What Is Flaxseed?
Flax is the name of a plant that is indigenous to regions in the Mediterranean and India.
Its cultivation and use date back many centuries ago. Nowadays, flax is grown and used for its strong fibers and health-boosting seeds.
While these are the most popular uses, flaxseed sprouts are also high for consumption and have a subtle yet spicy flavor.
Flaxseed comes in a couple of varieties, so don’t be alarmed if you see different colored seeds when you purchase them.
It is either brown, yellow or golden. No matter the type of flaxseed nutritional profiles are the same, except for Solin, which is a type of yellow flax that has a much lower count of omega-3 fatty acids.
Flaxseed is edible and has a wide range of uses, from finishing wood surfaces to being taken as a nutritional supplement.
The oil is a vegetable-based oil that is most commonly known as flaxseed oil, but for commercial use, it is also called linseed oil.
Most people just aren’t aware of the many benefits of flax seeds.
Obesity levels in the western world are at their highest levels, and yet the demand for healthy, natural foods and living a healthy lifestyle has never been higher.
There’s no mystery to understanding that a poor diet and lack of exercise will result in poor health.
Subsequently, a healthy diet, combined with regular and moderate exercise will help promote a healthy body.
If you’re like me, then you too are interested in nutrient-rich foods that are acquired from natural sources like plants and fish.
You should be able to consume much of the recommended daily amount of fiber, protein vitamins, and minerals, just by eating a healthy balanced diet.
But despite our good intentions, there are a few essential nutrients in the average, healthy diet that we don’t consume enough of for optimal health.
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Flaxseed Nutrition Value
Although you may have thought that of all dietary fats are harmful, consuming omega-3 and omega-6 fats are different and will help lower the risk of diseases.
Get Your RDA of Omega-3 From Flaxseed
Oil extracted from flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) is loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids which are highly recommended by most physicians.
Omega-3 is a food source that nearly all of us should consume more of, primarily as the health benefits of omega-3 are well documented and scientifically proven.
Omega-3, also known as a polyunsaturated fat is an ‘essential,’ unsaturated fatty acid needed in the body for maintaining good health.
The body cannot produce these fats by itself (this is why they are called ‘essential’ fatty acids) and so we rely on various foods for their intake.
Much of these fatty acids are found in fish, especially oily fish.
However, consuming fish isn’t an option for everyone and can pose potential health risks depending on the mercury level of fish.
Consuming omega-3 has been shown to help prevent and treat a number of medical conditions including; cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression, and asthma.
That’s why flaxseed oil is a great way to supplement your omega-3 intake.
It contains an ideal 3 – 1 ratio of omega-3 and omega six fatty acids and is the simplest way of adding omega-3 to your diet.
While flax seeds are amazing health food, before you start eating them, you should know that you can’t just eat the seeds alone.
Whole flax seeds are not fully bioavailable so that you won’t get all the nutritional value of the oils contained in the seed.
This means that you’ll have to either get ground flax seeds or grind them yourself for most flax seed recipes.
I would suggest doing the latter, as it’s super easy to make your ground flaxseed with a cheap household device that you probably already have.
You’re about to discover how flaxseed oil – a natural, plentiful and cheap food source can improve specific aspects of your health.
Plus the best and easiest ways to add it to your daily diet.
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What are the Benefits of Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil is cold-pressed from the flaxseed, and the result is a separation of the seed’s oils and the leftover flax meal.
This leftover flax meal contains very little of the good fats that you want to consume.
On the flip side of this, however, the separated flaxseed oil does not retain the dietary fiber that is left over in the crushed flax hulls.
As you can see, there is a give and take here, but flaxseed oil allows you to add omega-3, 6, and 9 fats to your diet much more efficiently.
Also left over in the hulls are most of the cancer-fighting lignans that are very beneficial to your health.
Some flaxseed oil products will have lignans added, although even with this, the result is only a small percentage of the total lignans that originated from the whole seed.
So why don’t they keep adding more lignans to the oil?
Well, if the oil manufacturers added too much, the flaxseed oil would get too thick and cloudy from the fiber that the lignans are contained in.
Again, whether or not this is an issue depends on what you need in your diet.
The health benefits of flaxseed oil are many and include the ability to enhance heart health, decrease gout and inflammation, and inhibit cancer and early aging.
It also helps control digestion and supports the immune system.
Flaxseed is high for regulating post-menopausal hormones and lower blood pressure.
