7 Evidence-Based Benefits of Flax Seeds for Weight Loss
If you are one of the millions who are either slightly overweight or even more so, you have undoubtedly tried several diets or other methods of losing weight. If these have not panned out well for you, it may be either because the method itself was ineffective, or simply because it was not a match for you and your lifestyle.
There are many superfoods or other foods that are lauded for their weight loss abilities and while some of the claims made about these foods are backed by scientific research, there are also those that are all completely false.
Flax seeds have been proven time and time again to have several health and weight loss benefits. What’s more, it’s relatively inexpensive and very accessible, so you don’t have to go to specialty stores just to find it.
What is Flax Seed?
As the name would imply, flax seed is the seed from the flax plant. According to the Flax Council of Canada (1), flax cultivation traces back to ancient times, recorded as early as 3,000 B.C. It’s possible that the plant has been around even longer. During the days of Hippocrates, flax was recognized for alleviating problems related to digestion.
Benefits of Flax Seeds for Weight Loss
Flax seeds have been studied extensively as a dietary supplement and superfood, in addition to its potential as a management tool for metabolic syndrome, which may impact cholesterol, obesity, and high blood pressure. This study (2) had people incorporating flax seeds into their diets along with some lifestyle counseling.
The reason for the latter is that it has been proven that weight loss goes beyond eating different foods and exercising. Losing weight is essentially a lifestyle change in almost every aspect, which is why some people may not succeed in losing weight although they are exercising regularly and eating better foods.
1. Flax Seeds Lower Blood Pressure
Several studies have confirmed that regular intake of flax seeds can lower blood pressure. (3) Although blood pressure is not exactly the same as weight loss, research has shown that two are related. Not only that, but high blood pressure is detrimental to overall health and increases risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lower blood pressure will leave you feeling healthier, and this will ultimately lead to successful weight loss, provided you eat right and exercise regularly.
2. Flax Seeds Increase Satiety
Another way flax seeds help with weight loss is by increasing feelings of satiety. Quite obviously, when you feel fuller sooner, you will eat less, which means you are in a better position to lose weight. The secret to this is in the fiber content.
One study showed (4) that participants who took a flax drink had a significant decrease in appetite as well as feelings of satiety much sooner than the control group.
3. Flax Seeds Contain Metabolism-Boosting Lignans
There are two foods that are rich in lignans—sesame seeds and flax seeds. However, flax seeds are a far better choice because they contain 8 times more lignans than sesame seeds. Lignans are converted into enterolignans, which have a mildly estrogenic effect on the body. This may prevent cardiovascular disease by lowering bad cholesterol, in addition to their anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Lignans may also lower glucose levels (5) which could contribute towards weight loss through controlling insulin spikes that could cause fat storage and prevent fat oxidation. In addition, stable glucose levels may help shed pounds by reducing uncontrollable cravings.
[Related: How to Boost Your Metabolism]
4. Flax Seeds Contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Flax seeds contain alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid. (6) ALAs are converted into eicosapentaenoic acids (EPAs) or docosahexaenoic acids (DHAs), both of which have been shown to lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Consuming adequate amounts of omega-3s may prevent obesity through boosting adiponectin, which is a hormone produced by fat cells that help regulate glucose and lipids. (7) Adiponectin deficiency may lead to insulin resistance and a host of other problems. Just one tablespoon of flax seeds contains more than the recommended daily intake for women and 100 percent of men.
5. Flax Seeds Help with Hormonal Imbalances
Flax Seeds contain antioxidants that may help treat and prevent symptoms of hormonal imbalances in post-menopausal women. These include night sweats, mood swings, migraines and hot flashes. According to research, 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds were effective in improving symptoms of hormonal problems. (8)
This is relevant because weight loss, or weight gain, could be a sign of hormones acting up as a result of stress, lack of sleep, low BMI, medications, etc. Consumption of flax seeds in moderate amounts, may help in keeping everything balanced.
6. Flax Seeds Work Well in Healthy Recipes
When dieting, it’s important to consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. It’s equally important to make sure your meals are satiating and satisfying at the same time for better consistency and long-term results.
Usually baked goods are strictly off the menu when it comes to losing weight, but adding flax seeds in place of eggs or other sources of fat is one way of adapting a recipe to make it healthier. As a result, you can reduce the glycemic index of food, or add fiber which can slow down digestion and make treats more satisfying than their commercial counterparts.
7. Flax Seeds Stimulate Thermogenesis
Consuming flax seeds regularly is believed to stimulate thermogenesis or fat-burning. Thermogenesis is essential to fat loss because it causes specific brown fat cells (aka the good fat cells) to burn more calories, which can reduce weight.
It may seem counterproductive to consume more fat to lose fat, but the trick here is to make sure it’s the right kind of fat. Good fats help with fat-burning, while bad fats may increase risk of disease and hinder fat-burning.
Flax Seed Considerations
As you can see, there is more than enough research that shows how flax seeds can be beneficial for weight loss. However, there are other things to consider. For instance, some people cannot eat seeds because of their digestive systems. If you are one of those people, consuming flax seed for weight loss unless it is finely ground would not be a good idea.
Also, although it is good that flax seeds are high in fiber, you should make sure you are not eating too much. More is not always better in this case. Around 25-30 grams is good for most people. Excessive fiber intake could cause diarrhea or nutrient malabsorption. Thus, you need to limit your intake of flax seeds if you are already eating copious amounts of fiber through fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
[Related: Green Tea and Weight Loss]
Ground or Whole Flax Seeds?
With flax seeds, the recommendation is to eat them partially ground or even sprouted. If you were to eat flax seeds whole, there’s a chance that your body could pass them without fully digesting them.
Should I Use Flax Seeds for Weight Loss?
Flax seeds and flax seed oil have both shown promise in a variety of health benefits, including reducing the risk for certain types of cancers, obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, weight loss, and more.
Always remember that just because flax seeds have shown positive benefits related to weight loss in research studies does not mean that it will work perfectly for you. This is simply because everyone is different in the way their bodies work.
However, since flax seeds are a natural product, you are at extremely low risk of negative side effects (aside from diarrhea if you eat too much).