Flax also called as linseed is one of the oldest foods (grown since the 3000 BC or nearly 6000 years) and fibre crop which is grown commonly in cold regions due to suitable climatic conditions. Flax seeds have been in use since the old times in Asian countries in therapeutic processes of Ayurveda, owing to its healing benefits. Today, it is not only used as a food product but also in textile industry as linen. Flax is used for its oil component and also used as a nutritional supplement in various forms. Linseed meal is also a form for nutritional benefit and the remains left after oil production from flax seeds are used to feed animals, specifically livestock. Flax is highly beneficial food which is rich in dietary fibre. Flax seeds benefits range from reducing LDL cholesterol in the blood, improving heart diseases, fighting cancers, inflammation, weight loss and various other skin and hair-related problems.
Where do flax seeds come from?
The term ‘flax’ is derived from the Latin word Linum usitatissimum, which means “most useful”. The flax plants are cultivated in colder climates; they have round, dry capsular fruit containing glossy brown seeds called as flax seeds.
Flax farming is done with the minimum use of pesticides and fertilisers, hence increasing the nutritional value of the product.
Flax seeds are found in two forms, brown and golden. The only difference is that usually, flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but yellow flax also called as solin are very low in omega-3 fatty acids and hence have entirely different oil profile. (1)
Flax Seeds Benefits
- Improves digestion
- Helps prevent cancer
- Keeps a check on heart disease
- Fights inflammation
- Lowers cholesterol level
- Controls diabetes
- Maintains healthy skin
- Lowers down chances of hot flashes
- Aids in weight loss
- Stops hair breakage
- Prevents dandruff
- Fights baldness
- Prevents acne
- Gluten free
- Helpful for women
Among all these health benefits, let me tell you more about how all these benefits can help you. Here is all you need to know about the science behind.
1. Flax seeds benefits in the digestion process
Flax seeds are rich in both soluble and insoluble fibres. The fibre content increases the weight of your stool and thus helps to make the stool softer and easy to pass out. That is why it is often used as a remedy to relieve constipation.
On the other hand, other contents such as ALA and magnesium found in flax seeds benefits the digestive system by protecting and relaxing the muscles in the GI tract, hence smoothening the stool movement. (2)
You should use it in a ground form to get its most benefit because whole seeds do not get absorbed and pass out as such in the stools. It is advisable to use one tablespoon of ground flax seeds twice daily with a lot of water.
2. Help prevent cancer
Flax seeds are meant to reduce the incidence of breasts, ovarian and prostate cancer. Lignans found in flax seed are known for their antigenic property which helps in reducing the growth of tumours by acting against the formation of new blood cells. Lignans also contain phytoestrogen (also found in soy, nuts and some fruits).
These lignans are known to reduce the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. (3) Phytoestrogen is similar to estrogen hormones released in females.
Two phytoestrogens named as enterolactone and enterodiol are known to reduce the production of active estrogen in females and thus helps to suppress the breast tumour growth.
There is a mechanism called apoptosis (programmed cell death) in which cancer cells die and reduce the ability to multiply. This phenomenon is followed by phytoestrogen, to promote apoptosis of cancer cells.
3. Keeps a check on heart diseases
A study found that dietary flax seeds benefits by reducing the growth of atherosclerotic plaques, a condition that is caused due to plaques developing in the arteries leading to the narrowing down of arteries and thus preventing the oxygenated blood from reaching the body organs. In the same study done on animals, a significant reduction in plaques was observed after feeding them flax seeds. (4)
Flax seeds contain omega-3 fatty acid and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), among both of these ALA, is more potent in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, stroke, cardiac arrest and some others too. (5)
The alternatives for the consumption of omega-3 fatty acid include marines such as the fish, or fish oil supplements. Therefore, for vegetarians, flax seed makes the perfect alternative.
3. Fights inflammation
The flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids including ALA and flavonoids too, these have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant property.
Consuming flax seed will result in the blocking of the release of inflammatory mediators like interleukins (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP). (6)
Flax seeds are also known to cure arthritis, Raynaud’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
4. Lowers cholesterol level
Flax seeds can help reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and maintain blood sugar level.
