What I’m not going to do is reel off on how flaxseed is a cure all for everything. It’s not. But it’s pretty awesome. I thought I’d write this as I was making a batch of flax seed crackers for a snack option as part of a 14-day detox I am doing at the moment. Flaxseed is also known as linseed. Brown flax and golden flax are the two basic varieties of flax, and they are similar in their nutritional composition. They can be bought as a whole seed, ground seed (sometimes called flax meal), or as a cold pressed oil to pour on salads. I mostly recommend buying it as a whole seed and grinding it only when you need to use it. That way the super beneficial oils are consumed fresh.
The oil in flaxseed may turn rancid if it is not refrigerated. Flaxseed oil requires special packaging because it is easily destroyed by heat, light, and oxygen. The highest quality flaxseed products are made using fresh pressed seeds, bottled in dark containers, and processed at low temperatures in the absence of light, extreme heat, or oxygen. It’s prone to losing its super powers quite easily. All seeds and grains are designed to protect the contents within its protective shell and the flaxseed does just that. So, if you have a coffee grinder or blender, grind the seed just
before you sprinkle it on your cereal.
Flaxseed is not just for sprinkling on cereal. It can be an ingredient in smoothies, crackers, breads, pancakes and can be sprinkled on yoghurt, or a delicious pad thai or nasi goreng dish.
So whats all the fuss about? Why am I raving on about it?
Flaxseeds are an excellent source of fibre related polyphenols called lignans, mucilaginous gums like arabinoxylans and galactoxylans. They’re also an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, an omega-3 fatty-acid), dietary fibre, vitamin B1, and copper and a good source of the minerals magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium.
With the help of all these nutrients, here are some of the proven benefits of flax;
- Digestive Health – try adding a tablespoon ground flaxseed to your breakfast. Being full of soluble fibre, they help to create bulk in the stool and keep your bowel movements regular, thereby preventing any build-up or constipation.
- Menopause – Research has shown that 40 grams (nearly 3 tbsp) ground flaxseed per day may be similar to hormone therapy for improving mild menopause symptoms, such as hot flushes and night sweats.
- Cardiovascular Health – Alpha-linolenic acid can help protect the blood vessels from inflammatory damage. Numerous studies have shown the ability of dietary flaxseeds to increase our blood levels of ALA. Protection of our blood vessels from inflammatory damage is also provided by the lignans in flaxseeds. Risk of oxidative stress in the blood vessels can also be lowered by flaxseed intake. Intake of flaxseeds has also been shown to decrease the ratio of LDL-to-HDL cholesterol in several human studies and to increase the level of apolipoprotein A1, which is the major protein found in HDL cholesterol.
- ‘Hormone-related’ Cancer – Breast cancer and prostate cancer are included in the list of cancers know as “hormone-related” cancers. Their risk reduction may be more closely related to flaxseed than risk reduction for other cancers due to the high lignan content of flaxseed. Three of the lignans found in flaxseeds – secoisolariciresinol, matairecinol, and pinoresinol – can be converted by intestinal bacteria into enterolactone (ENL) and enterodiol (END). ENL and END have direct affects on our hormonal balance and in this way may play an especially important role in hormone-related cancer. In addition to decreased risk of breast and prostate cancer following flaxseed intake, there is also some preliminary evidence that ENL and END may be able to alter the course of hormone-dependent tumours once they are formed. The relationship between flaxseed intake and cancer prevention is complicated, however, due to the important role of gut bacteria in converting secoisolariciresinol and other lignans in flax into enterolactone and enterodiol. This conversion process involves many different enzyme-related steps provided by a complicated mix of gut bacteria including Bacteriodes, Bifidobacterium, Butyribacterium, Eubacterium and others.
- Colon Cancer – Animal studies show that lignans may slow the growth of colon tumour cells. Population studies suggest that flaxseed may reduce the number of abnormal cell growths, which are early markers of colon cancer.
So, go ahead and add up to 3 tablespoons of flaxseed into your diet on a daily basis. I am going to post my recipe for flax crackers next so stay posted.