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Here are Eight benefits of flaxseed:
Antioxidant Rich Lignans
Flaxseeds contain more lignans than any other plant source and 100 times more than most other whole grains.
Lignans are potent antioxidants that help fight against harmful free radicals.
They have almost identical properties to the female hormone estrogen.
The hormone estrogen is found in both men and women.
It plays a considerable role in storing body fat, and lignans help modulate its activity.
Don’t get me wrong though, estrogen is not all evil, and it plays a critical role in healthy bodily functions, but an imbalance of estrogen can negatively affect your weight loss efforts.
Researchers believe that lignans balance estrogen activity by exerting both anti-estrogenic and weak estrogenic properties.
To further the case for the effect of lignans on estrogen, studies are currently being done to determine whether lignans can relieve menopausal hot flashes.
Also, certain cancers that need natural estrogen to thrive have been shown to slow down in growth and stopped altogether when high levels of lignans are introduced into the body.
Studies have shown a low incidence of breast cancer and colon cancer in populations that have high amounts of lignan in their diet.
Lignans also ward off the ill effects of certain bacteria and fungi.
Although lignans are found in the flaxseed, pure flaxseed oil will have a higher quantity of lignans which may otherwise be lost in the processing of the oil.
Flaxseed Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
Consumption of omega-3 has been shown to reduce high blood pressure.
A study revealed that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduces high blood pressure in patients by as much as 6%.
Although 6% doesn’t seem like a lot, it does prove that flaxseed oil is a beneficial oil to the body.
Helping to lower high blood pressure, even by a small amount adds another string to the many flaxseed oil health benefits.
Flaxseed Oil Reduces Hunger Pangs
A high-fiber diet is not only good for your health, but it will also help you lose weight.
Among the many sources of fiber, flax seeds are one of the best, as an ounce of flaxseed contains about 32% of the recommended daily dosage.
A high-fiber food like flax seed has a low energy density, meaning that relative to the total weight of the food, it is somewhat small in calories.
Furthermore, our bodies absorb fiber much more slowly than other food compounds, so after you eat it, you will feel full for a more extended period.
Flax seeds are unique in this aspect in that they swell up in the intestine to form a gel-like substance.
Eating flax seeds can also help stabilize your blood sugar levels, so the energy that you get from eating lasts longer and also keeps you feeling full.
Fiber is not the only hunger-curbing agent in flaxseed; the fat also helps keep you full.
If you’ve ever been on a low-fat diet, perhaps you’ve experienced that feeling of never being full after you eat, and that’s because fats are a significant element in getting that full feeling.
Flaxseeds contain good fats, the kind of fats that not only don’t make you fat but help you lose weight.
If you don’t feel full, you might be able to hold out for a little while, but eventually, you will break and overeat to your heart’s content.
The fats found in flax will help keep you feeling full without the harmful properties of certain saturated fats.
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Flaxseed Can Help Lower Cholesterol
Flaxseed oil contains twice as much omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil and is also high in soluble fiber, omega 6, omega 9 fatty acids.
It has a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, which is a significant contributor to lowering cholesterol levels.
These healthy fats and dietary fiber help keep blood platelets from sticking together, reducing cholesterol levels and lowering the likelihood of heart disease.
To this day, dietary fats still have a bad rap from years of misconceptions.
On a surface level, it seems logical to say that eating fat will increase your cholesterol and make you fat.
But when you examine things more closely, you’ll find that not all fats are the same.
Saturated fats from greasy, fried foods like french fries or pretty much anything you can get from Fast Food is indeed not right for you.
These fats are bad for you, but polyunsaturated fats are essential to our health and well-being.
Flaxseed Helps in Weight Management
It’s important to note that flaxseed is not going to help you lose weight if your daily diet is high saturated fats and sugars.
If you are trying to lose weight, then here’s the lowdown on how flaxseed can help you shed those pounds.
First, because it is high in fiber, it can help stave off hunger. Whole and ground flax seeds are packed with fiber which is excellent for your digestive system and will keep you regular.
Second, flax seeds have high levels of polyunsaturated fats, such as the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which helps in proper system functioning.
Third, the large number of lignans contained in flax help balance estrogen levels.
This balance will boost the body’s metabolism, helping your body produce more heat while burning more fuel (calories).
On a theoretical level, losing weight is all about calories in vs. calories out, meaning the number of calories that you take in has to be lower than the amount of calories you burn.
