5 Reasons Why You Should Be Eating More Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds are tiny brown seeds that come from the flax plant — one of the oldest cultivated crops and one that grows from the Mediterranean region all the way to India. Flaxseeds are sold raw, ground, and often added to cereals and granolas for their nutty flavor and fiber content. Flaxseeds can also be used to create flaxseed oil, which is used in cooking as well for its health benefits.
Because of their versatility and huge range of health benefits, flaxseeds are one of the most underrated superfoods out there. Here are five reasons why you should be eating more of them:
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1. Flaxseeds are full of plant-based healthy fats
Out of all the health benefits of flaxseeds, their healthy fat content is probably the most significant. They contain a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of healthy fat that supports cardiovascular health, brain health, immune health, and hormone health. More specifically, flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, which the body converts to EPA and DHA - the healthy fats found in fish oil. This makes flaxseeds an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans who are often missing out on essential fatty acids.
2. Flaxseeds contain important minerals
We give a lot of attention to vitamins like vitamin C and D, but the truth is, minerals are just as important as vitamins — and more often forgotten. Luckily, flaxseeds contain essential minerals (1) such as copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese, which play a role in literally hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body that regulate important things like blood sugar balance and nerve health.
3. Flaxseeds contain anti-cancer lignans
Lignans are phytochemicals that help form the structure of a plant’s cellular walls, but they also have benefits for humans. Flax is particularly high in two lignans called secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG) and matairesinol (2), which are converted into cancer-fighting compounds by the bacteria in the colon. This might seem too good to be true, but researchers have been studying lignan concentrations and dietary intake of lignans and their effect on several different types of tumors and cancer risk for years. They’ve even done randomized controlled trials to test the effect of dietary flaxseed on tumors (3) and the results have been promising.
4. Flaxseeds contain B vitamins
Flaxseeds contain vitamins B1, B3, and B6. This is important because B1 helps convert carbohydrates into usable energy for the body; B2 is essential for red blood cell production; and B6 helps the body make antibodies and hemoglobin, maintain healthy nerve function, and break down proteins. I think we can all agree those things are pretty important, can’t we? You don’t want to miss out on B vitamins, and flaxseeds are a great way to increase your daily dose of these important vitamins.
5. Flaxseeds are chock full of fiber
Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which are both healthy in their own way. Soluble fiber attracts water in the GI tract, makes you feel full, and is healthy for the heart. Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that helps foods pass more quickly through the GI tract, keeping your digestion regular.
If you want to add more flaxseeds to your life, you can buy them ground or whole at most grocery stores. I recommend buying them whole and then grinding them at home using a coffee grinder, blender, or food processor because ground flaxseeds lose nutritional value the longer they are exposed to oxygen. You can also buy flaxseed oil in a bottle or in capsule-form.
So, how much should you use? I recommend starting with one tablespoon a day; you can add ground flaxseeds to your smoothie (try one of these 11 smoothie recipes), oatmeal, yogurt, or healthy baked goods and increase to two tablespoons if you’re not experiencing any bloating or other side effects.
Flaxseeds are a low-cost, no frills way to support your digestive, hormone, and heart health in one simple daily ritual. Don’t sleep on these seeds, they’re about as “super” as foods can get!
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- Healthy food trends -- flaxseeds: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved August 25, 2020, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000728.htm
- Kezimana, P., Dmitriev, A. A., Kudryavtseva, A. V., Romanova, E. V., & Melnikova, N. V. (2018). Secoisolariciresinol Diglucoside of Flaxseed and Its Metabolites: Biosynthesis and Potential for Nutraceuticals. Frontiers in genetics, 9, 641. https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2018.00641
- Dietary Flaxseed Alters Tumor Biological Markers in Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Lilian U. Thompson, Jian Min Chen, Tong Li, Kathrin Strasser-Weippl and Paul E. Goss Clin Cancer Res May 15 2005 (11) (10) 3828-3835; DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-04-2326 https://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/11/10/3828.long
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.