Benefits of Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil

3 May

 

One of my all time favorite healthy foods is flaxseeds.  After my freshman year of college I was home for summer break and I picked up the book Fat Flush Plan looking to detox my body a bit from alcohol and not the healthiest of food choices.  The book suggested drinking a cocktail made of flaxseeds mixed with cranberry water juice every morning.  Since then (back in 2002), I’ve been a huge fan of them.  In fact, I still drink that cocktail of flax and cranberry juice mixed with water, although most times I add in chia seeds and cinnamon too.  On a bit of a side note, it is also where I got the idea to drink a warm cup of lemon water first thing in the morning and where I learned the benefits of pure cranberry juice, something I still have in my fridge to this day (Knudsen brand is my go to).

Flaxseeds have many health benefits and are high in both fiber and omega 3 fatty acids.  They have a mild nutty flavor and need to be ground before consumption.  When using the flaxseed oil, make sure to use it cold and never heat it.  If you heat it, it will break down the omega 3 fatty acids.  Flaxseeds also go rancid quickly, so don’t buy them in huge quantities (unless you know you can consume them before they go bad) and if you grind them yourself, store them in an airtight container in your fridge.  I like buying whole flaxseeds and grinding about a cup at a time with a small coffee grinder.  I store them in a small glass container with a lid.  This way I know they stay fresh and if they do go bad, I’m not wasting a lot of them.  Flaxseeds come in two different varieties:  brown and golden (yellow).

There are many wonderful ways to incorporate flaxseeds and flax oil into your daily life.  My favorite is drinking them, but I also love them in smoothies, used as flax eggs in recipes and putting them in bread and muffin recipes.  You can even sprinkle them on salads or use the oil to create a salad dressing.

***When consuming a large amount of flaxseeds, it is recommend to wait 2-3 hours before taking vitamins and medication.***

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Below I’ve compiled the benefits from flaxseed from a few different websites, as noted:

From FlaxHealth.com:

Flax Fights Cholesterol

The consumption of flaxseed is associated with a reduction in total cholesterol, including the LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. Study after study has shown a positive response to eating ground flax seed daily. Eating low fat foods, increasing your exercise, limiting the salt, sugar and eating flax seed daily are a few ways that you can win the battle against high cholesterol.

Flax Fights Diabetes

Nutritionists are instructing their diabetic patients to eat flax daily. It has been discovered that the omega-3 fat and high fiber in flax may play a role in the fight against diabetes. In a study conducted by the University of Toronto, participants who ate flaxseed bread had blood sugar levels 28% lower an hour after eating than their counterparts who ate bread made with wheat flour!

Flax Fights Cancer

Flaxseed is high in lignans, up to 800 times the amount as in any tested plant food. Lignans (a phytoestrogen) have been called by H. Adlercreutz (in his article “Phytoestrogens: Epidemiology and a Possible Role in Cancer Protection”), natural cancer-protective compounds. Flax seed is also high in alpha linolenic acid (ALA) which has been found to be promising as a cancer fighting agent. The American National Cancer Institute has singled out flaxseed as one of six foods that deserve special study. Flax seed’s high fiber aspect is also beneficial in the fight against colon cancer. Epidemiological studies note that diet plays a major role in the incidence of colon cancer. Research has shown that increasing the amount of fiber in your diet reduces your colon-cancer risk. Flax seed, high in fiber, lignans, alpha linolenic acid, is a key player in the fight against cancer, particularly breast and colon cancer.

Flax Fights Constipation

Flax is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. One ounce of flax provides 32% of the USDA’s reference daily intake of fiber. Flax promotes regular bowel movements because it is high in insoluble fiber. Flaxseed’s all natural fiber helps to absorb water, thereby softening the stool and allowing it to pass through the colon quickly. When adding fiber to your diet, it is important to make sure that you are drinking at least eight glasses of water daily. Without enough liquids, fiber can actually cause constipation! In the fight against constipation exercise, eat fruits and vegetables, drink eight glasses of water daily and add two to four tablespoons of flax to your daily regime!

