hemoglobin function is the resultant of a lack of iron. This impaired function presents itself in the form of fatigue, dizziness, cravings, and brittle hair and nails, among other symptoms. Eating flaxseeds on a daily basis is equivalent to taking a daily shot of iron.
Flaxseeds are one of the most nutrient-dense foods available in the market. Often referred to as linseeds, flaxseeds are a potent source of dietary fiber, plant-based protein, and minerals including thiamine, magnesium, and manganese. They have the highest lignan content and are one of the richest sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, called alpha-linolenic acid (or ALA). If you are someone who does not eat fish, you can get your omega-3 fats from flaxseeds.
Two tablespoons of flaxseeds contain:
- 110 calories
- 6 grams carbohydrates
- 4 grams of protein
- 8.5 grams of fat
- 6 grams of fiber
- 0.6-milligram manganese
- 0.4-milligram thiamine/vitamin B1
- 80 milligrams magnesium
- 132 milligrams phosphorus
- 0.2-milligram copper
- 5 milligrams selenium
3. Great for Hair, Skin, and Nails
Flaxseeds are excellent for hair, skin, eye, and nail health as they have even a higher concentration of healthy fats. They make the hair damage-resistant, stronger, and shinier. Flaxseed oil is excellent for hair health and growth. It helps ward off dandruff and prevents baldness by limiting the action of enzymes that shrink hair follicles.
ALA fats provide the skin with essential fatty acids and B vitamins that help reduce flakiness and dryness. ALA fats also help reduce symptoms of eczema, acne, rosacea, and other skin conditions. Acne is a common occurrence in adolescents and young adults. It can vary in severity and result in permanent damage to the skin. One of the root causes of acne is inflammation. Owing to the anti-inflammatory properties of flaxseeds, they are the perfect weapon that you can use to combat acne and soothe inflammation in the skin. Flaxseeds help reduce dry eye syndrome owing to its lubricating effects.
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca or dry eye syndrome is a medical condition that results in your eyes, not producing enough tears. This lack of moisture makes the eyes dry out, irritated, red, and swollen. One to two tablespoons of flaxseed oil daily can help your skin and hair stay nourished and hydrated.
4. Lowers Blood Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Hyperlipidemia refers to having an abnormally high concentration of lipids in the blood. It is one of the most prominent risk factors contributing to ischemic heart disease. Flaxseeds can help significantly reduce lipids in the blood due to the fiber in flaxseeds. The fiber binds to bile salts and is then excreted by the body. To restore these bile salts, cholesterol is pulled from your blood into the liver. According to the results of a 2015 study, patients with hyperlipidemia who consumed flaxseeds over a duration of 40 days showed reduced lipid levels in the blood.
Flaxseeds are potent anti-hypertensive agents. Ground flaxseeds are your best bet for the job. According to the results of a Canadian study, eating 30 grams of flaxseeds daily for six months can help reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg and 7 mmHg, respectively. As for those who were already taking blood pressure medication, flaxseeds can help lower blood pressure even further.
5. Helps Control Diabetes
When diabetes is left uncontrolled, it can damage your eyesight, other internal organs, and in severe cases, even the loss of limbs. Flaxseeds help regulate blood sugar levels, making them excellent for managing diabetes. Research proves this relationship as taking one tablespoon of flaxseeds daily registers a significant reduction in blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and A1C level.
Flax seeds are also known to help reduce insulin sensitivity in people who are glucose intolerant, thereby helping reduce insulin resistance. Studies have deduced that people with type 2 diabetes who added 10–20 grams of flaxseed powder to their diet for at least 30 days noticed a significant reduction in blood sugar levels (8–20%). This blood sugar reducing effect is due to the insoluble fiber in the flaxseeds. Research suggests that insoluble fiber slows down sugar release into the blood, subsequently decreasing blood glucose levels.
6. Aids in Digestion and Weight Loss
Flaxseeds are a helpful aid for digestive health. The ALA in flaxseeds helps reduce inflammation and protects the lining of the GI tract. An excellent supplement for those suffering from gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, flax seeds promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria that help cleanse weight from the system.
It also adds bulk to the stool owing to its high soluble and insoluble fiber content that helps maintain bowel movements. For this reason, flaxseeds are an excellent home remedy for constipation and diarrhea.
Contrary to popular belief, sugar is not to blame for obesity. In fact, carbohydrates and fats account for the global rise in obesity. Flaxseeds are full of fiber and healthy fats that are known to help weight loss by making you feel fuller for longer. If you tend to snack between meals, you might want to consider adding flax seeds to your diet so you can kick cravings to the curb.
The soluble fiber content of flax seeds prevents you from binge eating. It slows digestion in the stomach. This, in turn, triggers a host of hormones that control appetite and provide a feeling of fullness. ALA present in flaxseeds helps reduce inflammation and helps with hormonal imbalance – both factors, which play a role in preventing weight loss.
7. Lowers Risk of Cancer
Flaxseeds can prevent cancer development and growth, primarily owing to their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest that consuming a large quantity of dietary fiber, carotenoid antioxidants, stigmasterol, lignans, and vegetables can help reduce the chances of breast cancer development in women. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Cancer Research, flaxseeds may help reduce breast cancer tumor growth. Lignans found in flaxseeds convert to enterolactone and enterodiol. These two substances are types of estrogens that are believed to help balance hormonal levels. Balanced hormones mean an automatically reduced chance of developing cancer.
Two types of cancer, particularly affiliated with flaxseed use, are ovarian and endometrial cancer. Women consuming flaxseeds for their ovarian health properties have also reported a reduction in ovarian dysfunction. A 2010 study found that animals that had flaxseeds introduced into their diets showed a noticeable contraction in present ovarian tumors. In addition to that, the animals also lived longer and were found to be in much better health those who did not have the flaxseeds in their diets.
8. Helps Regulate Hormonal Levels
Lignans help in regulating the hormone levels, especially in postmenopausal women. Common side effects of menopause include hot flashes, bladder control issues, a shift in libido, and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, to name a few. Therefore, flax seeds are an excellent alternative or adjunct to hormone replacement therapy for many. Additionally, flaxseeds are good for regulating monthly cycles encouraging a regular length luteal phase, i.e., the period between ovulation and menstruation.
Bone health deteriorates with age; therefore, measures must be taken to minimize these age-associated effects. Owing to their estrogen-mimicking properties, flax seeds may also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis in the same demographic. Vitamin deficiencies and hormonal changes are the main cause of osteoporosis, which makes the bones fragile and brittle. The omega-3 fatty acids and lignans found in flaxseeds help protect bones from brittleness and subsequent wear and tear.
Androgens are made up of testosterone and androstenedione – both of which are not exclusive to a single-gender. When in excess, androgens can result in symptoms varying from balding to excessive hair growth to acne. The lignans present in flaxseeds help balance androgen levels in the body, thereby keeping painful acne breakouts at bay.
Flax seeds should only be consumed when ground; otherwise, they will not serve their purpose. They are covered with a fibrous coat that the human body cannot digest. Thus, if consumed as is, flax seeds will likely pass out of the body unaffected and undigested.
Ground flax seeds are the most beneficial for the human body. There is so much that this versatile superfood has to offer. A potent source of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, protein, and fiber, everyone should incorporate flax seeds into their diet as an essential grain. Climb aboard the flaxseed revolution and feel yourself getting healthier one tablespoon at a time.