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Top 11 Health Benefits of Flax Seeds
In recent times there has been a lot of interest in phytochemicals as bioactive components in foods. Functional foods are an evolving area in the field of food science because the new age health-conscious consumers are intrigued by the health-promoting properties exhibited by these foods (1).
Flax seeds belong to the family Linaceae. It is an annual herb that produces small flat seeds and their colour ranges from golden yellow to reddish-brown colour. Flaxseeds have a nutty taste (1).
Flaxseed is a nature’s gift loaded with potential health-improving components. Flaxseed contains a good amount of α-Linolenic acid an omega-3 fatty acid, protein, dietary fiber, lignan and secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG) (2).
Because of the nutritional and phytochemical components, flaxseed incorporated food products are gaining popularity.
11 health benefits of flaxseeds
Nutrient and energy-dense flaxseeds
Flaxseeds contain all the three macronutrients. The fat content of flaxseeds is 42 %, protein content is 18 % and carbohydrate amount is 28 %. The energy value of flaxseeds is 534 kcal. Flaxseeds are packed with minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, iron and selenium. Flaxseeds are good sources of folate and choline (3).
Rich source of dietary fiber
Flaxseeds are a rich source of dietary fiber that is they provides 27 % fiber (3). Dietary fiber has several health promoting effects. It contributes towards weight loss, managing blood glucose and lipid levels. Dietary fiber is also good for gut health.
Healthy lipid profile
Saturated fatty acid content of flaxseeds is only 9 % and monounsaturated is about 18 % of the total flaxseed lipids. The remaining major portion that is 73% of lipids is polyunsaturated fatty acids (2).
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid that is obtained from plant sources and must be provided through the diet. ALA is almost half of the total fatty acids in flaxseeds making them the richest source of ALA. 16 % of the total lipids is linoleic acid an omega 6 fatty acid. ALA from flaxseed has a positive effect on blood lipid profile.
Richest source of lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG)
Flaxseeds are known to provide significant amount of SDG. The lignan SDG and its metabolites exhibit antioxidant activity in the body. They have the ability to reduce oxidative stress which is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
Studies indicate that SDG metabolites have antioxidant property and may protect against CVD and metabolic syndrome (2, 4).
Lignans are phytoestrogens and there is evidence that they reduce the risk of certain hormone-sensitive cancers. Flaxseeds are a good source of lignans and the anticancer activity may be due to the antioxidant activity of lignans (1).
Good for diabetics
Flaxseeds are rich source of dietary fiber which is known to help regulate blood sugar levels. Flaxseeds were found to reduce blood sugar levels when included in a low calorie diet for type 2 diabetics (5).
Diabetes is a risk factor for developing CVDs and flaxseeds have cardioprotective effects.
Helps reduce blood pressure
Hypertension or elevated levels of blood pressure is a major risk factor for developing CVDs. According to a review flax seeds when consumed as whole seeds may have positive effect on blood pressure by reducing the blood pressure levels especially the diastolic blood pressure (6).
Another study on humans also concluded that flaxseeds induced antihypertensive effect and the benefit was thought to be due to lignan and omega 3 fatty acid (7).
Help in weight management
The high dietary fiber content makes flaxseeds help in weight management. Dietary fiber absorbs a lot of water and increases the bulk of the diet. It contributes towards satiety that is the feeling of fullness and we do not feel like eating for a while.
Flaxseed as an alternate for egg in bakery products
Flaxseed-water mixture can function as a substitute for egg in the baked products such as muffins, cookies and also in pancakes. Baked products made using flaxseed are a little gummier and chewier. The loaf volume is lower than normal loaf volume when egg is used. But for vegans and vegetarians, it would be a healthy substitute (1).
One tablespoon of milled flaxseed (1 tablespoon is about 15 grams or 3 tsp) with three tablespoons of water (45 ml) can work as an alternative to one egg.
Good for bone health
Flaxseeds are good source of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium all of which are important for bone health.
Lignans present in flaxseeds are phytoestrogens and they may have a positive effect on bones by reducing the risk of osteoporosis (1).
Very easy to use
Flaxseeds can be easily incorporated into our diet. Roast and grind them into a coarse powder and store in the refrigerator. Do not make in large quantities. You can add a tsp of it to buttermilk, juices, soups, flour to make rotis, to baked products and so on. This way one can avail all the nutritional and health benefits of flaxseeds.
Flaxseeds are loaded with nutrients and health benefits. Take about 1 tbsp a day to avail all the benefits. Make a coarse powder and add it to the foods you make. For vegans and vegetarians flaxseeds are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.
- Kajla, P., Sharma, A. and Sood, D. R. (2014) Flaxseed-a potential functional food source, Journal of food science and technology. Vol. 52(4). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4375225/
- Ganorkar, P. M. and Jain, R. K. (2013) Flaxseed–a nutritional punch, International Food Research Journal. Vol. 20(2).
- United States Department of Agriculture, USDA Food Composition Databases.
- Adolphe, J. L., Whiting, S. J., Juurlink, B. H., Thorpe, L.U. and Alcorn J. (2010) Health effects with consumption of the flax lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, British Journal of Nutrition. Vol. 103(7).
- Tharwat, S., Shaheen, D., El-Megeid, A. A., Salam, R., Rashed, L., El-Hamid, S. and Abdel-Shafy, S. (2017) Effectiveness of Adding Flaxseed to Type 2 Diabetic Patient’s Regimen, Endocrinol Metab Syndr. 6(3).
- Khalesi, S., Irwin, Ch. and Schubert, M. (2015) Flaxseed Consumption May Reduce Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials, The Journal of Nutrition. Vol. 145(4).
- Rodriguez-Leyva, D., Weighell, W., Edel, A. L, LaVallee, R., Dibrov, E., Pinneker, R., Maddaford, T.G., Ramjiawan, B., Aliani, M., Guzman, R. and Pierce, G.N. (2013) Potent antihypertensive action of dietary flaxseed in hypertensive patients, Vol. 62(6).