Flax seeds have been eaten as a food or used as a medicine since 5000 BC.
In the 1990s, flaxseeds became popular in the health industry because they are believed to help fight heart disease and many other diseases.
As one of the most popular “superfoods”, you might ask questions like:
What are the health benefits and side effects of flax seeds?
How to maximize its nutritional value?
What Is A Flax Seed? What Does It Look Like?
[Alias] Flax Seed, Flax Kernel, Alasi, Aliviraaii.
[English name] Flaxseed or Linseed
[Latin name] Linum Usitatissimum, which means “very useful”
[Species] Seeds of the flax family, flax genus or perennial herbaceous plant flax
[Origin] The place of origin is West Asia, however, now they all are widely planted all over the world.
[Appearance] dark brown or reddish-brown, flat and small seeds
The picture below shows the flax plants, flowers, fruits, seeds, and pressed oil.
The Nutritional Value In Flax Seeds
Flaxseed is one of the most nutritious foods on earth.
One tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flax seeds contains the following nutrients[*]:
- Calories: 37.4
- Carbs: 2 g
- Protein: 1.3 g
- Fiber: 1.9 g
- Total fat: 3 g
- Saturated fat: 0.3 g
- Monounsaturated fat: 0.5 g
- Polyunsaturated fat: 2 g
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 1,597 mg
- Cholesterol: 0
- Calcium: 17.9 mg
- Magnesium: 27.4 mg
- Iron: 0.4 mg
- Phosphorus: 44.9 mg
- Potassium: 56.9 mg
- Choline: 5.5 mg
- Sodium: 2.1 mg
- Zinc: 0.3 mg
- Manganese: 0.2 mg
- Folate: 6.1 mcg
- Selenium: 1.8 mcg
Flaxseed is the most plant-based omega-3 fatty acid on earth. One of the richest sources is called α-linolenic acid (or ALA).
In addition, flaxseeds also contain phytosterol (referred to as plant sterol and stanol esters), and about 7 times as many lignans as the closest runner-up food (sesame seeds).
Lignans act as antioxidants, which can reduce the number of free radicals in the body and reduce the likelihood of getting a chronic disease.
No matter what kind of diet you follow — Vegan, Paleo, low-carb or even a Ketogenic diet, flaxseed is considered one of the best foods to reduce inflammation and promote intestinal health.
What Are The Benefits Of Flax Seeds:
1.The best source of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids
If you are a vegetarian or you do not like fish, then flaxseed and chia seeds will be your best source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
They are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that prevents cholesterol from depositing in the cardiovascular system, reduces arterial inflammation, and prevents tumor growth.
A study involving 3,638 people in Costa Rica found that people who consumed more ALA had a lower risk of heart disease than people who consumed less ALA.
In addition, several large experiments involving more than 250,000 people have also shown that ALA can help reduce the risk of heart disease by 14%.
2. Improves skin and hair health
Flaxseed helps in the nourishment of the scalp and hair strands. Omega-3 promotes hair re-growth whereas fibers and protein improve the elasticity of hair, preventing breakage.
The alpha-linolenic acid (ALA fat) in flaxseed helps reduce skin dryness and sagging by providing essential fatty acids and B vitamins.
Flaxseed improves the symptoms of acne, rosacea, and eczema. It can also help to heal wounds faster and make your skin more moist and soft.
It is also good for nails and eyes, by increasing the toughness of nails and relieving dry eyes.
3. May help with weight loss
A study found that adding 2.5 grams of ground flaxseed to a beverage can reduce hunger and appetite.
Flaxseed is rich in protein, healthy fat, and soluble fiber, which can slow down the digestion process, thereby increasing satiety and making it easier for you to control your calorie intake.
4., Helps reduce symptoms of menopause
Flaxseed is the richest dietary source of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen. They have been shown to have many benefits for menopausal women.
