Flax Seed: Benefits, Nutrition And How To Eat It

Flax seeds have many benefits for our health and can be included in plenty of recipes. A common way to introduce it to our diet is through flaxseed oil.
Flaxseed, or linseed, is credited with many health benefits and is especially used as a laxative
 

Flax seed is often consumed ground or as oil. Also, ground meat recipes usually contain it and is a useful way to ingest it. Among the benefits of this seed are its antioxidant, digestive and anti-cancer properties.

In this article, we will see what this seed is and what are its uses, properties and benefits, how to eat it and its side effects.

What is flax seed?

Flax is a member of the genus Linum. Its scientific name is Linum usitatissimum and belongs to the plant family Linaceae. It corresponds to a type of annual plant with a greyish green color and blue flowers.

Historically, flax was already associated with medicinal benefits, especially laxative properties. Since ancient times it has been used as a popular natural remedy.

Today, it is grown all over the world including Europe, South America, Asia and parts of the United States. But not only linseed and its oil are used for medicinal purposes. Flaxseed oil is also found in paints, varnishes, and enamels. The seeds of this plant are similar to those of sesame, although darker in tone.

Therapeutically, this seed contains medicinal chemical substances known as lignans that have antioxidant properties that can act as phytoestrogens. These elements can be useful in the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular problems or osteoporosis.

Flax seeds benefits

It is a nutraceutical food, which means that it offers health benefits and can be included as a supplement in the prevention and treatment of some diseases. Below are some of the properties and benefits associated with it.

1. Reduces cholesterol

There is scientific evidence that products made with flaxseeds can reduce bad cholesterol levels and help control blood pressure, as well as decrease the accumulation of arterial plaque.

Linseed may also help some pharmaceuticals effectiveness.

2. Favors weight loss

Flaxseed contains soluble fiber, which has a satiating effect and can help decrease appetite and cravings associated with anxiety. In general, it also presents antioxidants that accelerate metabolism. It is ideal to consume about 3 tablespoons of this seed a day in the three main meals.

3. Prevention of cancer and tumor activity

Some research suggests that these seeds can become an effective nutritional supplement to prevent the spread of cancer and tumors in the body.

Also, many alternative medicine professionals relate it as an anti-cancer agent especially in breast and uterine cancers and even to treat endometriosis in a complementary way. However, more studies are needed to demonstrate the true effectiveness of these seeds.

4. Relieves the symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Because of its estrogen-like effects, the oil can relieve symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome and also manage breast pain. Also, flaxseed oil can help control some menopausal symptoms, and its anti-inflammatory properties also treat arthritis, among others.

5. Benefits digestion

In phytotherapy, flax seed is a type of herbal agent that is very effective for treating digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Constipation and diarrhea are also symptoms that can be relieved with regular consumption of flax since the insoluble fiber of this seed can act as a laxative and also increase the volume of stool in constipation cases.

6. Improves cardiovascular health

The relationship between flaxseed and cardiovascular health has been studied on several occasions. It is observed that adding this seed to diets can help prevent heart attacks and strokes related especially to high cholesterol levels. Flaxseed oil may also slightly lower blood pressure.

7. Reduces adverse effects of some medications

Consuming it also helps decrease toxic side effects such as kidney damage or high blood pressure from cyclosporine, a type of medicine for those who have had an organ transplant, for it prevents rejection of the new organ.

Like other cereals, we can add flax seed to salads or smoothies, or take it as flaxseed oil

How to eat flax seed?

Flaxseed products are commercially available as whole or ground seeds, gelatin capsules, and oil. Some herbalists recommend adding whole seeds to the diet to get the maximum benefit. Whole seeds can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

Several nutraceutical companies have been marketing a type of flour with 5% lignan content since 2002, which is added to pastry, snacks, cereals, dry pet foods, and similar products.

Capsules are also available. Some herbalists believe that those capsules are highly processed, have less benefits and can be an expensive alternative to its oil.

The optimal daily intake of flaxseed oil has not been established. A tablespoon of oil is thought to be enough to maintain our health levels. As a specific remedy, 1 to 3 tablespoons a day could help, depending on the person's weight and health needs.

Some people use the oil as an ingredient in salads. The oil is often combined with lime water when used to treat burns and scalds.

Flaxseed side effects

If we don't exceed the recommended doses of products that contain flaxseed, there are no associated side effects. However, pregnant, breastfeeding women, children and people with liver or kidney disease should be careful with its consumption.

Because of their fiber content, it is also recommended to start adding flax seeds into our diet in small quantities and gradually increase them, together with great amounts of water.

Otherwise, that substance could cause colic and diarrhea. Finally, it is also important to know the interactions with other pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements because if taken at the same time it can affect their absorption.

References

Annussek, G., & Frey, R. J. (2005). Flaxseed. In J. L. Longe (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (2nd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 765-767). Detroit, MI: Gale.

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