Benefits of Flaxseed include helping improve digestion, giving you clearer skin, lowering cholesterol, reducing sugar cravings, balancing hormones and even helping fight cancer.
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Tiny but mighty, flaxseed is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. The seeds come from flax, one of the oldest crops in the world. Flaxseed was first cultivated in Babylon in 3000 BC, followed by Egypt and China. King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flax seeds that he passed a law to make sure his subjects ate flaxseeds. Flaxseeds belong to the Linaceae family and are botanically known as Linum usitatissimum. It is called sana bija in Hindi.
Flax Seed Benefits for Health:
The therapeutic and health benefits of flax seeds are popular around the world. The health benefits of flax seeds come from the high amounts of fiber, antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids present in it. A tablespoon of ground flaxseeds contains 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids and 2 grams of fiber with just 37 calories.
1. High in Phytochemicals and Antioxidants:
Flaxseeds are one of the best sources of lignan, an estrogen-like chemical compound that scavenges the free radicals in the body. It contains 75-800 times more lignans than other plant-based foods. A 100 grams serving provides 0.3 grams of lignan. Lignans promote fertility and reduce the peri-menopausal syndrome. Flaxseeds have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which mitigate and protect against pneumonopathy.
2. Prevents Cancer:
The antioxidants in flaxseeds provide protection from cancer and heart diseases. Recent studies have concluded that flaxseeds can significantly lower the risk of developing breast, prostate and colon cancer. The lignans present in flaxseeds have antigenic properties. They prevent the tumors from forming new blood cells. The seeds contain ALA, an omega 3 fatty acid that inhibits tumor incidence and interferes with the growth and spread of cancer. Consumption of flaxseeds can also increase survival in breast cancer patients.
3. Improves Digestive Health:
Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber present in flaxseeds improves the movement of food through the intestines. The mucilaginous fiber in flaxseeds also improves the intestinal absorption of nutrients. The soluble fiber dissolves in the water and creates a gel-like substance, keeping the stomach full for a longer time.
4. Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases:
The amino and omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseeds can significantly lower high blood pressure. A diet rich in flaxseeds can prevent hardening of the arteries. It also prevents the deposition of plaque in the arteries by keeping white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessels’ inner linings. Lignans in flaxseed reduce the atherosclerotic plaque buildup by 75%. It is also useful in treating irregular heartbeat. The alpha linolenic acid in flaxseeds protects the blood vessels from inflammatory damage.
5. Reduces High Cholesterol:
Research has suggested that eating flaxseeds daily can reduce the cholesterol level significantly. It contains omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and lignan, which work together to reduce cholesterol. The low-density lipoprotein in the blood stream is often linked with heart diseases, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
6. Controls Diabetes:
Several researchers have concluded that daily intake of lignan-rich foods stabilizes blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity. According to research, people who consumed flaxseeds for 12 weeks noticed a significant drop in their insulin resistance. This is due to the drop in oxidant stress caused by its high antioxidant levels.
7. Fights Inflammation:
Inflammation is mostly caused due to the deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acid is a key nutrient for fighting inflammation in the body. ALA and lignans found in flaxseeds may reduce inflammation by blocking the release of certain pro-inflammatory agents. Consumption of flaxseeds increases the production of two other omega 3 fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), which provide further inflammatory protection.
8. Reduces Hot Flashes:
A study published in 2007 found that consuming 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds in women could reduce their hot flashes by half. Flaxseed is a potential aid in managing perimenopausal and post- menopausal symptoms.
Flaxseeds and its oil contain several skin-friendly nutrients that can help to improve the health of the skin. Flaxseed oil is added to a number of skin care products like shower gels, moisturizers and sunscreen.
The high levels of lignans and omega 3 fatty acids promote healthy bowel movements, preventing skin diseases. Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely important for the healthy growth and development of the skin cells. The lignans present in flaxseeds improve the appearance of the skin by reducing the levels of DHT in the body.
10. Skin Healing:
The omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseeds increase the speed at which wounds heal. Flaxseed is best known for its high anti-inflammatory levels. You can successfully minimize skin irritation, rashes, inflammation and redness by regularly consuming flaxseeds. Thus, benefits of eating flax seeds are many for skin. It also shrinks the possibility of acne, dermatitis and psoriasis.
Dry skin can lead to several skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and other signs of ageing. The essential fatty acids in flaxseed keep the skin hydrated and moisturized. Regular intake of flaxseeds increases the body’s natural oil production, keeping the skin baby soft. A daily massage with flaxseed oil prevents irritants from entering the pores. It also locks moisture into the skin, keeping dryness at bay. Well-moisturized skin also delays the onset of wrinkles, right?
12. Prevents Skin Cancer:
A diet rich in flaxseeds may protect the skin tissues from radiation. Researchers have found that flaxseeds significantly reduce skin damage after sun exposure. The antioxidants present in flaxseeds fight the free radicals, preventing skin cancer.
13. Controls Acne:
Flaxseeds control the production of sebum, an oily substance produced by the skin glands, preventing the onset of acne. Eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of milled flaxseed daily to achieve healthy and younger-looking skin.
