Did you Know...... that during the 8th century, King Charlemagne of France passed a law which required his subjects to use flaxseed in their diet so that they could improve their health.
Flaxseed are seeds of the flax plant, one of the oldest fiber crops grown widely across the world. Flaxseed is valued for its nutritional content and contains the highest amount of fiber and antioxidants in comparison to other seeds and grains. As a result, it has many health benefits and is quickly gaining in popularity. It is also called linseed and comes in two varieties, brown and golden. While the whole seed gives a crunchy flavor and a nice texture to your food, nutrition is best provided by the meal or powdered form. A point to note here, whole flaxseed remains stable at room temperature but its powdered form turns rancid due to oxidation. Hence, if you wish to store it at home, keep the powder in an airtight container in a cool place.
Flaxseed contains essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, zinc, potassium, B vitamins, magnesium and fiber. It is also the best plant source for lignans which is a type of beneficial phytoestrogen. Numerous studies have been carried out on its purpoted benefits but there isn't conclusive evidence on most benefits due to conflicting results. Yet flaxseed has proven beneficial to numerous individuals who have consumed it in measured quantities. Let us take a look at how beneficial it is for our health.
▷ Relieves Constipation
As the fiber content in flaxseed is very high, it is a beneficial remedy for relieving constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis. It also repairs any damage to the intestinal tract caused by the inflammatory bowel disease. Any form of flaxseed, also significantly helps an individual to maintain his or her gastrointestinal health.
▷ Improves Cardiovascular Health
The magnesium contained in flaxseed helps to control high blood pressure levels and reduce the inflammation caused by plaque buildup in the arteries. It has a high content of omega-3 fatty acids which help in lowering the triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels to decrease the risk of heart disease, blood clots, strokes and cardiac arrhythmia.
▷ Lowers High Blood Sugar
Flaxseed contains 28 percent fiber, of which two-thirds is soluble. This soluble fiber helps improve the insulin sensitivity of the body and regulate blood sugar considerably. Also, omega-3 fatty acids improve the flexibility of cell membranes, which in turn increase the insulin absorbing capacity of the cells. Research is still being carried out to find if it is beneficial in preventing type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
▷ Fights Asthma and Migraine
Magnesium is also beneficial to patients of asthma. It helps to reduce the stress on the airways and relaxes them. Omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium are linked with the reduction of inflammation in cases of migraine, stroke and asthma. The ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and lignans, in flaxseed help to curtail the release of pro-inflammatory agents which cause inflammation in patients with Parkinson's disease.
▷ Improves Fertility
The EFAs present in flaxseed help to keep the sperm healthy and also increases the blood flow towards the penis. This is beneficial for males who experience infertility and impotence. It is a rich source of hormone-balancing lignans and plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) which helps in promoting natural ovulation, improving uterine function and increasing fertility of women.
▷ Prevents Breast Cancer
There have been inconclusive studies about lignans in flaxseed helping prevent breast cancer. The lignans are converted into two hormone like substances called enterolactone and enterodiol. These hormone-like agents have a protective impact against the risk of breast cancer. Flaxseed has a significant impact on estrogen which can help to protect against breast cancer.
▷ Aids Weight loss
Flaxseed has a substantial lecithin content that helps to dissolve the unhealthy fat in the digestive tract. The fiber and mucilage also help in the elimination of fat from the body instead of letting it accumulate. Consuming flaxseed, which is low on carbohydrates and high on omega-3 fatty acids, keeps one's stomach full and reduces the total calorie intake.
▷ Beneficial for Skin, Hair and Nails
EFA's anti-inflammatory actions help in treating eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. The lignans also help to protect the skin against various signs of aging. It also helps in treating sunburns. EFAs unclog the skin pores preventing sebum from clogging them, thus clearing acne. The omega-3 fatty acids contribute towards hair growth and provide nourishment. The EFAs in flaxseed also improve the health of dry and brittle nails.
» Consumption of 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed everyday is considered safe and appropriate for adult intake. However, some people may have an allergic reaction to it. Hence, it is better to start with ½ teaspoon to rule out any occurrence of nutrient and drug interactions or allergies.
» Mix the meal with your breakfast cereal and oatmeal. You can also mix the meal with the batter of cakes, cookies, muffins, etc., and bake them.
» You can also use the whole form or meal in the coating batter for frying meat, fish and chicken. One great benefit about flaxseed is that its oil can be substituted for fish oil.
» You can also add it to sauces, soups, stews and sautéed vegetables. The best option is to add it your smoothies and juices.
A word of caution, however, consumption of excessive amount of flaxseed can result in extra fiber, which may have a laxative effect on an individual's bowel movements. So it is better to start off with small quantity. If consumed in the right amount, it can be highly beneficial for maintaining optimum health.