Flaxseed or linseed comes from the flax plant. It has been cultivated and consumed for thousands of years. Its health benefits have been highly regarded at various points in historyâ€”King Charlemagne in the 8th century made it mandatory for all his subjects to consume it. Contemporary research has validated many of the health benefits of flaxseed.
The health benefits of flaxseed are due to its nutritional profile. The most unique feature of flaxseeds is the amount of omega-3-fatty acids it contains. It is a great plant-based source of good fats. It is abundant in vitamins, especially vitamin B and minerals like magnesium and manganese. Flaxseed also contains a large amount of phytochemicals, particularly anti-oxidants like lignans. Additionally flaxseeds are an excellent source of fibre. Clearly, this little seed can pack quite a punch when it comes to nutritional benefits.
- The omega-3 fatty acids content of flaxseeds helps to maintain cardio-vascular health with its anti-inflammatory effects as well as by reducing cholesterol. It helps lower the blood pressure and regularise the heartbeat. Both the omega-3 fatty acids and the lignans found in flaxseed can play in an important role in healthy blood vessels by preventing hardening of arteries and the build-up of plaque which in turn can reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
- A regular intake of the lignans found in flaxseeds can help the body maintain blood sugar levels. This is useful for both the prevention and control of diabetes type-II.
- Oxidative stress and inflammation is implicated in the development of several diseases like metabolic syndromes, auto-immune diseases and even obesity. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect of flaxseeds reduces the risk for many such diseases.
- Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. It is in particular the mucilaginousfibre that they contain that improves digestive health by delaying gastric emptying as well as enhancing the absorption of nutrients. Additionally, the presence of omega-3-fatty acids and manganese both help in improving digestive health.
- Lignans, the phytochemical present in flaxseed in high quantity have estrogenic qualities. This can aid menstrual health. Therefore, flaxseeds help in maintaining menstrual regularity. Even after menopause, they can reduce hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, even reducing the risk of osteoporosis which often has its onset in post-menopausal women.
- The anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effect of the lignans in flaxseeds has been shown to have an impact on cancer prevention. Regular ingestion of flaxseeds can reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer which are commonly linked to chronic inflammation and hormones.
- Preliminary studies have shown an association between flaxseed and reduction in bone loss. This association has been attributed to the high content of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Though high in fat content, a moderate amount of flaxseed may help in weight management by making you feel fuller due to its fibre content as well as boosting your metabolism and general health.
- The vitamins and minerals present in flaxseed as well as the omega-3 fatty acids help to maintain healthy hair and skin by reducing dryness and hydrating the skin and hair.
- Among its many other health benefits, some evidence is pointing to the role of flaxseed in the reduction of depressive symptoms making flaxseed good for both physical and mental health.
With so many benefits of flaxseed, it is tempting to simply eat a lot of it. But it is important to remember that all these benefits are best explored by a moderate and regular intake of flaxseed. Excess of flaxseed, as with many other food items can be unhealthy. It is also advised to eat freshly ground flaxseed (as opposed to whole seeds that pass through the body undigested or in oil form which is prone to become rancid) to take full advantage of the unique nutritional profile of flaxseed and its benefits.
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