In a small study, 21 menopausal women were given 40 grams of ground flaxseed per day. After 6 weeks, the frequency and severity of hot flashes decreased significantly. Participants even noticed improvements in their mood and the pain in their joints and muscles.
In fact, flaxseed can be used as an alternative hormone replacement therapy in some cases, or as a complementary approach to balancing hormones.
Flaxseeds also help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in menopause.
5. Reduce your risk of cancer
The lignans found in flaxseeds are plant compounds with antioxidant and estrogen properties which can help to minimize cancer risk and improve health in certain types of cancer such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer[*].
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Cancer Research found that flaxseed intake may actually decrease the risk of breast cancer by decreasing the growth of tumors.
Additionally, the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed may inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent their production, helping to prevent different cancers from forming.
6. Helps digestive health
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in flax may help minimize inflammation and preserve the gastrointestinal mucosa.
Flaxseed provides a significant quantity of dietary fiber that can provide food for beneficial bacteria in the intestine, encourage flora equilibrium, and help clean up waste in the digestive system.
Flaxseed is very high in soluble and insoluble fiber, which means it’s very helpful in maintaining normal bowel movements. It is considered one of the best natural remedies for constipation.
7. Helps lower cholesterol and prevent hyperlipidemia
Cholesterol is fat (also called lipids) that your body needs to work properly. Too much bad cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other problems.
If you want to reduce your cholesterol levels in a natural way, try adding flaxseed to your diet.
The soluble fiber in flaxseed can absorb fat and cholesterol in the digestive system. However, because the soluble fiber in flaxseed can not be absorbed by the body it is excreted with the stool, thus reducing the blood cholesterol content.
In one study, people with high cholesterol who consumed 3 tablespoons (30 grams) of flaxseed daily for three months lowered their overall cholesterol by 17% and “bad” LDL cholesterol by almost 20%.
In postmenopausal women, consuming 30 grams of flaxseed per day reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by about 7% and 10%, respectively [*].
8. Helps control blood pressure
A Canadian study found that eating 30 grams of flaxseed per day for six months reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg and 7 mmHg, respectively.
Data from another large study showed that taking flaxseeds daily for more than 3 months lowered blood pressure by 2 mmHg. This may seem insignificant, but a 2 mmHg reduction in blood pressure can reduce the risk of stroke death by 10% and heart disease death by 7% [*].
Thus, if you are managing your overall blood pressure, ground flaxseed can be a better option.
9. Helps control blood sugar
Type 2 diabetes is one of the major health problems in the world.
Several studies have shown that individuals with type 2 diabetes who apply 10-20 grams of flaxseed powder to their daily diet for at least one month reduced blood sugar rates by 8-20%.
This hypoglycemic impact is mostly attributed to the fact that insoluble fiber in flaxseed will slow down the release of sugar into the blood.
Overall, flaxseed may be a helpful dietary aid for diabetics.
10. Has powerful anti-inflammatory effects
Flaxseed is rich in antioxidants, particularly lignan, which is very helpful in reducing the harmful, chronic inflammation induced by free radicals. As a result, flaxseed has benefits relating to anti-aging, hormone balancing, and cell regeneration.
Lignans are often noted for their antiviral and antibacterial effects. Daily intake of flaxseed products could help you mitigate the occurrence or frequency of colds and flu.
11. May protect against the damaging effects of radiation
Another study has shown that lignans in flaxseed may protect healthy tissues and organs from the harmful effects of radiation [*].
Researchers provided dietary flaxseed lignan to mice with lung problems induced by radiation. Mice that were taking flaxseed had less inflammation, damage, cell fibrosis, and a higher rate of survival than those not eating flaxseed.
The researchers suggested that flaxseed may be used in the future to cure lung cancer induced by unintended exposure or radiation therapy.
The above are the main health benefits of flaxseed. Other benefits include:
- Improving menstrual syndrome
- Reducing depression
- Promoting brain function
- Improving energy
- Reducing asthma symptoms
- Preventing allergic reactions
Flax Seeds Side Effects:
It is always a good idea to consult your Doctor or Nutritionist before starting a new diet regimen, but generally, it is safe to consume flaxseed for most healthy adults.
