The Benefits of Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds--those tiny brown seeds that seem highly inedible yet somehow found their way into this morning’s granola. They may not look all that exciting, but the health benefits of flaxseeds far surpass their tiny stature.
Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is a health food superstar--high in both fiber and essential fatty acids.1 In fact 7 grams of flaxseed contains 2 grams of essential fatty acids as well as 2 grams of fiber.2 The fiber found in flaxseed can improve your digestive health and keep things moving regularly, if you catch my drift.3 Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are high in a particular fatty acid, alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), that is helpful in not only preventing heart disease but also helpful to those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and arthritis.4 One tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains 7 grams of ALA.5 According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, people who eat a diet high in ALA are less likely to have a fatal heart attack. It is also believed that ALA can potentially lower the blood pressure of individuals suffering from hypertension.6
High cholesterol? Flaxseed to the rescue! Flaxseed can help lower your total blood cholesterol, particularly the LDL levels.7 The LDL-fighting components of flaxseed are known as phytosterols.8 LDL is the bad cholesterol, the one that causes your doctor to arch their eyebrow when your bloodwork comes back.
Finally, flaxseed is also a source of vitamin E, vitamin B, calcium, niacin, iron, phosphorus, and lignans--an antioxidant believed to help regulate hormone levels.9 Why are all these vitamins and mineral important? Many of these compounds are not naturally produced within your body, or your body requires supplementation. If your body does not have the minerals and vitamins it needs, you may find yourself with lower energy levels as well as a weakened immune system.
Flaxseeds can be eaten in both their whole and ground form, however, ground flaxseed is more readily digested than whole flaxseeds.10 Plus, ground flaxseeds can be added to anything--your smoothie, your pasta sauce, your brownie batter. You can grind your own flaxseeds or purchase them already ground. If you grind your own, make sure you use the ground flaxseed within 24 hours to ensure maximal health benefits! Make sure you eat flaxseed, in whatever form you choose, with plenty of water.11 Hydration is key in ensuring your body can digest the fiber properly. Flaxseed can also be processed into an oil, however, you will not get the same fiber benefits found in whole or ground flaxseeds.12
Flaxseed should not be eaten at the same time as dietary supplements or oral medications as it can interfere with absorption.13 If you take either a dietary supplement or oral medication, talk to your healthcare professional about how and when you can best incorporate flaxseed into your diet.
1. Steven D. Ehrlich, "Flaxseed," University of Maryland Medical Center, University of Maryland Medical Center, 22 June 2015, Web.; Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, "Flaxseeds 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits," Authority Nutrition, Authority Nutrition, n.d., Web.; Gretchen Stelter, "9 Ways to Eat Flaxseed for Healthy Benefits," Healthline, Healthline Media, 9 Mar. 2016, Web.
2. Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., "Flaxseed: Is Ground Better than Whole?" Mayo Clinic: Healthy Lifestyle, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 13 Dec. 2015, Web.
3. Ibid.; Bjarnadottir, "Flaxseeds 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits."; Stelter, "9 Ways to Eat Flaxseed for Healthy Benefits."
4. Bjarnadottir, "Flaxseeds 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits."; "Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil," NIH: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Apr. 2012, Web.
5. "Why Not Flaxseed Oil?" Harvard Health Publications, Harvard University, Nov. 2006, Web.
6. Ehrlich, "Flaxseed."
7. Zeratsky, "Flaxseed: Is Ground Better than Whole?"; Ehrlich, "Flaxseed."; Stelter, "9 Ways to Eat Flaxseed for Healthy Benefits."
8. Bjarnadottir, "Flaxseeds 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits."
9. Stelter, "9 Ways to Eat Flaxseed for Healthy Benefits."; Emily, Wax, RD, "Healthy Food Trends -- Flaxseeds," MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 24 Apr. 2016, Web.
10. Zeratsky, "Flaxseed: Is Ground Better than Whole?"; Wax, "Healthy Food Trends -- Flaxseeds."
11. Zeratsky, "Flaxseed: Is Ground Better than Whole?"; "Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil."
12. Ehrlich, "Flaxseed."; Wax, "Healthy Food Trends -- Flaxseeds."
13. "Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil."