The Flaxseed of my Heart (and Digestion)

November 14, 2023 5 mins to read
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In this article I want to go over my all-time favorite super seed, Flaxseed! It comes as a whole seed, powder and oil. It’s affordable and available practically everywhere. But it’s also a neglected superhero in the nutrition world, loaded with beneficial nutrients including: Omega 3 essential fatty acids, protein, fiber as well as various vitamins and minerals. I think Flax seed one of the best sources of fiber due to its dense, nutritional content. So, In this article I go over the origins of flax, a glimpse of it’s nutrient content and why it’s so beneficial as well as some ways to easily add this super-seed to your diet.

A Brief History of Flax | Flaxseed

Flaxseed, also known as linseed, carries the Latin name Linum usitatissimum, meaning “most useful,” (a suitable name all things considered) and has been a valued crop used by our ancestors for both nutrition and medicinal purposes. Available in both brown and golden varieties, the different forms of flax and it’s subtle flavor lend it to a wide variety of dishes, making it an easy add-on nutritional “boost” to any meal.

Nutritional Punch | Flaxseed

A single tablespoon of ground flaxseed is a a very nutrient dense superfood, packed with micronutrients like: thiamin, copper, manganese, and iron. As well as macronutrients like: healthy fats, proteins, and two grams of dietary fiber – about 5%-8% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for fiber. Flaxseed’s fiber content includes both soluble and insoluble types, which supports a healthy and functional digestive system, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and even aids in cholesterol management.

Omega-3 and Lignans | Flaxseed

Flaxseeds are an excellent plant source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid crucial for heart and brain health and which aids in the prevention of cardiovascular (heart) diseases. Flax is also rich in lignans – phytoestrogens with potent antioxidant and potential anticancer properties.

Health Benefits Galore | Flaxseed

Numerous studies have shown flaxseed’s role in reducing risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease. It has been shown to lower cholesterol, manage blood pressure, and improve heart health overall. Its fiber content not only aids digestion (partly by promoting health bowel movements), but also helps with weight management by controlling appetite and hunger. Furthermore, studies show the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of flaxseed lignans can be beneficial in cancer prevention and treatment, particularly in breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers.

  • Cardiovascular (heart) Disease: Protects against cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Helps in managing metabolic syndrome, controlling blood lipid levels, fasting blood sugar, insulin resistance, body weight, waist circumference, body mass, and blood pressure. Source: PubMed
  • Diabetes: Consumption of flaxseed can be beneficial for diabetes management. Source: PubMed
  • Obesity: May aid in obesity management due to its fiber content and other bioactive components. Source: PubMed
  • Inflammation: Can be used to treat inflammatory diseases. Source: Mayo Clinic
  • Cancer: Contains lignans, which might have anti-cancer properties. Source: Mayo Clinic
  • Cholesterol Levels: Can reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. Source: Mayo Clinic
  • Menopausal Symptoms: Mixed results in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Source: Mayo Clinic

Add A Sprinkle of Flaxseed (flax powder, oil, whatever)!

Flaxseed can be enjoyed in various forms – whole seeds, milled into meal or flour, or as oil. Due to its high omega-3 content, it’s sensitive to heat, light, and air, so storage is key (think refrigeration or freezing). For optimal nutrition, grind whole seeds before use, or purchase pre-milled flax meal (I get a cheap organic bat of ground flax from Costco).

As I mentioned Flax due to it’s different forms and subtle flavor lends it to be a versatile ingredient, great in baked goods (like breads and muffins), cereals, and as a nutty addition to smoothies or yogurts, and more. While flaxseed oil is excellent for salad dressings and as a finishing oil, it lacks the fiber and lignans found in the whole seed.

Conclusion on Flaxseed

Flax is great! Buy it immediately (this is not financial advice)! But seriously…whether you’re a longtime fan or new to flaxseed, it’s a nutrient-rich SuperSeed, that deserves a spot in everyone’s health-conscious pantry (well fridge). Your gut houses 70-80% of your immune system and produces roughly the same amount of neurotransmitters as your brain, and flax supports that delicate gut microbiome. With it’s rich nutrient and fiber content it offers a variety of health benefits, but it’s also flexible and easy to add to any recipe – adding a delightful, nutty flavor. So why not embrace this superfood like our ancestors, and supercharge our diets and our health, with its nutrient rich, goodness once more! 🌱

Additional References

  1. Nutritional Profile of Flaxseed:
    • Mani, U. V., Mani, I., Biswas, M., & Kumar, S. N. (2011). “An open-label study on the effect of flax seed powder (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation in the management of diabetes mellitus.” Journal of Dietary Supplements, 8(3), 257-265.
  2. Omega-3 and Heart Health:
    • Rodriguez-Leyva, D., & Pierce, G. N. (2010). “The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed.” Nutrition & Metabolism, 7, 32.
  3. Flaxseed and Digestive Health:
    • Cunnane, S. C., Ganguli, S., Menard, C., Liede, A. C., Hamadeh, M. J., Chen, Z. Y., Wolever, T. M., & Jenkins, D. J. (1993). “High alpha-linolenic acid flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum): some nutritional properties in humans.” British Journal of Nutrition, 69(2), 443-453.
  4. Cancer Prevention and Lignans:
    • Thompson, L. U., Chen, J. M., Li, T., Strasser-Weippl, K., & Goss, P. E. (2005). “Dietary flaxseed alters tumor biological markers in postmenopausal breast cancer.” Clinical Cancer Research, 11(10), 3828-3835.

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