Health Benefits Of Flaxseed
Babylonians pioneered many things, but not many know they trail-blazed the use of flaxseed. According to the Flax Council of Canada, the ancients grew the crop as far back as 3,000 BC. But it was not until the 8th century when the plant entered European consciousness as a health food. King Charlemagne was then a fan of the plant, so much so he compelled his constituents to eat it.
Millennia have passed since Babylon rose and fell. Now consumers have reckoned the bigger role flaxseed plays in a healthy lifestyle. It is easily found in many products today, in pasta, cereal, cracker, oatmeal, frozen waffle, whole grain bread, energy bar, etc. In 2006 alone, 75 products were reported to have flaxseed for one of its ingredients.
Consumers, farmers and manufacturers have great reason to cultivate it. If early studies were to let on, flaxseed lessens your risk of getting such fatal conditions as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
It is no exaggeration, then, that flaxseed is one of the most beneficial plants to grow on earth. Watch this space as flaxseed continues to make waves among the health-conscious.
Benefits of Flaxseed
Flaxseed is comprised of many healthy compounds.
There’s reason why the crop has been grown to make chicken feeds; the plant contains superlative levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Agricultural entrepreneurs nourish their chickens with the plant to produce eggs richer in the said nutrient. A single tablespoon of ground flaxseed already has almost two grams of omega-3s.
Besides omega-3s fatty acids, flaxseed is known to be rich in lignans, 800 times more than other plants. Also, it is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber.
In this context, studies would tell you that flaxseed could work against various conditions:
Thanks to its omega-3s, eating flaxseed puts you at lesser risk for atherosclerosis or the hardening of arteries. The omega-3s therein stop white blood cells from clinging to the walls of blood vessels. This way, it prevents plaque from sticking to the arteries and hardening them.
In the same vein, lignans in flaxseed can lessen the accumulation of plaque by as much as 75 percent.
Through its omega-3s and lignans, to say nothing of its fiber content, flax can also regulate your levels of LDL or “bad cholesterol,” culprit for heart disease and other diseases. In a study from French Canada, menopausal women consumed four tablespoons of ground flaxseed every day for one year. Correspondingly, their LDL levels took a nosedive.
Flax-borne omega-3s are also believed to be able to normalize the heartbeat. It even offers a potential cure for arrhythmia or irregular heart rhythm, if not cardiovascular failure altogether.
Scientists are waxing ecstatic about flaxseed as a preventive food against cancer, specifically those in the colon, breast and prostate.
As per animal tests, its omega-3s were shown to impede the growth of tumors, while its lignans were able to obstruct enzymes associated with cancer.
Flax also contains many antioxidants, one of cancer’s most formidable enemies.
Research also shows that flax has vast anti-inflammatory properties. Its omega-3s and lignans could block the secretion of inflammatory agents that come with conditions like asthma and Parkinson’s disease.
In a 2007 study, menopausal women took two tablespoons of ground flaxseed, twice every day for two weeks. This move reduced their hot flashes by half, their intensity dropping by 57 percent.
How to use flaxseed
Flax enthusiasts encourage you to eat flaxseed instead of flax oil. The latter only contains a fraction of the nutrition.
Scientists have not collectively established just how much flaxseed you need. However, the Flax Council of Canada sets dosage at one to two tablespoons of ground flax every day.
1. Eat ground flaxseed.
Ground flaxseed tends to be digested more easily than its whole counterpart.
You could either buy ground flax or grind it yourself, using the same grinders for coffee. If you plan to buy it, don’t be mystified when ground flax is labeled milled flax or flax meal. All three mean the same thing.
Read the label, if you want products that just feature flaxseed. You would want ground, not whole, flaxseed as the ingredient.
2. Golden or brown, it’s all the same.
In terms of nutrition, brown flaxseed is not superior over golden flaxseed, and vice-versa. But brown flax has the upper hand in terms of availability in stores.
Ground flaxseeds are usually sold in the grain, flour and cereal section of supermarkets and in most health shops. They can be bought online too.
3. Assimilate flaxseed in your diet.
Use it like you would sugar in oatmeal, smoothies, yogurt and such. Or you could use it to partly replace the flour used in breads, muffins, rolls, bagels, waffles and pancakes.
Integrate flax in your favorite moist dishes, preferably those with dark sauces. You won’t notice the difference. The taste of flax is imperceptible in dishes like casserole, meatballs, meatloaf, chili, beef stew and chicken Parmesan.
4. Store flaxseed wisely.
For whole flaxseed, store it in a dark area at room temperature. Nevertheless, whole flaxseed can keep for as long as one year so long as it stays dry.
As for ground flaxseed, keep it in a re-sealable plastic bag and freeze it. Freezing the product would prevent it from oxidizing and adulterating its nutritional value.