They are also known to increase the level of good HDL cholesterol. It is because of the fibres in flax seeds which bind to bile salts and move them out and thus to balance the bile salts the cholesterol is derived from blood to liver. This process reduces the blood cholesterol level. (7)
5. Controls diabetes
It is known to be beneficial in type 2 diabetes mellitus.
The insoluble fibre content of flax seeds is responsible for slowing down the release of sugar in the blood and hence reduce blood sugar level.
Studies revealed that if your consumption of flax seeds in prediabetics bring a good response, but there is not enough evidence to support the effect of flax on diabetics. (8)
6. Maintains healthy skin
It helps to improve the glow of the skin. It contains essential fatty acids to promote skin growth and renewal time by time.(9). This way it helps to slow down the process of ageing. Deficiency of which can lead to psoriasis and eczema.
They prevent the entry of pollutants in the skin and reduces water loss from the skin thus keeps it moisturised.
You can use flax seed as a face scrub, just mix two teaspoons of honey, one teaspoon of lemon juice and one teaspoon of fine flax seeds, prepare a mixture and use it to clean your face.
7. Lowers down chances of hot flashes
It was found in a study that consumption of 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds can reduce the hot flashes by half. They help to manage post-menopausal symptoms.
According to a survey they have been proven to help in vaginal atrophy and estrogen-dependent cancers in women.(10)
8. Help reduce weight
As it is rich in fibre content, this makes you feel satiated earlier and helps you control your cravings too. (11)
Hence promotes improved metabolism, proper bowel movement, lowers the digestive problems and thereby helps in reducing obesity.
- Suggested Read – Is Garcinia Cambogia a worthy weight loss supplement?
9. Stops hair breakage
The flax seed oil is responsible for making hair healthy.
The high content of omega-3 fatty acids helps to increase the elasticity of hair and thereby reduces the frequent hair breakage.
10. Reduces dandruff
Flax seeds as mentioned earlier also prevent drying of the skin by moisturization.
It stimulates the production of oily substance on the scalp and thus prevents flakes and dandruff.
11. Fights baldness
Flax seeds are rich in ALA which inhibits an enzyme five alpha-reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone ( a male hormone) into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT causes shrinkage of hair follicles and thus baldness. Hence due to this inhibiting action flax seeds are used as a home remedy to treat baldness.
12. Prevents acne
Flax seeds are known to control the formation of sebum from the skin glands, thus controlling the formation of acne.
You can eat two tablespoons of milled flax seed every day to get a healthy and glowing skin.
A good news for patients with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
Flax seeds are gluten-free, so can be added to a diet for those who are intolerant to gluten.
14. Helpful for women
Flax seeds contain lignans which are shown to benefit postmenopausal women to balance their hormone level.
It can be used as a hormone replacement therapy. It is also helpful for menstruating women to have a smooth menstrual cycle.(12)
Whole and Ground Flax Seed Nutrition Facts (1 tbsp)
Flax seeds have so much of nutritional benefits that it can be called as a “magic food”. You need to involve it in our daily diet. But before that, you need to know about its nutrient values.
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy April 2018 Software v.3.9.1 2018-04-10
|Nutrient||1 tbsp, whole = 10.3g||1 tbsp, ground = 7.0g|
|Water||0.72 g||0.49 g|
|Energy||55 kcal||37 kcal|
|Protein||1.88 g||1.28 g|
|Total lipid (fat)||4.34 g||2.95 g|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||2.97 g||2.02 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||2.8 g||1.9 g|
|Sugars, total||0.16 g||0.11 g|
|Calcium, Ca||26 mg||18 mg|
|Iron, Fe||0.59 mg||0.4 mg|
|Magnesium, Mg||40 mg||27 mg|
|Phosphorus, P||66 mg||45 mg|
|Potassium, K||84 mg||57 mg|
|Sodium, Na||3 mg||2 mg|
|Zinc, Zn||0.45 mg||0.3 mg|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||0.1 mg||0 mg|
|Thiamin||0.169 mg||0.115 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.017 mg||0.011 mg|
|Niacin||0.317 mg||0.216 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.049 mg||0.033 mg|
|Folate, DFE||9 µg||6 µg|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||0.03 mg||0.02 mg|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||0.4 µg||0.3 µg|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||0.377 g||0.256 g|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated||0.775 g||0.527 g|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated||2.959 g||2.011 g|
|Cholesterol||0 mg||0 mg|
|Caffeine||0 mg||0 mg|
Which is better flax seeds or hemp seeds?
