Flaxseeds have been consumed as food for around 6,000 years and may have very well been the worlds first cultivated superfood!
Flax seed benefits could help you improve digestion, give you clear skin, lower cholesterol, reduce sugar cravings, balance hormones, fight cancer and promote weight loss… and that’s just the beginning!
Flaxseeds, sometimes called linseeds, are small, brown, tan or golden-colored seeds that are the richest sources of a plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in the world!
Another unique fact about flaxseeds is that they rank #1 source of lignans in human diets. Flaxseeds contain about 7 times as many lignans as the closest runner-up, sesame seeds.
Stunning Flaxseed Nutrition Facts
When you look at the nutritional benefits of flax seeds, there are many things that will catch your attention.
A 1 ounce (3 tbsp) serving of flaxseeds contains:
- Omega-3 (ALA) 6,338mg
- Fiber 8g
- Protein 6g
- Vitamin B1 31% RDA
- Manganese 35% RDA
- Magnesium 30% RDA
- Phosphorus 19% RDA
- Selenium 10% RDA
- Also, flaxseeds contain a good amount of vitamin B6, Iron, potassium, copper and zinc.
This flax seed nutrition profile makes it easy to see why it’s one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.
Which is Better? Flaxseed Oil or The Seed?
Hands down, this is the most common question I have fielded. The truth is that one is not better than the other for general preventive health purposes. For optimal protection I would suggest using both. However, there are some important things to consider when incorporating either of these forms into your diet:
- Never heat flaxseed oil: All oils rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are prone to enhanced oxidation (rancidity) when heated. This means that you would not cook with flaxseed oil. Opting for naturally saturated (and therefore more heat stabile) fats like palm, coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter) instead.
- Get creative with flaxseed meal: Flaxseed meal is an excellent addition to smoothies or for sprinkling on foods that have a higher glycemic index, e.g. pasta, cereal. The flaxseed meal will slow the breakdown of the starchy carbohydrates and therefore blunt blood sugar spikes and concomitant elevations in insulin. Also, the fiber is excellent for helping to contribute to regularity (it is useful both for going too much and not enough). The key, of course, is to always stay hydrated when using flaxseed, as it can cause significant binding in a dehydrated individual.
- Flaxseed is full of good fats: Keep in mind that flaxseed is a potent source of omega-3 fatty acids, containing a 4:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. This is a great way to balance out the predominant ratios in the Standard American Diet. Which is so heavy in corn, canola, soy, and peanut oils, all of which have several orders of magnitude more omega 6 than omega 3.
How Much Should I Take?
Generally, a tablespoon or two of meal a day is a good dose for ensuring you are getting a physiologically significant amount. The same goes for the oil. I have personally consumed five tablespoons of meal a day without any harm.
And have used a good amount of the flaxseed oil in place of olive oil as salad dressing (I happen to like the taste of flaxseed better).
Everyone will be different, so go with your intuition if you are just experimenting. If you are sick, consult your health practitioner or dietary coach to obtain specific recommendations.
Also, listen to your body. If you aren’t finding flaxseed agrees with you, then back off on the amount or stop it until you find another dietary intervention that does work for you. Another alternative that has many of the same health benefits as chia seed.
10 Flax Seed Benefits
1. High in Fiber, but Low in Carbs
One of the most extraordinary benefits of flax seeds is that they contain high levels of mucilage gum content. Mucilage is a gel-forming fiber that is water soluble and has incredible benefits on the intestinal tract.
The mucilage can keep food in the stomach from emptying too quickly into the small intestine which can increase nutrient absorption.
Also, flax is extremely high in both soluble and insoluble fiber which can support colon detoxification, fat loss and reduce sugar cravings.
You should aim to consume 30-40 g of high fiber foods daily.
2. Healthy Skin and Hair
If you want healthier skin, hair and nails then consider adding 2 tbsp of flax seeds to your smoothie or 1 tbsp of flax seed oil to your daily routine.
The ALA fats in flax seeds benefits the skin and hair by providing essential fats as well as b-vitamins which can help reduce dryness and flakiness. It can also improve symptoms of acne, rosacea, and eczema. This also applies to eye health as flax can reduce dry eye syndrome.
