Long before flax was the super seed as we know it today, it was used primarily to make textiles. Now, of course, it is considered a staple in the nutrition world and is known to be an excellent source of fiber and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Here we learn more about flaxseed, from how it became a fad food, to its various forms and health benefits.
What is flaxseed and from where it is originated?
Flaxseed comes from the flax plant (also known as Linum usitatissimum) that is grown about 2 feet tall. It was probably first cultivated in Egypt, but it has been cultivated all over the world.
The flax plant can be woven into flax: its fibers are two or three times stronger than cotton! When the plant first arrived in North America, it was grown primarily to make clothing. However, in the mid-20th century, cotton became the preferred fiber in the United States, which is why today most places in North America that grow flax do so to produce seeds.
Its nutty-flavored seeds can be eaten plain or crushed and cold-pressed to release flaxseed oil. For decades, it was common to find flaxseed (also called flaxseed) in cereals or bread. But it has carved a niche for itself on the health food scene in the last decade. People have realized the many health benefits of the plant and now have many options to fill up, either as a supplement or as an ingredient that they add to a variety of foods. You may have even noticed that flaxseed has been incorporated into your pet’s food.
How it is grown?
Only the toughest and the most resistant plant can survive for thousands of years. Linum usitatissimum, which is Latin for “the most useful type of flax,” is the type of flax that is grown to obtain seeds. It grows in huge fields and likes full sun, cooler climates with well-drained soil.
When the seed pods swell and turn brown after flowering, the seeds are harvested. Canada is the supplier of most of the brown flaxseed, while North America grows the golden variety.
Types of flaxseeds
There are two basic types of flax, brown and gold, both of which can be found in health food stores and specialty stores. Most people find that dark brown seeds have a slightly stronger flavor than golden seeds. Both of them are good sources of alpha-linolenic acid, even though the dark seeds have slightly higher levels of ALA than the golden variety.
What is flaxseed oil?
There are two basic types of flax, brown and gold, both of which can be found in health food stores and specialty stores. Most people find that dark brown seeds have a slightly stronger flavor than golden seeds. Both are good sources of alpha-linolenic acid, although the dark seeds have slightly higher levels of ALA than the golden variety.
How to use flaxseeds?
Since the body cannot fully digest flax seeds, they must be crushed before consuming them. This works best in a small coffee grinder, spice grinder, or even a mortar. However, you grind exactly what you need because ground flour spoils quickly.
Health Benefits of flaxseed
It is no surprise that the tiny edible seeds of the flax plant (one of the oldest crops in the world!). They have achieved super food status – these little packets of nutrients provide a host of health benefits. But to fully reap these benefits, there is a “right” way to consume them.
Flaxseed is full of omega-3 fatty acids
Flaxseed contains a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which has been linked to better circulation and anti-inflammatory effects. Research shows that these fats can also help fight osteoporosis by reducing the risk of bone fractures and offering modest protection against type 2 diabetes.
Plus Fiber, Protein, and More
A two-tablespoon serving of flax contains 6 grams of fiber (about a quarter of the recommended amount), 45 grams of plant protein, and 10-20% of the daily goal for various nutrients including magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, and thiamine. Magnesium helps in improving mood and sleep schedule, while manganese plays a role in collagen production and promotes healthy skin and bones. Phosphorus helps build cell structures and supports bone health. Copper is involved in the production of energy and collagen and is necessary to produce red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Thiamine also plays a role in energy production and also supports the nervous system.
Flaxseed is also rich in powerful antioxidants.
Flaxseed is a major source of especially health-protective antioxidants called polyphenols. These antioxidants are believed to protect against heart disease and cancer, as well as cell-damaging oxidative stress, which means they can also help fight premature aging and neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s).
Flaxseed is good for your heart in many ways
There are both good and bad fats in flaxseed. Good fat helps lower blood pressure, fight to harden the arteries, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, and prevent strokes. In a study, it was found that people with high cholesterol that consumes three tablespoons of flaxseed powder a day for three months lowered “bad” LDL cholesterol by nearly 20% and total cholesterol by more than 15%.
