Flax seed – A natural wonder
Flax seeds have been consumed for over a thousand years. They are gaining popularity again due to the various health benefits that they offer. These tiny seeds are a nutritional power house. They are packed with fibre, omega 3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, certain minerals like magnesium, manganese and phosphorus as well as antioxidants.
Flax seed is known to be the richest source of essential fatty acids, Alpha Linolenic acid (ALA) and omega 3 fatty acids. They also contain a perfect balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which play an important role in the body. Flax is also one of the best sources of lignans, a nutrient with antioxidant properties. These compounds reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
Flax seed consumption offers many health benefits –
Flax seeds fight cholesterol and cardiovascular disease – Including flax in the diet is associated with a reduction in total cholesterol, LDL levels and triglycerides. The cholesterol lowering effects of flax are the result of the combined benefits of omega 3 fatty acids, lignans and fibre. Omega 3 fatty acids are useful in treating arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats). Along with lignans they are known to reduce atherosclerotic plaque (a deposit of fat and other substances that accumulate in the lining of the artery wall) and thus benefit cardio vascular health.
Flax seeds help fight diabetes – Type II diabetics are said to benefit from consuming flax as the omega 3s and high fibre content help regulate blood glucose levels.
Flax seeds help relieve constipation – The seed is a rich source of soluble and insoluble dietary fibre. It therefore improves digestive health. It is often used to treat constipation and haemorrhoids.
Flax seeds fight cancer – Flax seed, being high in antioxidants, fibre, lignans and ALA, is a key player in the fight against certain cancers like breast, colon and prostate cancer. Lignans may help prevent the growth and spread of tumour cells.
Flax seeds fight inflammation – Omega 3 fatty acids, ALA and lignans have anti inflammatory properties. Including flax seed in the daily diet benefits those suffering from inflammatory disorders including Rheumatoid arthritis.
Flax seeds help relieve menopausal symptoms – Flax, being a rich source of phytoestrogens, helps stabilize hormone levels and reduce the symptoms of menopause.
Flax seeds benefit the skin – Flax seeds also benefit skin health and can relieve conditions like acne, psoriasis and eczema.
In addition to these benefits, flax also helps fight depression and enhances immunity. Flax seeds are a great way of adding fibre and important nutrients to your diet. Flax seeds, when eaten whole, are more likely to pass through the intestinal tract undigested, therefore make sure to use ground flax seed as this enables the nutrients to get absorbed by the body. The ground flax seed needs to be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator as it is prone to oxidation. Flax seed can be sprinkled on your cold or hot oatmeal for breakfast, added to soups and salads, blended into smoothies and juices, and mixed in your yogurt. It can also be added to gravies. Flax seeds can also be used in baking; it can be substituted for part of the flour in recipes like breads, muffins and pancakes.
Pregnant women and breast feeding mothers should be cautious when using flax, as the safety recommendations are mixed and there is a lack of available scientific evidence and safety information. People with irritable bowel syndrome may have a strong reaction to flax due to its high fibre content. The suggested daily intake of flax seed is 1-2 tbsp for adults and 1 tsp for children between the age group of 2-12 years.
Although flax seed is considered a super food as it offers numerous health benefits, one must keep in mind that there is no exclusive food that guarantees good health. It is important to always make healthier dietary choices and opt for an overall healthy lifestyle.