Flax seed oil is another great option since it has an even higher concentration of healthy fats. You can take 1-2 tbsp internally to hydrate skin and hair. It can also be mixed with essential oils and used as a natural skin moisturizer.
3. Weight Loss
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that flaxseeds and walnuts may improve obesity and support weight loss.
Since flax is full of healthy fats and fiber, it will help you feel satisfied longer so you will eat fewer calories overall which may lead to weight loss. ALA fats may also help reduce inflammation.
This is important for weight loss in that an inflamed body will tend to hold on to excess weight. Add a couple of teaspoons of ground flaxseed to soups, salads, or smoothies as part of your weight loss plan.
4. Lower Cholesterol
The journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that adding flax seeds into your diet can naturally reduce cholesterol levels.
The soluble fiber content of flax seeds trap fat and cholesterol in the digestive system so that it unable to be absorbed. Soluble fiber also traps bile, which is made from cholesterol in the gallbladder.
The bile is then excreted through the digestive system. Forcing the body to make more, using up excess cholesterol in the blood and lowering cholesterol overall.
5. Flaxseeds are Gluten-Free
Using flax is a great way to naturally replace gluten-containing grains which are inflammatory where flax is anti-inflammatory. So, flax seeds are great for those who have Celiac disease or have a gluten-sensitivity. They may also be a good alternative to omega-3 fats in fish for people with a seafood allergy.
Another great aspect of flax being gluten-free is that it can be used as a grain-free option in cooking. I will often use it along with coconut flour in baking at home.
6. Flaxseeds are High in Antioxidants (Lignans)
Amongst its other incredible nutrition facts, flax seeds are also packed with antioxidants. Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits for anti-aging, hormone balance and cellular health.
Polyphenols support the growth of probiotics in the gut and may also help eliminate yeast and candida in the body.
Lignans are also known for their anti-viral and antibacterial properties, therefore consuming flax regularly may help reduce the number or severity of colds and flus.
7. Digestive Health
Maybe the biggest flax seed benefits come from it’s ability to promote digestive health. The ALA in flax can help protect the lining of the digestive tract and maintain GI health.
It has been shown to be beneficial for people suffering from Crohn’s disease or other digestive ailments, as it can help reduce gut inflammation.
You can also take 1-3 tbsp of flax seed oil with 8 oz of carrot juice to help naturally relieve constipation.
Flax is also very high in soluble and insoluble fiber which can also improve digestive health and is one of the highest magnesium foods in the world.
Two tablespoons of flaxseeds contains about 5 g of fiber or 1/4 of the RDA. The fiber found in flaxseeds provides food for friendly bacteria in your colon that can help cleanse waste from your system.
8. Flax Seeds for Cancer
Flax seed benefits have been proven time and time again and even including fighting breast, prostate, ovarian and colon cancer.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Cancer Research discovered that consuming flax seeds may decrease the risk of breast cancer.
The three lignans found in flaxseeds can be converted by intestinal bacteria into enterolactone.
And enterodiol which naturally balance hormones which may be the reason flax seeds reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the lignans in flaxseeds may also reduce the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer.
9. High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We hear a lot about the health benefits of fish oil or omega-3 fats. Fish oil contains EPA and DHA, two omega-3 fats that are critical for optimal health. Although flaxseeds do not contain EPA or DHA, they do contain ALA, another type of omega-3 fat.
A study published in Nutrition Reviews has shown that approximately 20% of ALA can be converted into EPA, but only .5% of ALA is converted into DHA. Also, surprisingly gender may play a big role in conversion where young women had a 2.5-fold greaterrate than men.
Regardless of conversion, ALA is still considered a healthy fat and should be included in a balanced diet.
10. Menopausal Symptoms
The lignans in the flax have been shown to have benefits for menopausal women. It can be used as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy because lignans do have estrogenic properties.
These properties may also help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. It can even help menstruating women by helping maintain cycle regularity.
To experience the flax seed benefits for your hormones include 1-2 tbsp of flax meal in a breakfast smoothie along with 1 tbsp of flax seed oil.