Flax: Integrating The Wonder Seed Into Your Diet

Posted Thu, 12/10/2009 - 12:58pm by Camilla Cheung

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It is now quite well-known that flax seeds, which come from the plant from which we have been producing linen for hundreds of years, are chock full of powerful nutrients that can reduce cholesterol, slow cancers, prevent heart attacks, and more. What exactly are these health benefits, and how can the average person integrate flax seeds into his/her diet?

Flax Contains High Levels Of Omega-3s

Flax seeds have been the darlings of the health food world since it became known that they contained powerful cancer-fighting antioxidants. Flax seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, which recent studies suggest may help protect against breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer, according to the Flax Council of Canada. Studies have also shown that flax seed consumption can slow the rate of growth of certain cancers.

Studies show that omega-3s, as well as lignan, another nutrient found in flax, also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent heart attacks and strokes by preventing hardening of the arteries and plaque buildup in blood vessels. Other studies show that plant omega-3s help to lower the levels of LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol in the bloodstream, leading to a lower risk of heart problems. In a Canadian study, women who consumed daily doses of flax seeds over the course of a year had decreased levels of LDL particles in their bloodstream.

Flax Is High In Fiber

Flax seeds have been shown to be high in soluble fiber, which has numerous health benefits. In addition to keeping things moving and preventing constipation, soluble fiber also has the benefit of binding cholesterol in the intestines during the digestion process, preventing it from being absorbed. A fiber-rich diet can also prevent inflammation of the blood vessels and lower blood pressure.

Soluble fiber is also helpful if you suffer from diabetes, as it slows the absorption of sugar into the body, allowing diabetics to better regulate their blood sugar levels. Higher levels of fiber have been linked to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Integrating Flax Into Your Diet

Flax is not a miracle food — it is simply a healthy food, and should be taken in conjunction with a healthy and varied diet. The Flax Council of Canada suggests a daily dose of 1-2 tablespoons. When using flax, try when possible to use ground flaxseeds instead of whole, as breaking up the seed allows its nutrients to be absorbed into your body more easily. Flaxseeds, particularly when ground, can go rancid quickly, so store them in the refrigerator or freezer.

  • Flaxseeds have a nutty flavor and can be a tasty addition sprinkled raw onto your morning granola or yogurt, mixed into a trail mix, or whizzed into a fruit smoothie.
     
  • Ground flaxseeds can be baked into muffins, cookies and cakes, simply by substituting part of the flour with ¼ cup to ½ cup of ground flax or flax meal. It can also be stirred into and cooked along with oatmeal.
     
  • Flaxseeds can be “hidden” in certain foods that call for breadcrumbs, such as breaded foods, gratins, meatloaf or meatballs.
     
  • Buy breads, crackers, and other products that contain ground flaxseed.

Be aware that the effects of high levels of flaxseed consumption in pregnant women are not yet completely known, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult their physician about adding flax to their diet.

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