A serving of flax seeds contains an impressive amount of nutrients, and its benefits include improved digestion and a decreased risk of cancer. They are small, edible seeds produced by a plant named flax native to North America. In addition to imparting a nutty flavor to dishes, these seeds are brimming with essential vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats.
Here are some simple ways to incorporate flax seeds into your diet and additional information on their potential health benefits.
1. May Enhance Cardiovascular Wellness
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. (CDC). Flaxseeds can protect heart health in a variety of ways, primarily by lowering risk factors for heart disease, such as:
- Bringing down blood pressure An analysis of 15 studies published in Clinical Nutrition revealed that flax seeds reduce blood pressure, especially when consumed for 12 weeks or longer.
- Enhanced cholesterol levels In a study of 50 adults with high cholesterol, those who consumed approximately three tablespoons of roasted flax seed powder daily for three months had significantly lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL (also known as “bad”) cholesterol compared to those who consumed a placebo. Additionally, their HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels increased.
2. Encourage Digestive Health
Four tablespoons of flax seeds provide 27% of the recommended daily allowance of fiber, an essential nutrient for digestive health.
3. Supporting Weight Management
Additionally, they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, each of which improves bowel movements in its own unique way:
- Soluble fiber softens stool, allowing it to pass through the digestive tract more easily.
- Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, which encourages waste to pass through the digestive tract more quickly, thereby alleviating constipation.
4. Help Reduce Cancer Danger
Although no single food or supplement can prevent cancer, flax seeds may reduce the risk or spread of certain cancers, according to some research.
For instance, the high fiber content of flax seeds can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. For every additional 10 grams of fiber consumed, the risk of colorectal cancer decreases by 7%.
Breast cancer is the most studied cancer in relation to flax seed consumption. According to a study published in Nutrients, eating flax seeds may:
- Prevent the development of breast cancer
- Reduce tumor growth in breast cancer patients
- Reduce the mortality risk for women with breast cancer
5. Could Lower Blood Sugar
For 12 weeks, 41 individuals with obesity and pre-diabetes were given 13 grams, 26 grams, or no flax seed. It was discovered that those who consumed 13 grams of flax seeds per day, or approximately two tablespoons, experienced the greatest reductions in blood sugar levels and the greatest improvement in insulin sensitivity.
6. Support Weight Management
Due to the soluble fiber content of flax seeds, including them in your diet may facilitate healthy, long-term weight management. The majority of the soluble fiber in flax seeds is known as mucilage, which, when combined with water, forms a gel-like consistency. According to a 2015 Journal of Food Science and Technology article, this slows the rate at which food passes through the stomach, making you feel fuller for longer.
A meta-analysis of 45 studies found that flaxseed consumption was associated with significant reductions in body weight and waist circumference. A waist circumference greater than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The review also discovered that consuming 30 grams, or approximately three tablespoons, of whole flax seeds daily for more than 12 weeks improved patients’ body composition. Body composition indicates the proportion of fat, muscle, and other tissues, such as bone, in our bodies.
7. Protect Against Chronic Illness
In addition to healthy fats and fiber, flax seeds are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols that are beneficial to health. Polyphenols protect our cells from damage that could eventually lead to cancer, aging, and chronic diseases such as heart disease.
A quarter cup, or roughly four tablespoons, of flax seeds, provides:
- Calories: 224
- Saturated fat:5 g
- Unsaturated fat:16 g
- Carbohydrates: 12g
- Fiber:5g, or 41% of the daily value (DV)
- Added Sugars: 0g
- Protein: 7g
- Thiamin: 0.69mg 57% DV
- Magnesium: 165mg 39% DV
- Selenium:12mcg 19% DV
- Iron:4mg 13% DV
Thiamin, a B vitamin that helps convert nutrients into energy, is abundant in flaxseed. Magnesium, an outstanding flax seed nutrient, is essential for nerve, muscle, and immune function. In the meantime, selenium safeguards cells against damage or infection. Iron aids in the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen through the bloodstream.
Some individuals may be allergic to flax seeds, although this is uncommon.
Additionally, it contains trace amounts of potential toxins such as cyanide. However, it is highly unlikely that flax consumption will result in cyanide toxicity because levels are so low and the body is able to detoxify cyanide in amounts as small as those found in flax seeds. Moreover, cooking them perfectly eliminates the chemicals.
Guidelines for Eating Flax Seeds
Opt for ground flax seeds over whole ones when purchasing, as whole seeds can pass through the intestines undigested. This prevents the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream. If whole flax seeds are your only option, you can easily grind them with a coffee grinder before consuming them.
The oil in flax seeds degrades when exposed to light and air, so it should be stored in a cool, dark location, such as the freezer. You can consume them in simple ways such as:
- As a topping for oatmeal or overnight oats
- Mixed into yogurt
- To the pancake batter
- As a garnish for smoothies, fruit, and avocado toast.
- Oats are combined with nut butter to form energy balls.
- Banana bread, cookies, muffins, and brownies are baked from bananas.
You can also substitute them with eggs in vegan baking recipes. Simply combine one tablespoon of ground flax seeds with three tablespoons of water per egg called for in the recipe.
A Brief Overview
Even though flax seeds are small, they pack a nutritional punch due to their ability to lower blood pressure, improve digestion, and prevent certain types of cancer. Additionally, they are quite versatile, as they can be used in sweet, savory, hot, and cold dishes.
The decision to consume flax seeds and the frequency of consumption should be based on individual preferences and health requirements. Consult with your healthcare provider or dietitian for individualized guidance.
- Have you experienced any health benefits from adding flax seeds to your meals?
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