Flax Fights Inflammation

Flax is high in Omega 3 essential fatty acids. That’s good news for people who suffer from inflammatory disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis. Health experts, such as former Surgeon General C. Evertt Koop, recommend eating foods high in Omega 3’s for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. It is the inflammation within the joints that cause so much of the pain associated with arthritis. The January 1996 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that the participants in a study that took flax oil daily reduced inflammatory responses by as much as 30%.

Flax Fights Menopausal Symptoms

Hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, moodiness…ah, the joys of menopause. Can flax really help? Yes it can! Flax, like soy, is a phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like substances that are found in plants. Flax is the richest known plant source of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens act as a natural hormone therapy and help to stabilize hormonal levels. This stabilization of hormonal levels helps to lesson the symptoms of menopause.

Flax fights Heart Disease

Heart disease, the number one killer in America, has claimed the lives of too many of our family and friends. Years of a sedentary lifestyle, super size meals and processed foods has finally caught up with us. Can flax help? Yes it can. Numerous studies have been done on the effect of flax on heart disease, yielding many positive findings. Flax has been found to help reduce total cholesterol, LDL levels (the bad cholesterol), triglycerides. Flax helps to reduce clotting time and thereby reduces the chance for heart attacks and strokes. Regular intake of flax protects against arrhythmias and helps keep the arteries clear and pliable!

Flax and the Immune System

Across the table, your co-worker sneezes, no tissue in sight, you feel a light spray hit your face and shudder. Standing in a crowded elevator, in a busy mall, or in an airplane, you sometimes feel like you can’t escape getting at least one or two colds each year…or can you? Research has found that eating flax daily favorably affects immunity, the body’s ability to defend itself successfully against bacteria and viruses. Two components of flax, lignans and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), have been found to affect immune cells and compounds that control immune reaction.

Flax fights “The Blues”

It’s that tired feeling that a good night’s rest won’t shake… that listless down in the dumps feeling that you just can’t get rid of. We call it “the blues”, otherwise known as atypical depression, the most common form of depression. Preliminary research suggests that eating a diet rich in flax could slash your risk of ever feeling “down in the dumps”. Follow up studies show that just 2-3 tablespoons of flax daily can help up to 2/3rds of severely depressed women bounce back within eight weeks. Flax, says Udo Erasmus, PhD, has a mood boosting ingredient: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that is essential for the proper function of brain cells, yet up to 85% of women aren’t getting enough of it. Early research conducted by Dr. Martha Clare Morris of Chicago’s Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center notes that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is believed to be important for brain development. She stated that some participants in the study saw a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s from eating a diet high in Omege-3 fatty acids(Flax is the richest source of Omega 3’s in the plant kingdom). More research is needed in the area of flax and its relation to depression and brain function, however preliminary research is very promising.

How else can it help you?

  1. Flax is very high in lignans, which have anti-tumor properties—lignans act as antioxidants that could mirror the results of Tamoxifen, the anti-cancer drug for breast cancer.
  2. Flax is a natural food that has been consumed for thousands of years by many civilizations with noticeable health benefits and no artificial drug side effects.
  3. Omega 3’s—flax is recognized as the richest source of essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as alphalinolenic acid (ALA and Omega-3 fatty acids).
  4. Lignans—flax contains high levels of lignans, which are natural compounds that help prevent many types of cancer, such as breast, colon and prostate cancer.
  5. Fiber—as a whole grain, flax contains high levels of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which has been recognized by the National Cancer Institute as an essential part of your diet for the prevention of many cancers.
  6. Your body cannot make the essential fatty acids, Linoleic (Omega-6) or Linolenic (Omega-3), from other elements; instead, they must be consumed as part of your daily diet. Research has indicated that we consume too much Omega-6’s and not enough Omega-3’s, but flaxseed contains these essential fatty acids in perfect balance.
  7. In proper balance, omega-3’s and omega-6’s work to form the membranes of every cell in your body, play a vital role in the active tissues of your brain, and control the way cholesterol works in your system.