On a practical level, however, the situation is much more complicated because there are other factors that matter, such as your body’s hormones.
As far as weight loss goes, you should consider putting more flax in your diet to get more lignans to regulate your estrogen levels and ultimately help you lose weight.
Remember, flax seeds give you lots of fiber, have high levels of good fats, and contain lots of lignans, all of which can contribute to overall weight loss.
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Flaxseed oil contains anti-inflammatory, essential fatty acids in the form of omega-3.
These fatty acids help reduce inflammation that contributes to health problems such as asthma, arthritis, migraines, and osteoporosis.
This is in contrast to omega-6 fats, which act as a pro-inflammatory. Excessive levels of omega 6 can cause these various medical conditions.
Flaxseed Oil improves Brain Function
There is growing evidence to suggest many brain conditions such as
ADHD and depression can be linked to a deficiency of healthy fatty acids such as those found in flaxseed oil.
Around one-fifth of the brain is made up of fatty acids, so it should be reasonable to expect that a lack of omega-3 in our diets could have some detrimental effect on the brain.
Flaxseed Promotes Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails
Flaxseed oil has been shown to improve the condition of your skin, hair, and nails.
It can also help to reduce and eliminate sun spots that develop on the skin. Applying flax oil to the surface has also been shown to reduce scar tissue.
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Flaxseed Oil vs. Fish Oil
Yes, fish – especially salmon, sardines, halibut, and tuna contain good quantities of omega-3 as does olive oil and walnuts.
Fish oil also contains slightly different properties of flaxseed oil.
There are two omega-3 fatty acids available in fish oil. These are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Flaxseed oil, however, is loaded with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This omega-3 acid is a more superior acid to EPA and DHA.
The body can use the high content of ALA found in flaxseed oil to make as much DHA and EPA as it needs.
In layman’s terms, flaxseed oil contains the same omega-3 benefits to that of fish oil, plus the benefits of ALA.
Here are some reasons why I prefer flaxseed oil to fish oil:
- Flaxseed oil contains the perfect ratio of omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids (3 to 1).
- Flaxseed oil contains more than twice as much omega-3 as fish oil.
- Flaxseed oil does not contain any harmful mercury or other poisonous metals often found in fish.
- Flaxseed oil is cheaper than fish or fish oil supplements and comes from a sustainable crop.
- Flaxseed oil benefits are not as well documented as fish oil benefits, but more and more studies are revealing incredible health benefits ranging from improving skin conditions to treating and curing cancers.
These findings are fascinating and even doctors and health organizations are recommending flaxseed oil for some ailments.
I also believe that the big pharmacy companies have a vested interest in promoting the higher markup of fish oil supplements compared to the lesser lucrative flaxseed oil.
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Flaxseed Meal Guide
Flaxseed oil has become quite the buzzword in recent years.
There’s no better time than now to pick up some cheap and nutritious flaxseed to maximize your daily potential for some severe fat loss and health benefits.
How To Add Flaxseed Oil To Your Daily Meals
If you buy flaxseed oil, make sure you use it as an addition to your cooked or already prepared food.
Cooking with it can turn it into a dangerous fat and strip it of a lot of its nutrients.
Add it instead to dishes like salads, yogurts, cottage cheese, soups and smoothie drinks.
You can use flax meal or ground flaxseed for baked goods and to thicken sauces.
But because the oil is packed with more nutrients, it’s best not to destroy its composition with heat.
I eat lots of salads and often drizzle a little flaxseed oil over the top. It gives it a delicious, nutty flavor.
Flaxseed oil eaten in conjunction with a low-fat protein such as low-fat cottage cheese is supposed to be the most optimal way of absorbing the essential fatty acids.
There’s also nothing wrong with just taking it from a spoon. You might want to drink some fruit juice afterward if the taste is too strong for you.
Flaxseed in oil form has the highest and most concentrated quantities of omega-3 and is also absorbed into your body more efficiently.
Flaxseed oil capsules and soft gels are also a popular choice and offer a comfortable and convenient form while still providing high quantities of omega-3.
Gels and tablets don’t offer the nutrient value that comes from the seeds, such as the lignans and fiber, but do contain the essential fatty acids.
As a side note, flaxseed is gluten-free, which is an essential consideration for anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
I believe that the best combination is to consume flaxseed oil with ground flaxseeds.
That way, you’ll benefit from high levels of omega-3 and the beneficial nutrients and lignans found in the seeds.