Although it’s been cultivated and used in food for centuries, flaxseed’s superpowers have only recently become widely known. What the evidence suggests so far, however, is truly exciting.
Turns out, the bioactive compounds in the seeds of the flax plant may aid in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, promoting weight loss, reducing skin roughness and dryness, and possibly staving off breast cancer, according to a research review published in the May 2019 issue of the journal Nutrients.
Flaxseed’s powerful nutrients, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), include:
- Fiber Flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps fill you up and keeps food moving smoothly through the digestive tract.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids Flaxseed is a mega-source of the plant version of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is key to fighting inflammation. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that teen boys and men consume 1.6 grams (g) of ALA daily and teen girls and women 1.1 g. According to the Mayo Clinic, 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of ground flaxseed provides 4 g of fatty acids, including omega-3s.
- Phytochemicals Including lignans, a form of phytoestrogens, these are plant-based compounds that are similar to the hormone estrogen. In fact, flaxseed is one of the best sources of lignans around, says clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas, certified nutritionist and author of Wild Mediterranean: The Age-Old, Success-New Plan for a Healthy Gut With Foods You Can Trust.
- Minerals Calcium, potassium, and magnesium are all minerals that your body needs for almost everything it does, including proper kidney, heart, nerve, and bone function, per National Institutes of Health experts.
Flaxseed’s Potential Total-Body Health Benefits
Flaxseed may also do the following:
- Lower Blood Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Animal studies suggest that the ALA in flaxseed lowers inflammation, which may lower cholesterol, helping to prevent the buildup of plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to high blood pressure, stroke, or heart attack, according to the article in Nutrients.
- Help Control Blood Sugar One 12-week study published May 9, 2018, in Nutrition & Metabolism found that consuming 10 g of flaxseed daily reduced blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes, most likely because of the seed’s high fiber content, which aids in weight loss and slows digestion and therefore the release of glucose into the bloodstream.
- Aid In Weight Loss One reason is that flax’s soluble fiber expands when ingested, making you feel fuller for a longer period of time. Although there is no proof that it would work in humans, another animal study published in the March 1, 2019, issue of American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism found that the breakdown of flaxseed fibers in the gut alters beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract in ways that may help protect against diet-induced obesity.
- Improve Digestion The fiber in flaxseed can help relieve constipation and make you more regular, according to the Nutrition & Metabolism study cited above.
- Fight Cancer Flaxseed’s omega-3 fatty acids have the potential to decrease the risk of breast cancer and possibly slow tumor growth in patients who already have the disease, suggested research published online February 7, 2018, in Frontiers in Nutrition.
How to Get More Flax Seed Oil in Your Diet
Adding flax seed oil, nutty taste to your favorite foods is a great way to boost the fiber and nutrient content of your diet. Here are ways to add it to foods you already eat and enjoy:
- Add flaxseed oil on cereal or oatmeal at breakfast.
- Add 1 tsp of flax seed oil to mustard or mayonnaise before spreading them on sandwiches.
- Blend into smoothies.
- Toss onto salads or into your salad dressings.
- Top your fruit and yogurt with 1 tsp of cold pressed flax seed oil.
- Use in tomato sauces and soups.