I found this chart I thought was pretty interesting:

Comparison of Dietary Fats

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What is the difference between flaxseeds and flaxseed oil?

From Livestrong.com

Flaxseed products offer omega-3 fatty acids to support heart health and brain development. Flaxseed meal provides a number of additional nutritional advantages over the oil, including fiber and protein. Flaxseed oil, pressed from whole flaxseeds, may be more convenient to incorporate on a daily basis.

Calories and Macronutrients

One tablespoon of ground flaxseeds, or flaxseed meal, contains 37 calories compared to the 124 calories in 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil. The meal contains 3 grams of fat, while the oil offers 14 grams. The oil provides 7,196 milligrams of omega-3 fats and the meal 1,597 milligrams per tablespoon. The American Heart Association recommends between 1 and 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day, depending on your condition. The oil provides no protein or carbohydrates. Flaxseed meal contains about 2 grams carbohydrates per tablespoon, almost all of which is fiber. The fiber in flaxseed meal makes it more helpful than the oil in treating constipation and lowering cholesterol. The fiber may also help stabilize blood sugar levels. Flaxseed meal provides 1.3 grams of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

The oil provides no vitamins or minerals. The meal, however, has B complex vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, B-6 and pantothenic acid. Flaxseed meal is also a source of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus for strong bones. Each tablespoon offers 2 percent of the daily value for iron, potassium and zinc based on a 2,000-calorie diet. You also get the trace minerals selenium, manganese and copper in flaxseed meal.

Lignans

Lignans, a chemical found in plants, are present only in the flaxseed meal. These phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, fighting off disease-causing free radicals and helping to reduce inflammation and chronic illness. Because of the lignans, flaxseed meal, but not the oil, may have anti-cancer properties; but more research must be conducted to prove this definitively.

 

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Want more information on flaxseeds?  Visit one of the links below (from LiveStrong.com)

Fresh Ground Flaxseeds vs. Flaxseed Oil Supplements

Is Ground Flaxseed the Same as Flaxseed Meal?

Ground Flaxseed Vs. Flaxseed Oil

Can We Cook Ground Flaxseed?

What Are the Benefits of Flaxseeds Vs. Flaxseed Oil?

The Dosage of Ground Flaxseed

Comparison of Ground Flaxseeds to Flaxseed Oil

What is the Difference Between Flaxseed Oil and Ground Flaxseed?

The Nutritional Information for Ground Flaxseed

What Are the Health Benefits of Ground Flaxseed?

How to Store Ground Flaxseed

**For more information on flaxseed oil visit this link.  There are many articles you can chose to read.

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Questions:  Do you use flaxseeds or flax oil?  What is your favorite way to use them?

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14 Responses to “Benefits of Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil”

  1. Maren May 5, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    I love flax seeds! I like to put milled flax seeds in smoothies and oatmeal. But recently I found flax seed milk made by Good Karma. It’s delicious and I’ve been drinking it every day with my protein powder!!!

  2. sweetlyvegan May 6, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I love flax seeds also! I have a tendency to just reach for the chia seeds instead of flax (I have bags of each right next to each other but the flax always goes untouched lately) and I think I should be switching off every other day for a wider variety of vitamins. I love using flax eggs in baking too! I have never used flax oil tho… does it have a distinct taste? I would love to try it on a salad… I always see it at the grocery store in the refrigerated vitamin section and refuse to buy it because its so expensive. haha maybe I should give it a try!! :) Great post KJ!

    • I have the opposite tendency and reach for the flax, even though they are both right next to one another in the fridge. Although I do like chia seeds better in yogurt. I don’t use flax oil that often, but it has a slighty nutty taste to it, it isn’t bad at all.

  3. Alicia May 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    I love flaxseed in oatmeal, yogurt and smoothies!! :-) Thanks for the references, very helpful!!

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Benefits of Chia Seeds « - May 8, 2012

    [...] love chia seeds, almost as much as I love flaxseeds.  I first heard about chia seeds about two years ago and since then, they are always stocked [...]

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