However, because flaxseed contains a lot of fiber, some people may temporarily experience some discomfort with their initial intake. These side effects include:
- Upset stomach
- Bloating and gas
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
Some medicines may be inhibited by the fiber in flaxseed. Also, be aware that flaxseed works as a blood thinner, so if you are taking any blood thinners including aspirin or other NSAIDs, you should avoid the consumption of flaxseed.
Be cautious to consume flaxseeds if you have any of the following conditions:
1. During pregnancy and breastfeeding
Flaxseed can act like the hormone estrogen. Some doctors believe that this will affect pregnant women, fetuses, and breastfed babies. While there is no applicable credible clinical evidence to date, to be safe it is better not to eat flaxseed while pregnant or nursing.
2. Hemorrhagic disease
Flaxseeds may slow down blood clotting. If you have a hemorrhagic disease or are taking anticoagulants, you should avoid flaxseeds.
There is some evidence that flaxseed can lower blood sugar levels and might increase the blood sugar-lowering effects of some medicines used for diabetes. This means that they might lower blood sugar too much.
If you have diabetes and you are eating flaxseed, monitor your blood sugar levels closely.
4. Gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction
People with intestinal obstruction, esophageal stenosis, or enteritis should avoid flaxseed. The high fiber of flaxseed can make the obstruction more severe.
5. Hypotension (low blood pressure)
Flaxseeds may reduce diastolic blood pressure. Therefore, in theory, taking flaxseeds may cause even lower blood pressure in patients with hypotension.
6. High blood pressure
Flaxseed may reduce diastolic blood pressure. In theory, if you are taking antihypertensive medicines and consuming flaxseed at the same time, it may lower the blood pressure too much.
Flaxseed vs. Chia seeds
1. They both contain a lot of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids which are known as alpha-linolenic acid (or ALA).
- One ounce of flaxseed contains about 6,000 milligrams of ALA.
- One ounce of chia seeds contains about 4,900 milligrams of ALA.
2. They both are rich in fiber. Both form gel during digestion. In addition to promoting bowel movements and maintaining normal bowel movements, they also help control blood sugar and lower cholesterol.
However, flaxseed contains less fiber than chia seeds:
- One ounce of flaxseed contains about 8 grams of fiber.
- One ounce of chia seeds contains about 11 grams of fiber.
3. They have different types of antioxidants.
- Flaxseed contains higher levels of lignans.
- Chia seeds have a variety of antioxidant components, mostly are chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, followed by myricetin, quercetin, kaempferol, tocopherol.
4. They both contain vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. Chia seeds contain more calcium than flaxseeds.
5. They both are rich in protein, but the protein in flaxseed is slightly higher than in chia seeds.
6. They both are very suitable for a gluten-free diet or baking and cooking.
- Chia seeds can be consumed in any form, and the shelf life is longer. There is no need to refrigerate.
- Flaxseed can be easily absorbed by the human body only in the state of germination and grinding. It can easily turn rancid and spoiled, so it needs to be kept in the refrigerator.
How To Eat Flax Seed:
Start by eating 10 grams (1 tablespoon) per day, and gradually increase the amount, but do not exceed 50 grams per day.
Unlike chia seeds, the hard shell of flaxseed is difficult to digest, so it is best to soak them in warm water for half an hour or soak them in cold water for several hours. It is best to grind the seeds before taking them. You can also buy ground flaxseed here.
With all fiber-containing seed foods, including chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds, you should be sure to drink enough water or other liquids when consuming.
There are many ways to eat flax seeds:
- Add them to your juice, smoothie, milk tea, or yogurt.
- Add to baking ingredients.
- Add them to soup or stew.
- Eat with oatmeal.
- Add them to vegetable salad.
There are more ways to eat flaxseed. Share your ideas below.