Flaxseeds have been consumed for at least 6,000 years, making them one of the world’s first cultivated foods. Flaxseeds contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (although not the same type as that of fish) along with antioxidant substances called lignans that help promote hormonal balance in addition to several other benefits of flaxseed.
Flaxseeds, sometimes called linseeds, are small, brown, tan or golden-colored seeds. In fact, linseed or “flax seed” are different names for the same seed. Flaxseeds are a great source of dietary fiber; minerals like manganese, thiamine and magnesium; and plant-based protein.
Helps Lower Cholesterol and Treat Hyperlipidemia
The soluble fiber content of flaxseed traps fat and cholesterol in the digestive system so it’s unable to be absorbed. Soluble flax fiber also traps bile, which is made from cholesterol in the gall bladder. Hyperlipidemia is having an abnormally high concentration of fats or lipids in the blood, and it’s one of the most important risk factors of heart disease.
Aids Weight Loss
Flax is full of healthy fats and fiber, it helps you feel satisfied for longer. This means you may wound up eating fewer calories overall, which may lead to weight loss. ALA fats may also help reduce inflammation and help with hormonal balance, which might be standing in the way of you losing weight. An inflamed body tends to hold on to excess weight, plus it’s common to struggle with digestive issues like constipation and bloating if you’ve been eating an unhealthy diet.
Helps Decrease Menopausal and Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms
Flaxseed can be used as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy in some cases to balancing hormones due to the estrogenic properties of lignans.
Due to flax’s ability to balance estrogen, flax seeds may also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It can even help menstruating women by helping them to maintain cycle regularity, such as encouraging a normal length luteal phase (the period between ovulation and menstruation).
High in Fiber but Low in Carbs
One of the most extraordinary benefits of flaxseed is that flax contains high levels of gum content, a gel-forming fiber that is water-soluble and therefore moves through the gastrointestinal tract undigested. Once eaten, mucilage from flaxseeds can keep food in the stomach from emptying too quickly into the small intestine, which can increase nutrient absorption and make you feel fuller. Because the fiber found in flaxseed cannot be broken down in the digestive tract, some of the calories that flax contains won’t even be absorbed. Flax is low in carbohydrates but extremely high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, which means it also supports colon detoxification, may help with fat loss and can reduce sugar cravings.
High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We hear a lot about the health benefits of fish oil and omega-3 fats lately, which is one reason why flax seeds, walnuts and chia seeds have become known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) is an n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid that has been found in studies to help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and hypertension, improve platelet function, reduce inflammation, promote healthy endothelial cell function, protect arterial function and reduce heart arrhythmias.
High in Antioxidants (Lignans)
One of the greatest benefits of flaxseed is that it’s packed with antioxidants, specifically the type called lignans that are unique fiber-related polyphenols. Lignans provide us with antioxidants that help reduce free radical damage, therefore flax has anti-aging, hormonal-balancing and cellular-regenerating effects. Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor gut health, smoking, antibiotics and obesity, all affect circulating lignan levels in the body, which is why a nutrient-dense diet is important for restoring levels.
Lignans are considered natural “Phytoestrogens” or plant nutrients that work somewhat similarly to the hormone estrogen. Phytoestrogens in flaxseed can alter estrogen metabolism, causing either an increase or decrease in estrogen activity depending on someone’s hormonal status (in other words, flax has both estrogenic and antiestrogenic properties). For example, in postmenopausal women, lignans can cause the body to produce less active forms of estrogen, which is tied to increased protection against tumor growth. Lignans are also known for their antiviral and antibacterial properties, therefore consuming flax regularly may help reduce the number or severity of colds and flus.
Helps Make Skin and Hair Healthy
Flax seeds benefits for hair include making it shinier, stronger and more resistant to damage. The ALA fats in flax seeds benefits the skin and hair by providing essential fatty acids as well as B vitamins, which can help reduce dryness and flakiness. It can also improve symptoms of acne and eczema. The same benefits also apply to eye health, as flax can help reduce dry eye syndrome due to its lubricating effects.
Flax is a great way to naturally replace gluten-containing grains in recipes. Grains, especially those containing gluten, can be hard to digest for many people, but flax is usually easily metabolized and also anti-inflammatory. They are also a good alternative to getting omega-3 fats from fish for people with a seafood allergy.