Health benefits of Flax Seeds

Flax seeds pack a nutritional punch. They are rich in fibre, omega fatty acids and antioxidants. Find out how flax seeds can help improve health, protect your heart, fight cancers and do a lot more for you if you include it on the menu.

Many studies have been carried out on the health benefits offered by flax seeds. The results of some cannot yet be called compellingly conclusive, but there are plenty of reasons to believe flax seeds offer the following health benefits.

What is flaxseed?

Flaxseed or linseed is called 'alsi' in Hindi. They are coffee brown coloured seeds, similar in shape to sesame seeds, but a little larger in size. They have a nutty flavour, and are gummy when chewed. In Malayalam they are called Cheruchana Vithu and Agase in Kannada. Maharashtrians call is Jawas and Teluguites know it as Avise Ginzalu. It is known as pesi or tishi in Bengali.

Ground flaxseed gets rancid very quickly, so ground seeds should be consumed within a week. It is best to use freshly ground seeds, each time. Flaxseed oil can be used as a substitute for olive oil, in salad dressings. However, the oil does not have a high heating point and is hence not ideal for cooking. It too gets rancid very fast, so use quickly.

Lowers cholesterol

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that flax seeds may lower cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol levels. We can see the evidence of this in people who eat Mediterranean diets, which also includes flaxseed oil and ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) from flax seeds. ALA helps to speed up metabolism.

Flax seeds a hearty healthy, nutrient packed food
Lab tests have also been carried out with results that suggest flax seeds lower cholesterol in animals. Studies in humans have shown inconclusive results, though there have been studies which found flax seeds with a low cholesterol diet experience lower LDL levels and triglycerides.

The best way to include flax seed in the diet is roasted seeds in salads, cereals etc. or coarsely ground into smoothies. They can also be chewed, but do have a tendency of getting stuck in the teeth because of their small size. Ground flaxseeds can be added to flour that is being kneaded for chapatis. It can be added to all types of chutneys, as it enhances both flavour and nutrition.

Protects against heart diseases

The ALA in flax seeds is believed to lower chances of strokes and heart attacks when it is included in a diet that is also rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes or nuts. The heart-protective benefits of ALA can be enjoyed both by healthy people as well as people who have already suffered a stroke or a heart attack.

ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension. Several studies have shown that people who eat diets rich in ALA are also less likely to have a heart attack.

Protects against arthritis

Studies have found that dietary alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) may help to prevent arthritis. As a result, there has been a lot of talk about flax seeds being good as a preventive food against arthritis. People with a common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, have found that omega-3 fats like ALA are very important for improving their symptoms.

ALA can lower symptoms like inflammation, pain, morning stiffness, pain in the knees and hips and other symptoms in just a week of taking omega-3 regularly in the diet.

May reduce breast cancer tumour growth and metastasis

Flax seeds are rich in plant oestrogens, called lignans. The seeds contain as much as 75 to 800 times the amount of lignans you would find in other plant foods.

These lignans act like oestrogen in the body. Some studies carried out on rats have found that breast tumour growth and spread are reduced by flax seeds. A study carried out on postmenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer, who ate a flaxseed-enriched muffin daily for forty days found that breast cancer tumour growth was reduced in women who ate the muffins.

May protect against prostate cancer

Early studies have found that flax seeds may help to lower testosterone levels and slow down the growth of tissue in men with prostate cancer. It is not entirely conclusive, however, whether or not the seeds can actually benefit men who are vulnerable to prostate cancer. More studies are required.

Improves digestive health

Flax seed is rich in soluble and insoluble fibres. As a result, it acts as a laxative and keeps the digestive system functioning normally. The seeds have a high mucilage content, which helps to prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines.

A word of caution

While the benefits of flaxseeds are always expounded, there is very little said about their side-effects. Not everyone can/should take flaxseeds. There are some contraindications that users of flaxseeds should be made aware of –

  • Women who are either pregnant or are breastfeeding should not consume flaxseeds in large quantities. There are no conclusive tests that show the effect of flaxseeds on the foetus or on an infant
  • Individuals on prescribed drug tamoxifen should not take flaxseeds

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Author: Umesh Chandra Bhatt04 Jun 2020 Member Level: Silver   Points : 2

This is a very elaborate article on the benefits of flaxseed. Interesting reading. Hope the author submits some more such articles on other natural useful items. Readers would be benefited with such information.

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