superfoods

Flax Seeds

Flax Seeds or Linum usitatissimum, are small, brown seeds originating from the middle east. For centuries, the value of this superfood has been known, and flax has been cultivated and used in food, as well as in textiles. Today, it is used most widely for its vast nutritional benefits, and is mainly cultivated to be dried and ground, as this is how its nutrients can be most effectively absorbed by the body.

This ancient superfood offers a long and impressive list of health benefits, including (but not limited to) digestive health, symptoms related to menopause and PMS, cancer prevention, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support, cardiovascular health and more. It can be incorporated into foods, drinks and flax seed oil can be used in salads and dips.

Read on to learn why flax seeds should definitely be part of your diet.

Flax Seeds

Nutritional Information

30 g flax seeds

Calories 160
Carbohydrates 8.7 g
Sugar 0.5 g
Protein 5.5 g
Fat 12.6 g

Flax Seeds Benefits

1. One of the best digestive aids available

Of flax seeds 29% carbohydrate content, 95% of that comes in form of fiber, which is essential for healthy digestion. However, flax seeds are a very low carbohydrate food, being that only 1.5% of the carbohydrate content is digestible (hence the high fiber content). Only 2 tablespoons of flax seeds provides almost 25% of the RDA for fiber (1), and can be extremely helpful in regulating bowel movements, promoting healthy gut bacteria and works as a natural and safe laxative, when taken in liquid form (mixed with water or juice). Remember, adequate dietary fiber is also key for achieving and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels (2), yet another reason flax seeds should be consumed regularly.

2. Packed full of healthy fats

Flax seeds offer a healthy dose of high quality fats, mainly consisting of polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically omega 6 and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids (alpha linoleic acid, otherwise known as ALA). ALA is an essential fatty acid, meaning we must obtain it from food sources as it cannot be produced by the body. Flax seeds actually beats chia seeds in its ALA content, making it an incredibly anti-inflammatory superfood.

Remember though, ALA must be converted to DHA and EPA in order to be effectively used by the body, and these processes are often not efficient. However, flax seeds are the best plant based source of omega 3 fatty acids.

3. Excellent source of important vitamins and minerals

Not only are flax seeds high in omega 3 fatty acids, but they also offer a wide array of health promoting nutrients. The top nutrients obtained from this superfood are copper, vitamin B1, molybdenum, phosphorous and magnesium. Magnesium is particularly critical for managing stress and healthy sleep patterns.

4. Flax seeds can help you lose weight

Because of flax seed’s high soluble fiber content, they can make a addition to a diet that is aiming to lose weight. Soluble fiber has been shown to help control appetite, mainly by reducing cravings and making us feel more satiated (3). Flax seeds also work to cool systemic inflammation in the body, which in and of itself can help in weight management (4).

5. Supports cardiovascular health

Largely due to their omega 3 fatty acid content (but also lignans and fiber), flax seeds have been proven to improve and support heart health in several different ways. Multiple studies have shown flax seeds ability to lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by up to 18%, which is an indicator for heart disease (5). This works because the lignan and fiber content of flax seeds bind to cholesterol molecules to escort them through the digestive tract until they are eliminated. Omega 3 fatty acids are known to promote heart health by decreasing blood pressure, risk of stroke and heart attacks.

Uses of Flax Seeds

1. Add flax seeds to a smoothie

Flax seeds make an excellent addition to any smoothie, but make sure they are ground first. Buying the whole seed and grinding them yourself in a coffee grinder is ideal (less chance for the delicate fats to oxidize when exposed to heat), but buying pre-ground is another option. Add approximately 2 tablespoons to any smoothie, and reap the many benefits.

2. Combine ground flax seeds into your morning yogurt or oatmeal

For a digestive and nutrient boost first thing in the morning, add 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds to whole, plain yogurt with a bit of fruit (add honey as a sweetener if needed), or combine the same amount of flax to a bowl of oatmeal. Flax seeds have a nutty taste, and work quite well as an accompaniment to a breakfast dish.

3. Use flax seeds in baking

One of the great things about this superfood is that it can be added to traditional baked goods to greatly up its nutritional value. Try making a high fiber pumpkin flax muffin, or add it to any bread or other recipe (ideally using honey or maple syrup as a sugar alternative. Because of flax seed’s taste and texture, it can often be added to recipes without any noticeable difference to the final product.

4. Add ground flax seeds as an egg substitute

For those who don’t or can’t eat eggs (although for those that can, remember that eggs are also a superfood), ground flax seeds can make a great alternative in recipes calling for eggs. Simply add 1 tablespoon of ground flax with 3 tablespoons of water for each egg, and mix thoroughly. Flax seeds expand in water and have a gummy, binding ability, so in this way can work well as an egg replacement.

5. Sprinkle flax seeds on top of vegetables

One of the easiest ways to incorporate flax into your daily diet is to simply sprinkle them on top of raw or cooked veggie dishes. Always add them at the end of cooking, as heating flax seeds or oils should be avoided as much as possible, as their delicate polyunsaturated fats can oxidize at high temperatures, creating free radicals in the body.

Possible Side Effects of Flax Seeds

Flaxseed is considered safe for most adults when taken in food or beverage form, however as with any food, certain considerations should always be considered.

