You know those tiny brown seeds you often see sprinkled on salads or yogurt? Don’t let their small size fool you — flaxseeds are nutritional powerhouses. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, and antioxidants, these seeds offer some serious health perks. We’re talking about improved digestion, lower heart disease risk, reduced inflammation in the body, and many more. Flaxseed may be one of the most potent plant-based sources of healthy fats and other good-for-you nutrients, and boasts many incredible health benefits.
Whether you like to toss a spoonful into your morning smoothie, sprinkle some on your avocado toast, or add them to homemade granola bars, flaxseed deserves a regular spot in your diet. Read on to discover some of the most compelling reasons why you should make this nutritious supplement your new best friend. The health benefits of flaxseeds are sure to leave you scheduling your next grocery run.
What are flaxseeds and why are they so good for you?
Flax, also known as common flax or linseed, is a naturally occurring and often-cultivated flowering plant with a variety of modern-day applications. Not only do we obtain the commonly-used fabric, linen, from this plant, but we are also blessed with linseed oil, a product that is used as a nutritional supplement and as an ingredient in many wood-finishing products. It is also used in varnishes and paint mixtures as well. Flaxseeds, on the other hand, are found in two varieties: yellow or brown. Both are comparable in their oil profiles and contain a very high proportion of omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), specifically).
Flaxseed offers a variety of healthy benefits that cannot be easily substituted. Some of the most significant ones include: They’re loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, they’re high in fibre, and they help reduce blood sugar. As a result of these key attributes, flaxseeds create other positive effects within the human body. Simultaneously, the ease with which flaxseeds can be adopted into your diet gives it that added attractiveness: you can use it as a healthy cooking oil alternative, grind it up as a powder for nourishing drinks, or consume it as capsules or tablets.
If we look more closely at the research, we realise that flaxseed is one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids — essential fats that the body does not produce. This means our bodies have to outsource their dietary needs to other nutrient-rich sources. Omega-3s are vital for heart health, reducing inflammation, and more. They are also a rich source of fibre, which aids digestion and helps to keep you full for longer hours. Good fibre intake, in turn, can also help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels. Just one ounce of flax seeds (28.3 gms approx) contains 8 grams of fibre, about a third of the daily requirement. Additionally, flaxseeds contain lignans, plant-based compounds that have antioxidant and estrogen-like effects, that may help reduce the risk of certain cancers like breast cancer and prostate cancer.
We take a look at the major health benefits of flaxseeds
Flaxseed as a source of fibre
Flaxseed is one of the best sources of fibre around. Fibre is essential for keeping you feeling full and reducing appetite, helping with weight loss and maintenance. It also helps in keeping your gut health in check, making it a key health benefit of flaxseeds.
Keeps you full for longer durations
Fibre expands in your stomach, absorbing water and making you feel full. This helps curb cravings and prevents overeating. Flaxseeds with high fibre content will fill you up and fight hunger, keeping you satisfied for hours. The fibre also helps slow the digestion of sugar and carbohydrates, preventing energy crashes and spikes in blood sugar that result in an increased appetite.
Helps in reducing constipation and promotes regular bowel movements
Fibre also helps promote regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. Fibre from flaxseeds can help add bulk to your stools, making them softer and easier to pass. Adequate fibre intake is important for colon health and preventing digestive issues like haemorrhoids or diverticulosis. The high fibre content in these seeds helps keep waste and toxins moving out of the colon, promoting optimal colon and gut health.
The soluble fibre found in flaxseed can help lower cholesterol levels, especially LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Soluble fibre binds to cholesterol and waste products in the gut, helping to remove them from the body. Consuming just 2-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds per day may help lower cholesterol over time and promote heart health.
Controls blood sugar and insulin
Flaxseeds are high in magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. Studies show that consuming flax seeds can lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 19% and insulin resistance by up to 34% in people with type 2 diabetes. The lignans in flaxseeds may also help improve insulin sensitivity and lower inflammation, both of which are factors in managing diabetes. It is one of the most significant health benefits of flax seeds.
Excess weight and high blood sugar are linked to chronic inflammation in the body. Flaxseeds contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and lignans that can help lower inflammation and promote fat loss. Reducing inflammation may also help prevent weight gain and make it easier to lose excess pounds. Adding flaxseeds to your diet is an easy way to boost nutrition and support your health.
Proteins in flaxseeds contain amino acids like Arginine, Aspartic acid, and Glutamic acid. These amino acids have been found to protect our body from a variety of fungal infections, resulting in better overall immunity.
Overall, incorporating flaxseeds into your diet has proven to be a positive boost to one’s immunity and fitness. Which of these health benefits of flaxseeds surprised you the most?
(Disclaimer: Flaxseeds are safe for most adults when consumed in normal amounts found in foods. However, check with your doctor before taking flax seed supplements or consuming large amounts of flax seeds, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications. Flax seeds can interact with some medications, and may not be suitable for children or for those with certain medical conditions like hormone-sensitive cancers.)
(Main image: Juliano Cuoto/Pexels; Featured image: Winslow Productions/Getty Images)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: For nutritional benefits, aim for 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds per day. Start with a smaller amount, around 1 teaspoon, and gradually increase the amount over the next few weeks as your body gets used to them.
Answer: Flaxseeds have a hard shell, so grinding them helps your body access their nutritional benefits. Whole flax seeds can pass through your gut undigested. Grind flax seeds in a coffee grinder, food processor or blender. Use ground flax seeds within 24 hours of grinding for maximum nutrition.
Answer: Store whole flaxseeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Ground flaxseeds should be refrigerated in an airtight container and used within 24 hours. For longer storage, whole or ground flaxseeds can be frozen for up to 1 year.
Answer: Flaxseeds are safe for most adults when consumed in normal amounts found in foods. However, check with your doctor before taking flaxseed supplements or consuming large amounts of flax seeds, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking medications.