Flaxseed belongs to the flax plant. It owes its reputation as a healthy food to three components. It is high in fibre, which is found on its seed coat. It is rich in Omega-3 fatty acid ALA (Alpha linolenic acid), and is also a very good source of lignans in the human diet. Lignans have plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseeds contain more lignans than any other plant foods. It has been used in Egyptian and Mediterranean cultures for thousands of years, as both, food and medicine.
Flaxseed is said to provide more health benefits when it is ground before it is ingested. Nutrition experts recommend ground flaxseed over whole ones, because the ground form is easier for the body to digest. Whole flaxseed may pass through our intestine undigested, which will not benefit us.
Botanical Name – Linum usitatissimum
Common Name – flaxseed, linseed
Hindi – Alsi
Sanskrit – Atasi
Health Benefits of Flaxseeds
As already mentioned, flaxseeds contain lignans, a class of phytoestrogens that have antioxidant and cancer preventing properties. They are an excellent source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant which helps the skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals. Flaxseeds have important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. Thiamin helps in carbohydrate metabolism. Flaxseed is also a rich source of minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Flaxseed
The Omega-3 fatty acids and the amino acid groups found in flaxseed help the cardiovascular system. Flaxseeds have a anti-inflammatory and blood pressure lowering effect. They also normalize the heartbeat. Several studies have shown that diets rich in flaxseed omega-3s help prevent hardening of the arteries and prevent deposition of plaque in the arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids help in maintaining the heart’s rhythm, and hence may be useful in treating arrhythmia and heart failure. Eating flaxseed daily also helps lower the cholesterol levels.
Flaxseed Health Benefits for Diabetes
Studies show that a daily dose of the lignans in flaxseed may improve blood sugar levels to some extent in Type II diabetes. The high content of soluble fibre present in flaxseed traps glucose and fat in the gut, thus controlling the release of glucose in the body. Flaxseed is known to improve insulin sensitivity thus helping to prevent Type I and Type II Diabetes. Home remedies for diabetes.
Anti-inflammatory Health Benefits of Flaxseed
The two components in flaxseed, namely, ALA and lignans, helps reduce inflammation in certain illnesses like Parkinson’s disease and arthritis. It does this by helping to block the release of certain pro-inflammatory agents. Studies show that ALA helps decrease inflammatory reactions in humans. By reducing inflammation associated with plaque buildup in the arteries, flaxseed helps prevent heart attack and strokes. Oxidative stress and excessive inflammation are common factors for many health problems. These problems include development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and metabolic syndrome. There is some evidence that ingesting flaxseed can reduce the risk of all of these problems, by increasing our anti-inflammatory and antioxidant protection.
Flaxseed Health Benefits for Menopause
Flaxseed has been shown to relieve some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. A 2007 study from the Mayo clinic showed that twenty one women, who consumed 40 gms of ground flaxseed daily had quite a drop in the frequency and intensity of their hot flashes.
Digestive Health Benefits of Flaxseed
Flaxseed has been traditionally used as a laxative, because of its high fibre content. It has mucilage, a gummy material, which expands when it comes into contact with water. This adds bulk to the stool and help it move more easily through the intestine. It also improves intestinal absorption of the nutrients. The high amount of soluble fibre and lignans in flaxseed help to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Flaxseed Home Remedies
- Add a tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed to a glass of warm water, and drink it. Have this thrice a day, for three days. This is a very good home remedy for constipation. (More on home remedies for constipation)
- Taking one tsp of flaxseed oil daily, three times a day for a month helps reduce PMS (More home remedies for PMS).
- A tsp of flaxseed oils thrice a day, is said to help heal inflammation due to arthritis. Flaxseed oil is also available in the form of capsules.(More on home remedies for Arthritis)
- A study reported that 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed mixed into cereal, juice, or yogurt twice a day cut the hot flashes in half in menopausal women.