Benefits of flaxseed
What are the benefits of flaxseed? Heck, what is flaxseed? Thanks!
Flaxseed — you may have seen these reddish-brown seeds in baked goods, smoothies, trail mix, or a variety of other products. But do most consumers really know the flaxseed history? As its name would suggest, flaxseeds come from the flax herb (Linum usitatissimum), and they are about the same size as sesame seeds. While small and mild in flavor, flaxseeds pack a nutritional punch! Many praise flaxseeds due to it being full of omega-3 fatty acids — one of the best sources around for those who don’t eat fish. Read on to learn more to get to the root of this supposed wonder-seed!
On top of its omega-3 fatty acid content, flaxseeds are also a great source of:
- Lignans: a kind of plant hormone that may have antioxidant properties and reduce risk for developing osteoporosis, heart disease, and breast cancer
- Fiber: absorbs water and slows down digestion, while also lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and lowering the risk for developing heart disease
The health benefits of flaxseeds are still under investigation — and some trusted sources such as Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health differ on how effective flaxseed may be for various ailments. Despite the differences, current research suggests flaxseed is most useful for improving constipation, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels for people with type II diabetes and history of high cholesterol respectively. Furthermore, flaxseed can also increase potassium levels for people with kidney disease or other ailments that impact potassium levels in the body. While you may have heard that flaxseed is suggested as helpful with a long list of other health issues (e.g., breast pain, various cancers, menopause symptoms, weight loss, etc.), there isn’t enough scientific evidence to demonstrate effectiveness for these conditions yet.
Lastly, there are several cautions and considerations for people to think about prior to sprinkling flaxseed on or into your meals, such as:
- Making sure to drink plenty of water because of the fiber content in flaxseed. Sufficient hydration is key to avoid constipation or in rare cases, intestinal blockage.
- Using ground flaxseed versus whole flaxseed is suggested by some nutrition experts as it allows for easier digestion.
- Consulting a health care provider if you’re taking medications, supplements, or herbs. Flaxseed may interact with or decrease absorption of some of these!
- Look for the differences between flax products. Benefits of flaxseeds can vary depending on the product. For example, while it has omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed oil doesn’t have the same fiber or lignan benefits that regular flaxseed has!
Here’s to getting more information before “flax”ing poetic about potential health benefits!
Originally published Nov 19, 2004
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