- Both of them are plant and a good source of vegan protein and fibre as well
- They are rich in amino acids hence complete your daily requirement of essential amino acids
- Both are gluten-free so can be given to coeliac disease patients
- Helps lower down blood cholesterol and maintains a healthy heart
- When compared nutritionally two tablespoons of hemp seed has 115 kcal while. Flaxseed gives 100 kcal
It is known to give the max amount of protein per serving.
- It contains thrice the amount of omega -6 as compared to the amount of omega-3. This ration is beneficial for a healthy heart
- Rich in zinc and iron, essential components for body functions
- Rich in lignans (phytochemical) hence reduces cancer risk
- Less expensive than hemp seeds
- Rich source of omega-3 fatty acid healthy for brain and heart
If you want a protein supplement, you should go for hemp hearts, and if you’re going to add health to your brain, go for flax seeds in your diet.
FAQs around flax seeds benefits & usage
Q1. Are flax seeds affordable?
Flax seeds are not costly; you can easily afford 500g of it in $2-3.
Either you can get it from any supermarket or order it from an online store.
Q2. How to use flax seeds?
You can get flax in multiple types and can use it according to your requirement.
- Use flax seeds in its most common form. You can have seeds as such, or you can ground them in a smaller form and then use it.
It is advisable to use it in ground form for maximum benefit. Grind it just before the use to avoid its storage. But if you wish to store, use a sealed plastic container and keep it in a cool and darker place.
- You can use flax sprouts; it is more beneficial than flaxseed, just soak flax for 10 min in warm water before use and let it sprout, this removes phytic acid and increases the absorption of minerals.
- You can also buy flax seeds in pre-ground form from the market called as flax meal so that you don’t waste time in grinding
Q3. How to eat flax seeds?
- Cereal breakfast: You can start your day with one tablespoon of ground flax seeds and sprinkle it on your cereal bowl like top it on oatmeal and enjoy your healthy and tasty breakfast.
- Smoothies: Flax seeds give a smooth nutty texture to your smoothie. Add one teaspoon of flaxseed while making smoothies and garnish a little on the top.
- Fruit bowl: You can add slices of your favourite fruits in a bowl add some sweetened yoghurt and add one tablespoon of flaxseed meal to it.
- Green salad: Goodness of green leafy vegetable when added with flaxseed increases the taste and crunchiness of your preparation.
- Soups: You can prepare a corn soup by your traditional method add one tablespoon of soaked flax meal in the boiling soup. Flax not only increases your nutritional value but also gives a nutty flavour to your soup.
- Cookies: Bake crunchy cookies this time. Add flax seeds to your batter of cookies and top a little on the top, bake it as directed and enjoy crunchy and nutty flavoured cookies.
- Chicken nuggets: Get small sized chicken pieces, marinade it in 2 tablespoons of yoghurt and ginger garlic paste. Add spices acc to your taste. After two hours get the bowl and one by one get your nuggets out of the marinade, coat them well with ground flax and deep fry it until golden brown. Here are your tasty, crunchy chicken nuggets ready to eat.
- Muffins: Bake the cupcakes of your choice but add a little amount of flax seeds in it to enhance your taste.
Q4. Are there any side effects of flax seeds?
Consuming any organic product barely has negative effects unless you’re allergic to it or you eat it in abundance crossing all limits. The same goes for flax seeds. If you consume an overdose of flax seeds, there are some potential side effects you must be aware of:
- Delays clotting time
- Intestinal blockage
- Increased risk of macular degeneration
- Not good in pregnancy
Final thoughts on flax seeds benefits
Flax seeds are super seeds enriched with high fibre content and filled with omega-3 fatty acids along with ALA. Also rich in mineral content like magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.
Flax seeds benefits are tremendous. Starting with healthy brain and heart to lowering blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels it also improves the health of skin and hair. Help in digestion and to fight against cancer.
Flax can be used in seeds, oil, meal or sprouted form. It is advisable to use ground flax seeds for maximum benefits.
You can add it to your daily recipes to add a nutty and crunchy flavour, or you can have two tablespoons of it daily with water to meet your daily requirements
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