The first time I heard of flax was in relation to it’s cholesterol lowering possibilities. People would add flaxseed meal to cereal each morning to help lower cholesterol, and they swore by it! Later, I started hearing more about flaxseed and cancer. This post will focus on the health benefits of flaxseed. In my next post, I will give you some ideas on how to include more flax into your diet.
Flax 101: Health Benefits of Flaxseed
Flaxseed is an oil producing seed, similar to canola and sunflower. Flax seeds have 3 main components that account for it’s health benefits. They include the fat, fiber and lignans.
Flaxseed is a good source of omega-3 fats. In fact, flax is one of the only plant sources that provide a significant amount of omega-3 fats. In case you’re not aware, omega-3 fats are the healthier types of fat that is also found in fish. Omega-3 fats appear to reduce the risk of heart disease and may even reduce risk of some types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
Flaxseed is also an excellent source of fiber. It is recommended that we consume between 25g and 35g of fiber daily. Note, the average American only gets about 12g to 15g. Yikes! Just 1 tablespoon of flaxseed provides 3.5 g of fiber. Research tells us that getting fiber from food is the key to reducing the risk of many cancers, including colon cancer. Fiber from fiber supplements has not shown to reduce colon cancer risk. Remember from my post on fiber, increase your fiber intake SLOWLY!
The third component of flax seeds that provide significant health benefits are lignans. Lignans are a lesser known nutrient. They are considered phytochemicals, which I term “cancer phyters“. To increase your intake of lignans, look no further because flaxseed is the richest source of lignans available!
Studies done in cells, animals and humans support the health benefits of regularly including some lignans in your diet. Research suggests that lignans may protect against endometrial cancer, breast cancer, AND prostate cancer. Even after a diagnosis of cancer, research suggests that eating lignan-rich foods may benefit health. A recent study showed that eating flaxseed after a breast cancer diagnosis can slow down how quickly cancer cells in the body are dividing and can speed up the rate at which cancer cells die.
Some is Good; More is Better, Right?
Wrong! I know it’s the American mindset, but we have to understand that just because something is good for us doesn’t mean that we should try to get as much as possible! When it comes to flaxseed, 1-2 tablespoons a day have been shown beneficial. Anything over that isn’t necessarily better.
Before I give you ideas on how to include flax in your diet, go buy some flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed)! I get mine in the baking isle of the grocery store, and the brand is ‘Bob’s Red Mill: Whole Ground Flaxseed Meal’.
Once you complete your assignment, you’ll be ready for the next post!