FLAXSEED (LINSEED)

Flaxseed (linseed) (yellow or brown) is usually regarded as the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linoleic acid, or ALA) that is partly converted into EPA and DHA – more active omega-3s – in the body. Just two tablespoons of ground flaxseed may provide you with almost 150% of the daily recommendation for omega-3 on condition it is efficiently converted in the body to EPA and DHA. The seeds are beneficial in coping with obesity, improve digestion, metabolism, soothe nerves, boost immunity, and lower triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Flaxseeds are also high in vitamins and minerals such as folate, copper, magnesium, manganese, or vitamin B6. American Cancer Society stated that flaxseeds contain antioxidants called lignans which are believed to fight cancer.

The New York Academy of Sciences discovered that omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseeds and other foods help to restore insulin sensitivity in diabetics even if their diet is high in other fats! One study demonstrated a 20% decrease in the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome after 3 months on a diet plan that included 30 grams (1 ounce) of ground flaxseed per day. It also lowered blood pressure, fasting glucose (sugar) level, and helped to decrease central obesity which is quite an accomplishment for a food that is over 70% fat.

According to the John Hopkins Medical Center, regular consumption of fiber-rich foods such as flaxseed is very helpful in coping with obesity and diabetes. Flaxseeds are rich in soluble fiber, which helps you feel full faster, thus reducing your appetite and preventing overeating. As little as two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds contains equal amount of fiber found in a cup of cooked oatmeal! This fiber also regulates your blood sugar levels and increases your metabolism. Japanese researchers discovered that a substance found in flaxseeds and called SDG, reduces visceral fat and fat accumulating around the livers in obese mice. In addition, it also reduced excess fatty tissue in the blood.

Since the omega-3 fatty acids are present in the oil component of the seeds flaxseed oil contains three times more ALA than flaxseeds. On the other hand, flaxseeds are a whole food and therefore contain other important nutrients that are not included in oil: dietary fiber, manganese, copper, magnesium, folate, vitamin B6, or lignan phytonutrients which have hormone-balancing and cardiovascular benefits. The solution, therefore, is to use flaxseed oil and ground flax seeds at the same time.

The seeds have to be ground because otherwise they pass through the gastrointestinal tract undigested. Pre-ground flaxseeds are available too, but it is better to buy whole seeds and grind them in a coffee grinder before eating. Whole flaxseeds can be stored at room temperature for up to one year while ground ones should be stored in the freezer and an airtight container for no longer than 1 month. Keep in mind that ground flax seeds and flaxseed oil may turn rancid quickly. For this reason you need to minimize their exposure to heat, light, and air by keeping them in the refrigerator in a darkened glass containers with the lids on tight. If you consume ground flax seeds make sure you consume plenty of water between meals, as otherwise flax seed may cause constipation if water intake is insufficient. Don’t use flax oil for cooking as heat can turn healthy fats into harmful ones. The oil’s low smoke point produces toxic by-products when heated. Information about quality of ALA in flaxseed oil in comparison with omega-3 fish oil is included in the chapter FISH AND OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENTS

Sources

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Morais D de C, Moraes EA, Dantas MI de S et al. Heat Treatment and Thirty-Day Storage Period Do Not Affect the Stability of Omega-3 Fatty Acid in Brown Flaxseed (Linum Usitatissimum) Whole Flour. Food and Nutrition Sciences 2. 4 (Jun 2011): 281-286. 2011.
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