Flax has been known to humans from before the times of the ancient Egyptian civilization where the temple walls had paintings of flowering flax on them. The Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne was so convinced of its health benefits that he made laws to publicize it. Following new research that supported Charlemagne’s conviction, public interest in it has seen a drastic revival.
Bright Side evaluated several scholarly papers to find out what health benefits flaxseed presents and whether it really is the wonder-food that it’s thought to be.
It reduces cancer risk.
Recent studies suggest that flaxseed may provide protection against breast cancer and colon cancer. According to a Canadian study that involved more than 6,000 women, it was found that those who regularly ate flaxseed were considerably less likely to develop breast cancer.
Flaxseed is a rich source of lignans, containing more than 800 times more lignans than most other plants. These have antioxidant and estrogen properties which are effective at lowering the risk of cancer. Also, the omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed called alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA) is thought to inhibit tumor incidence and growth.
It lowers blood pressure.
Flaxseed is known to lower blood pressure. A Canadian study found that people who consumed 30 g of flaxseed every day for 6 months had lowered their blood pressure. It was also found that it aided those who were already on some form of blood pressure medication.
A review of 11 studies concluded that consuming flaxseed daily for more than 3 months can lower blood pressure by 2 mmHg. This might seem insignificant, but even this can lower the risk of dying from a stroke by 10% and from heart disease by 7%.
It lowers the risk of heart attack.
Numerous studies have concluded that the consumption of flaxseed is directly related to a reduced risk of suffering from a stroke. A study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health involving 3,638 Costa Ricans found that people who consumed more ALA had a lower risk of having a heart attack than those who consumed less alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA). Also, a detailed analysis of 27 studies that involved more than 250,000 people found that ALA intake lowers the risk of heart disease by about 14%.
ALA, which is contained in flaxseed, is an essential fatty acid that must be obtained through diet, since the body doesn’t produce it. It fights cardiovascular diseases by preventing the deposit of cholesterol in the blood vessels.
It promotes regular bowel movements and improves digestive health.
One tablespoon of flaxseed contains about 3 grams of fiber, which is 8 to 12% of the daily prescribed intake, and is made up of both soluble and insoluble types. Soluble fiber slows down the rate of digestion and thereby helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol, while insoluble fiber allows more water to bind to the stool, increasing its bulk and resulting in softer stools.
It helps control cholesterol levels.
A study of 28 people published between 1990 and 2008 showed that consuming flaxseed reduced cholesterol in the blood, with greater benefits in women and those with high cholesterol. More research found that consuming 3 tablespoons of flaxseed powder daily for 3 months can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol by 20% and total cholesterol by almost 17%.
According to scientists, this is due to the high amount of fiber present in flaxseed. The fiber binds to bile salts which then gets excreted by the body. This, in turn, results in the pulling of cholesterol from the blood into the liver to replenish these bile salts, thereby lowering cholesterol levels in the blood.
It reduces hot flashes.
In a small study conducted at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, 29 women who were having 14 hot flashes per week for at least a month were studied. These women were asked to add 2 tablespoons of the flaxseed to cereal, juice, yogurt, or fruit twice daily for 6 weeks. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the women cut their number of daily hot flashes in half and the intensity of the hot flashes had also dropped by 57%.
It keeps blood sugar levels in check.
Type 2 diabetes affects over 6% of the world population with women being a high-risk group. To understand the effects of flaxseed in combating it, a one month study was conducted. About 20 grams of flaxseed powder was added to the daily meals of the patients. After one month the patients saw an 8 to 20% drop in their blood sugar levels.
It aids in weight management.
Flaxseed helps stave off hunger and can prove useful at keeping you from munching on snacks the entire day which can lead to weight gain quite fast. According to a study, adding a mere 25 grams of ground flaxseed to a beverage can suppress the feeling of hunger and overall food intake.
Do you think flaxseed is a wonder-food? If you do, share this article with as many people as you can so they too can reap the benefits it provides.
Illustrated by Natalia Breeva for Bright Side