You can also prepare a scrub from ground flaxseeds to exfoliate the skin. Mix flaxseed powder with yoghurt, honey and mix well. Scrub your skin gently with it for 10 minutes and wash off. The scrub removes dead skin cells and rejuvenates it, leaving it silky smooth.
Flax Seed Benefits for Hair:
Flaxseeds are packed with nutrients like protein, calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron and omega 3 fatty acids, which are required for the growth of your hair. A daily dose of flaxseeds can make your hair healthy, vibrant and strong.
15. Prevents Hair Breakage:
The high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseeds increase the hair’s elasticity, making it less prone to breakage. It endows you with stronger hair.
16. Reduces Dandruff:
The anti-inflammatory properties of flaxseeds reduce the possibility of dandruff, eczema and other scalp conditions. The seeds stimulate the production of sebum in the scalp, preventing flaking and dandruff.
17. Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Flaxseed is one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids. A deficiency in this essential nutrient can cause dry and brittle hair. Healthy consumption of flaxseeds may make your hair stronger.
18. Prevents Cicatricial alopecia:
Including flaxseeds in your diet can help to ameliorate several hair conditions. The anti-inflammatory properties of flaxseeds prevent cicatricial alopecia, a permanent hair loss condition. Cicatricial alopecia damages the hair follicles severely, preventing the growth of healthy hair.
19. Prevents Male Baldness:
The alpha linolenic acid in flaxseeds inhibits 5 alpha reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT shrinks the hair follicles, leading to baldness. The ALA, linolenic acid and oleic acid in flaxseeds are used as natural remedies to treat male baldness. It also prevents hair loss due to Telogen effluvium.
Nutritional Value of Flax Seeds:
There are two types of flaxseeds- brown and golden. The nutritional profile of both the varieties is almost the same.
Flaxseeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants. It is high in B complex vitamin, manganese and magnesium. Additionally, flaxseeds are low in carbohydrates, making it ideal for people who are on a weight loss and diabetic diet.
Availability and Storage:
Both brown and golden varieties of flaxseeds are easily available in the supermarket and at health stores. They are mainly sold in bulk and packages. Whole flaxseeds last over a year if stored correctly. It is advisable to purchase whole flaxseeds and grind them into powder at home itself. Whole flaxseeds are best stored in a cool and dry place.
The oil present in flaxseed is highly unsaturated. This means that it can turn rancid if stored incorrectly. Flaxseeds are best stored in their own shell. They can easily last for a year if not exposed to heat. It is best consumed within a few weeks of opening.
Flaxseeds are often used as an egg substitute in baked goods. The soluble fiber in this seed adds structure to the cake and muffins.
Sprinkle ground flaxseeds over oats, cereals, yoghurt and smoothies.
You can cook flaxseeds in casseroles, meatball and curries. Use 4 to 8 tablespoons of flaxseeds in a dish serving 6 to 8 people.
It also goes well with dosa, chapatti dough, buttermilk, chutney and upma.
The seeds from the flax plant can also be pressed to make vegetable oil, commonly known as linseed oil.
Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to your cheese spread or mayonnaise when making a sandwich.
Most nutrition experts recommend ground flaxseeds over the whole ones. Whole flaxseeds pass through the intestine undigested, preventing you from getting all the benefits. Flaxseeds need to be ground to make the nutrients available to the body. You can use a processor or blender to grind the flaxseeds at home.
Ground flaxseeds lose their nutritive value if exposed to air or sunlight. Store ground flaxseeds in the refrigerator in a cool and dry place to prolong its shelf life. Unlike the seeds, flaxseed oil does not contain fiber or phytochemicals. It is not recommended for this reason.
Does ground flaxseed have more health benefits than whole flaxseed?
Most nutrition experts recommend ground over whole flaxseed because the ground form is easier to digest. Whole flaxseed may pass through your intestine undigested, which means you won’t get all the benefits.
Flaxseed’s health benefits come from the fact that it’s high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as phytochemicals called lignans. One tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed contains 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids (includes the omega 3s), 2 grams of dietary fiber and 37 calories.
Flaxseed is commonly used to improve digestive health or relieve constipation. Flaxseed may also help lower total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
You can buy flaxseed in bulk — whole or ground — at many grocery stores and health food stores. Refrigerating whole seeds may extend their freshness. Whole seeds can be ground in a coffee grinder and then stored in an airtight container for several months.
Because some unripe and raw flaxseed can have certain toxins, keep serving sizes to less than 50 grams (5 tablespoons of whole flaxseed) per day. Alternatively, the seeds can be toasted or used in foods that are cooked or baked, which destroys the toxins.
Tips for including flaxseed in your diet:
Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your hot or cold breakfast cereal.
Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to mayonnaise or mustard when making a sandwich.
Mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into an 8-ounce container of yogurt.
Bake ground flaxseed into cookies, muffins, breads and other baked goods.
Like other sources of fiber, flaxseed should be taken with plenty of water or other fluids. Flaxseed shouldn’t be taken at the same time as oral medications or other dietary supplements. As always, talk with your doctor before trying any dietary supplements.
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