Tiny Flaxseed can lead to Big Benefits

Kelsey-JulienGuest Post: Kelsey Julien, Dr. James’ Intern with a passion for nutrition and a freshman studying to be a Registered Dietician at D’Youville College.

There are different forms that this tiny superfood can come in, whole, ground or as an oil. Adding flaxseed to the foods you eat regularly can improve your heart health and digestive system.  It can also help control your weight and fight cancer. For such a tiny seed there are big benefits for your health.

Flaxseed is becoming more and more popular in our health world. All three options contain the precursor to the essential fatty acid, ALA or alpha linolenic acid, which is very important in helping lower cholesterol. The essential fatty acids in flaxseed can help keep your skin hydrated; producing natural oils to keep your skin stay soft. They definitely have some important things for our health in common, but many things that make them different. From an article from Precision Nutrition by Ryan Andrews, “Flax is one of the oldest cultivated crops.  Evidence suggests that people cultivated it in Babylon in approximately 3000 BCE.  The seeds have traditionally been used in healing and the fibers for producing fabric (i.e.linen) and rope.”

Linseeds are another name for the superfood flaxseed. Ground flaxseed is very easy to add to your diet. It is recommended that you purchase whole flaxseed and grind it in a coffee grinder.If you buy it on the shelf already ground you really have no idea how long it has been sitting there.When flaxseed is ground it spoils very quickly and losses its nutritional benefits. If you grind it yourself, you can store it in an air tight container for over a month. It is full of fiber and essential omega three fatty acids. There is a myth out there that fats are bad for us. Fats are actually good for us! We need it for our brain and our nervous system. It has been shown to help women with menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. It has numerous minerals, copper and magnesium which are very important for our bone health. This superfood can also help decrease high cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Some studies have shown that this tiny seed can go a long way; including lowering blood sugar for certain people suffering from type two diabetes. The fiber in flaxseed can help regulate our hunger, to help us know when we are actually hungry and not just eating when we are bored. Flaxseed can slow the growth of some cancers, is the top source of lignan, leaving all other plants in the dust in the fight against cancer. Foods containing lignan include beans, berries, and certain types of nuts; helping your intestines to absorb nutrients. Just when it seems this superfood is out of ways to be good for you; you will be happy to learn it can also benefit your skin. It has antioxidants that help prevent cellular damage and keep your body in homeostasis. Who knew that one tiny seed could have such a wide range of benefits?

Flaxseed can also come in an oil which contains omega fatty acids just waiting to get in and nourish your body. Andrews adds in his article, “Flax is one of the most popular foods for providing mega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and when extracted flaxseed oil makes up forty percent of flaxseed by weight.”  If you are looking to up your omega three fats, flaxseed oil is the clear winner. Flaxseed oil is about 50% ALA-five times more than walnut oil or canola oil, which are the next highest sources of ALA.  During extraction, flaxseed oil will lose most of its minerals but retains its vitamin E. Also in the process of turning flaxseed into flaxseed oil all of the fiber is removed.  Flaxseed oil lacks fiber which aid in digestion and keep bowl movements regular. Be careful when buying flaxseed oil: it is highly unsaturated and easily oxidized. This oil can definitely be in your diet, but amazingly you can also use it in your home, on wood as a preservative.

So which form is the right one for you? Flaxseeds have tremendous benefits to our body. When deciding what to add to your diet, it’s really about listening to what your body needs. If you are looking to increase the fat content in your diet, flaxseed oil would look like the better choice, but if you are looking for more fiber ground flaxseed is the winner. Essentially it would be beneficial to add both of them to your diet. Flaxseed oil has an impact more quickly, while ground flaxseed has more long term benefits over time. As with any fiber rich food slowly add flaxseed into your diet to monitor your body’s reaction and also make sure to drink plenty of water. Increasing fiber and not increasing your water intake could subject you to constipation and bloating.

Finally flaxseed has a light nutty taste.  Here are some easy ways to add it to the foods your already eat and enjoy:

  • Sprinkle on your cold cereal or hot oatmeal at breakfast.
  • Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to the mayonnaise or mustard you spread on your sandwich at lunch
  • Blend flaxseed into your juice or smoothie
  • Sprinkle on salads or soups
  • Mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into your yogurt
  • Serve over the top of pasta or in your favorite salad
  • Add to your mixture when baking breads

Sources http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-flax

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