  • Bloating & Stomach Distress: Due to the high fiber content, flaxseeds have the potential to cause an increase in bowel movements which can lead to bloating, and possible diarrhea. Whole flaxseeds should also be avoided if you have diverticulitis. For those with preexisting digestive issues, introduce flax seeds (always ground) to the diet slowly, starting with just 1 teaspoon, and slowly increasing over time.
  • Low Blood Pressure: Since flaxseeds can help to reduce blood pressure, it is not advised to consume flaxseeds if you have low blood pressure or are taking blood pressure medications. Check with your doctor to see if low doses are safe for you.
  • Pregnancy & Breastfeeding: Flax seeds are high in lignans, which are chemicals that can mimic the activity of oestrogen in the body. There is little conclusive research as to whether flax seeds could potentially harm a baby while in utero or breastfeeding, but normal amounts are generally considered safe. However, it is best to avoid supplements containing flax seed oil or eating extremely large quantities.
  • Blood clotting disorders: Since flaxseeds can potentially slow the body’s blood clotting abilities, it is advised to avoid consuming flaxseeds if you have a bleeding disorder.

Flax Seeds FAQs

Q: What is Flax Seed?

A: Flax Seeds or Linum usitatissimum, are small, brown seeds originating from the middle east. For centuries, the value of this superfood has been known, and flax has been cultivated and used in food, as well as in textiles. Today, it is used most widely for its vast nutritional benefits, and is mainly cultivated to be dried and ground, as this is how its nutrients can be most effectively absorbed by the body.

Q: What are flax seeds good for?

A: Flax seeds are an excellent source of fiber, protein and a myriad of health promoting vitamins and minerals. Flax has been shown to support cardiovascular health, digestive function, weight loss, hormonal balance, cancer prevention and diabetes.

Q: How do you eat flax seeds?

A: Flax seeds are best consumed ground or in an oil. If ground, ideally you will purchase the whole seed and grind them in a coffee grinder before consumption, but buying pre-ground seeds and storing them in the refrigerator is also an option. The oil can be used on salads or as a dip, but should never be heated. Ground seeds are excellent additions to smoothies, salads, on top of veggies, as an egg replacement in baking, or simply added to bake goods.

Q: Can you eat flax seeds whole?

A: You can, but the body will be able to break down and assimilate the nutrients much more effectively if they are ground. For use as a digestive aide, they should definitely be ground, and might even cause digestive upset if eaten whole.

Q: What is milled flax seed?

A: Milled flax seed is simply ground flax seed. Again, if you are able to grind your own seeds before use this is optimal, but buying milled or ground flax is second best. Remember to always store ground flax in the refrigerator, to avoid exposing it to hot temperatures.

Q: How do you sprout flax seed?

A: Sprouting flax seeds can up the nutritional value of flax seeds even more, and you can easily sprout your own flax seeds at home with just a few tools such as a container, water, sunlight and of course the flax seed. Check out this tutorial for how to sprout your own flax seeds at home.

Q: Are flax seeds Paleo?

A: Yes, flax seeds are considered Paleo friendly. A paleo diet advocates the elimination of grains and legumes, and flax are a seed.

Q: If I cannot find ground flax seeds, how can I grind my own at home?

A: You can easily grind your own flax seeds by using a coffee grinder and grinding the seeds just as you would coffee beans.

 

Q: Are flax seeds gluten free?

A: Yes, flax seeds are naturally gluten free.

Q: How much flax seed should I take per day?

A: The recommended daily dose of flax seeds depends on for what reason you are using them. If incorporating them simply for optimal health, wellness and digestive support, taking between 2-3 tablespoons daily is considered safe. Your doctor or healthcare practitioner might recommend more for certain conditions, and if you have pre-existing digestive problems, start with just 1 teaspoon and slowly work your way up.

Q. I have Diverticulitis, should I eat flax seeds?

A: There are contraindications with flax seeds and certain digestive conditions, and flax seed consumption should be discussed with your provider. The beauty of using medicine for food is that if you experience symptoms or digestive upset, simply cut back or omit from the diet. You do not run the risk of serious symptoms or consequences that are often present with pharmaceutical drugs.

Q: Is flax seed healthy for kids?

A: Yes, flax seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which important for brain health in children. Flax seeds can also help with children who suffer with constipation to increase their fiber intake. Take a look at this chart on how much flax seed children should be consuming.

Q. Do flax seeds contain protein?

A: Flax seeds are an excellent source of plant based protein, as they are actually made up of 18% protein. They do lack in the essential amino acid lysine, so should never be the sole protein source in a vegetarian diet. In fact, the specific proteins found in flax seeds could be helpful in lowering high blood pressure, fighting inflammation and supporting type 2 diabetes (6).

Q. Can I eat flax seeds if I have Diabetes?

A: Absolutely, and in fact, flax seeds may actually help to balance blood sugar levels.

Q. What is the difference between brow flax and golden flax?

A: There is not much difference nutritionally, but golden flax seed has more of a nutty taste.

Q. Should I refrigerate my ground flax seeds?

A: Yes, once flax seeds are ground, they should be stored in the refrigerator as to avoid being exposed to heat.

Q. Can I use flax seeds instead of eggs in baking?

A: Yes, flax seeds can work to replace eggs when baking for those who follow a vegan diet, or have an egg allergy. Use 1 tbsp. of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp. of water for each egg called for in any given recipe.

Q: How many calories are in 2 Tbsp. of flax seeds?

A: There are about 75 calories in a 2 tbsp. serving of flax seeds.

Q: How do you know if flax seeds have gone rancid?

A: If flax seeds are stored in the refrigerator they should last a long time. Remember that flax should have a very mild smell, so if you notice a fishy or otherwise strong and unpleasant smell, they are probably rancid. Also, flax should have a mild, nutty flavor, and if you sense a bitter or strong taste, they are best to avoid.

 

Q: Where does most of the fat content in flax seeds come from?

A: Flax seeds contain 42% fat, 73% of which are polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 6 and omega 3 fats), while 27% are monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids (7).

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