Flaxseed may be one of those long overlooked super plant foods.
There has been reported evidence that they may help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes as well as protect against radiation toxicity and treat carpal tunnel syndrome. If just one of these reasons appeals to you, it is time to eat more flaxseed!
Flaxseeds are nature’s ingenious design to protect healthy chemicals: highly therapeutic, though fragile polyunsaturated fatty acids, amino acids, and other fat soluble vitamins. Storing a supply of flaxseeds in seed form is preferred over ground flax meal. The meal, once ground begins to oxidize and degrade. Most people just grind what they need to use when they are ready to use it. If grinding your own is too much trouble, be sure to keep your flaxseed flour refrigerated and sealed in an air-tight container. Make sure that the manufacturer has nitrogen-flushed the container at the time of manufacture.
Flaxseed oil is also available. Rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, flaxseed oil is prone to enhanced oxidation (getting rancid) when heated. Do not cook with flaxseed oil. Use it to augment or replace olive oil as a salad dressing.
Whole seed can be consumed. Chew them thoroughly to get the nutrients or they’ll pass right through the digestive tract undigested. Presoaking overnight will soften the seed coat as well.
In case you haven’t noticed, flaxseeds are in all kinds of today’s foods from crackers, to waffles to oatmeal. You can use 2 tablespoons of flaxseed meal mixed with 2 tablespoons of water as an egg replacement in vegan recipes. People aren’t the only consumers. Flaxseed is what’s fed to chickens that are laying eggs with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
There are three major healthy components of flaxseeds.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – good fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects.
- Lignans – which have plant estrogen and anti-oxidant qualities.
- Fiber – both soluble and insoluble types.
Eating a tablespoon or two of meal or oil a day will ensure you are getting a physiologically significant amount. Just remember that flax meal requires that you maintain good hydration or it will tend to be binding.
Flaxseed’s possible health benefits include:
- Cancer protection – Flaxseed is thought to prevent the growth of cancerous cells because its omega-3 fatty acids disrupt malignant cells from clinging onto other body cells. In addition, the lignans in flaxseed have antiangiogenic properties – they stop tumors from forming new blood vessels. Studies have shown these effects in both breast and prostate cancers.
- Lowering cholesterol – studies have shown that cholesterol levels were lowered in men who included flaxseed in their diet. The omega-3 fatty acids also lower blood pressure and normalize heartbeat.
- Preventing hot flashes – a dietary intake of flaxseed has been shown to decrease the risk of hot flashes in postmenopausal women.
- Improving blood sugar stability – consuming flaxseed every day improves glycemic control in obese men and women with pre-diabetes.
- Protecting against radiation – a diet of flaxseed may protect skin tissue from being damaged by radiation.
- Reduce atherosclerotic plaque buildup. This may help prevent heart attack ans strokes.
- Gluten Free – This superfood is a great replacement for gluten-containing grains. Those who have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should take in flaxseed. They are also a great alternative to omega-3 fats found in fish for people with seafood allergies.
Pregnant women are discouraged to use flaxseed because of its estrogen-like properties. People suffering from a bowel obstruction should avoid flaxseed because of its high fiber level. Some flatulence and stomach cramps could result. Listen to your body when eating flaxseed meal.
Billie Nicholson, Editor