Flaxseed Fiber Aids Digestion
Flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps soften stool so it can pass through the gastrointestinal tract and be excreted more easily. Insoluble fiber stimulates the digestive system to move waste materials through the intestines and promotes intestinal function. These two types of fiber work in a combined way to support digestive health.
Flaxseed May Reduce Cancer Risk
Flaxseed has been shown to prevent the development of tumours, particularly breast, prostate, and colon cancers. The possible reason may be is that because flax is rich in lignans. These plant compounds are believed to have anti-angiogenic properties, which mean that they can prevent tumour formation and the growth of new blood vessels. In a study, it was found that more than 6,000 women who consumed flaxseed regularly had an 18% lower risk of developing breast cancer.
Flaxseed May Reduce Diabetes Risk
The lignans that are present in flaxseed help to improve levels of HA1C which is a measure of the average blood sugar level over three months. The seeds can help lower your risk of diabetes in other ways, too. In a small study, scientists gave people 0 g, 13 g, or 26 g of flaxseed daily for 12 weeks. All participants had prediabetes and included obese men and overweight postmenopausal women. People that consumed 13 g of flaxseed per day had lower blood sugar and insulin levels and better insulin sensitivity at the end of the study period.
Flaxseed May Give You Smoother Skin
A small study found that giving women flaxseed oil resulted in a significant decrease in skin sensitivity and a reduction in skin roughness and peeling, while at the same time improving hydration and smoothness of the skin.
Flaxseed May Help You Lose Weight
Most of the soluble fiber in flaxseed is known as mucus. This fiber combines with water to form a gelatinous consistency that slows gastric emptying; leads to a greater feeling of fullness and delays the return of hunger.
A meta-analysis of 45 studies concluded that consuming flaxseed (especially 30 grams per day, or about two tablespoons) resulted in a decrease in both body weight and waist circumference.
Flaxseed May Even Relieve Hot Flashes
Research is mixed, but some studies suggest that flaxseed may help with this perimenopausal symptom. One study found that women who ate 20 grams of flaxseed mixed with granola, juice, or yogurt twice a day had half the hot flashes as before.
How to take maximum benefits of flaxseed
The first thing to know is that it is best to eat after it has been ground or preferably ground. This is because whole flax seeds are likely to pass through the intestines undigested. In other words, healthy fats and other nutrients are not absorbed into the bloodstream.
There is more to it: since the oils in flax are sensitive, they can begin to break down in very lighter parts. To get all its benefits, grind the seeds in a coffee grinder just before eating.
Look for whole golden or brown flax seeds at the grocery store (most major markets sell them) or online. If you can find sprouted flax seeds, it is much better. Germination is a process that improves the digestibility of seeds and makes their nutrients more available.
Store all at home in a cool, dark place. If you have extra ground flax seeds, put them in the freezer for better nutrient retention.
It’s easy to sprinkle ground flax seeds over rolled oats, salads, or cooked vegetables. But it can also be baked. Lower oven temperatures don’t seem to reduce ALA much, making a great addition to muffins, cookies, brownies, and sweetbreads like pumpkin or zucchini. You can also add ground to healthy smoothies, energy balls, and pancakes. Or use them as an herbal substitute in many baked goods recipes that call for eggs. You can even easily replace each egg with one tablespoon of flaxseed and three tablespoons of water.
Purchasing and Storing Flaxseed
Because meal, and oil are sensitive to light and can degrade if exposed to light for long periods of time, be sure to use opaque packaging for products that buy and read carefully the best recommendations: before the dates on the labels.
Fortunately, whole can be stored at room temperature for up to a year, but once ground; the should be used as soon as possible. oil can easily go rancid if not used effectively. Try to buy smaller amounts of oil and pre-ground flour, and use what you grind in no time.