Flaxseed is rich in fibers, omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid and a phytochemical called lignans that help the body in the following ways:
- Improves digestive health and reduces hunger pangs
- Relieves constipation
- Binds with cholesterol in the intestine and reduces its absorption
- Lowers the risk of hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis)
- Lowers total blood cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of heart diseases
- Modestly improves blood sugar level
- Reduces inflammation associated with certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or asthma
- Reduces hot flashes during menopause
- Protects cells from oxidative stress
- Provides protein and potassium to the cells
- Lowers blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Improves kidney function by decreasing the blood viscosity
- Reduces swelling associated with systemic lupus erythematosus
Many studies support the use of flaxseeds in the management of certain medical conditions, whereas others refute these claims. Some of the benefits of flaxseeds that do not have sufficient evidence include:
- Reducing urinary tract symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia
- Reducing tumor cell growth in women recently diagnosed with breast cancer
- Reducing the risk of heart disease
- Decreasing the risk of colorectal cancer
- Diminishing total and bad cholesterol levels during hemodialysis
- Improving the quality of life or relieving the severity of symptoms in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome
- Relieving breast pain occurring during the start of the menstrual cycle
- Decreasing symptoms and hot flashes in women undergoing menopause
- Reducing body weight, waist circumference or body mass index in people with obesity
How do you consume flaxseeds?
Flaxseeds can come in the following forms:
- Whole flaxseed
- Ground flaxseed
- Flaxseed oil
Whole flaxseeds are difficult for the body to digest, since they may pass through the intestine undigested, which means you won’t get any nutrition or health benefits from them. If you have whole flaxseeds, it’s best if you grind them yourself with a coffee grinder or blend them up in smoothies.
Ground flaxseeds are best used when you add them to your recipes, such as sprinkling them over your hot or cold breakfast cereal or yogurt or adding them to your favorite muffin recipe. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains around 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
Flaxseed oil is great for drizzling over salads or using for cooking. While flaxseed oil contains omega-3s, it does not have fiber and lignans found in the rest of the seed.
Who shouldn’t consume flaxseeds?
Most people do not face any adverse reactions to flaxseeds, however, people with the following conditions should avoid taking them:
- Kidney disease or other problems that affect potassium levels because flaxseeds are high in potassium
- Hormone-related cancers, such as ovarian or breast cancer, because flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens
- Diverticulosis or diverticulitis
- Even though there is no established evidence, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid flaxseeds
What are side effects of flexseed? Are they safe?
Flaxseeds are safe for most people and offer nutritional health benefits. Yet, since they have high fiber content, they might cause some side effects, such as:
Flaxseeds, when taken in excess quantities, may block the intestines. It is important to take them with plenty of water to prevent such a blockage.
Taking raw or unripe flaxseeds is unsafe and can be poisonous.
What are the precautions to follow while using flaxseeds?
Flaxseed consumption requires you to follow certain precautions, such as:
- Do not take them if you have a bleeding disorder
- Monitor your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes
- Avoid using flaxseeds if you have a digestive tract obstruction
- Limit your use of flaxseed if you have a hormone-sensitive condition
- Always use flaxseeds carefully if you have extremely high or low blood pressure
As a word of caution, always consult your physician before taking any supplements.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Zeratsky K. Does Ground Flaxseed Have More Health Benefits Than Whole Flaxseed? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/flaxseed/faq-20058354
Cleveland Clinic. Flaxseed: Little Seed, Big Benefits. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/flaxseed-little-seed-big-benefits/
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