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Flax seeds

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Hippocrates extolled the value of flax in relieving numerous intestinal disorders. Dietitians and nutritionists today would agree with him -- Flaxseeds are emerging as nutritional powerhouses full of fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids. They contain high levels of lignans and Omega-3 fatty acids. Some of their reported benefits include improved cardiac health, anti-cancer properties, reduced severity of diabetes and laxative effects.

They come from the Flax plant (Linum usitatissimum or linseed), which is grown both for its seeds and for its fiber. Various parts of the plant have been used to make fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets and soap.

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[edit] Why should I be aware of them?

  • Flax seeds are an important source of polyunsatured fatty acids, including Omega-3, plus Magnesium, Zinc and dietary fiber. Flax oil from flax seed is the richest known source of linolenic acid. Flax seed contains protein, mucilage, phytosterols and lignans, which are naturally included at 100 times the level of the next best source, wheat bran.
  • Women will benefit from adding flax seeds to their diets because they reportedly curb the growth of tumours in the breast and contain plant estrogens. [1]
  • Flax seeds have a bulk forming laxative effect, and chronic sufferers of constipation find them a useful addition to their daily diets.
  • Today flaxseed oil is also incorporated as an emollient in making soap and as a drying agent in manufacturing printer's ink, artists paints, and house paints. It is also used in the commercial production of liniments for burns and joint pain.

[edit] All about flax seeds

Flaxseeds are slightly larger than sesame seeds and have a hard shell that is smooth and shiny. Their color ranges from deep amber to reddish brown depending upon whether the flax is of the golden or brown variety. While whole flaxseeds feature a soft crunch, the nutrients in ground seeds are more easily absorbed.

[edit] Nutritional information

  • Flaxseeds have the highest alpha-linolenic acid content of any food - 57% of the oil in flax is alpha-linoleic acid (omega-3).
  • They contain about 3½ times as much omega-3 fatty acids as omega-6 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil provides approximately 2.5 g of this essential fatty acid per teaspoon. One tablespoon of flaxseeds contain about a teaspoon of oil. *Flaxseeds also provide abundant fiber, about 60% of which is soluble fiber (the type of fiber that is especially effective in helping control blood sugar levels and reducing blood cholesterol levels).
  • It is also the richest known source of lignans, phytoestrogens that are potent anticarcinogens. Flaxseeds are also rich sources of potassium, magnesium and boron.

[edit] Flax seeds and health

  • Flaxseeds are rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat that is a precursor to the form of omega-3 found in fish oils. For those who do not eat fish or wish to take fish oil supplements, flaxseed oil is a good alternative. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that flaxseed oil capsules providing 3 grams of alpha-linolenic acid daily for 12 weeks-an amount that would be provided by 3 tablespoons of flaxseed oil a day-increased blood levels of EPA by 60% in a predominantly African-American population with chronic illness.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Benefits -- Omega-3 fats are used by the body to produce Series 1 and 3 prostaglandins, which are anti-inflammatory hormone-like molecules, in contrast to the Series 2 prostaglandins, which are pro-inflammatory molecules produced from other fats, notably the omega-6 fats, which are found in high amounts in animal fats, margarine, and many vegetable oils including corn, safflower, sunflower, palm, and peanut oils. Omega-3 fats can help reduce the inflammation that is a significant factor in conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis.
  • Omega-3-rich Flaxseeds Protect Bone Health -- Alpha linolenic acid, the omega-3 fat found in flaxseed and walnuts, promotes bone health by helping to prevent excessive bone turnover-when consumption of foods rich in this omega-3 fat results in a lower ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the diet.(Griel AE, Kris-Etherton PM, et al. Nutrition Journal)
  • Protection Against Heart Disease, Cancer [1] and Diabetes -- Omega-3 fats are used to produce substances that reduce the formation of blood clots, which can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease.
  • Flaxseeds Help Prevent and Control High Blood Pressure -- Individuals whose diets provide greater amounts of omega-3 fatty polyunsaturated fatty acids-and flaxseed is an excellent source of these essential fats-have lower blood pressure than those who consume less, shows data gathered in the International Study of Macro- and Micro-nutrients and Blood Pressure (INTERMAP) study (Ueshima H, Stamler J, et al. Hypertension).

[edit] Flax Seed Safety and Side Effects

Concerns about flax seed revolve around four potential issues.

  1. Since flax has such a high fiber content, it's best to start with a small amount and increase slowly, otherwise cramping and a "laxative effect" can result.
  2. The oil in flax is highly unsaturated. This means that it is very prone to oxidation (rancidity) unless it is stored correctly. [2]
  3. Flax seeds contain phytoestrogens. Although research has shown them to be beneficial so far, it is unknown what effect high doses of phytoestrogens might have.
  4. Like many other foods (cashews, some beans, and others), flax contains very small amounts of cyanide compounds, especially when consumed raw. Heat, especially on dry flax seeds, breaks these compounds down. However, our bodies have a capacity to neutralize a certain amount of these compounds, and the US government agencies say that 2 tablespoons of flaxseed (~3 T of flax meal) is certainly safe and is probably an “effective dose” for health purposes. Various researchers who have used up to 6 daily tablespoons of the seed in different studies indicate that the amount they were using was safe.

[edit] What can I do about it?

Flax seeds can be purchased in the bulk section of natural food stores and in most large grocery stores. It is also available in liquid form, or in capsules. Here are some tips for storage and usage --

  • Ground flax seeds go rancid more quickly, so it is best to store them in the refrigerator or freezer. Flax oil must be protected by refrigeration in dark containers, preferably being consumed within a few weeks of opening.
  • Consume plenty of water with flax seeds. They absorb 5 to 6 times their weight in water, so it is ery important to stay well hydrated while consuming them.
  • Sprinkle ground flax seeds on salad or cereal just before consuming -- the soluble fiber in the seeds will make the liquid in the cereal very thick if it sits for too long. If you add flax to cooked cereal, do so at the end of cooking.

[edit] CopperBytes

  • Flaxseeds have the highest alpha-linolenic acid content of any food - 57% of the oil in flax is alpha-linoleic acid (omega-3).
  • One of the most exciting uses for ground flax is as an egg replacer. One tablespoon of ground flax plus 3 tablespoons of liquid replaces one egg in baking. This works especially well in muffins, pancakes, cookies and cakes (where eggs are not an essential ingredient!).
  • Flax oil should not be exposed to direct heat, as in frying or sautéing, as this will damage the oil.
  • The Babylonians may have been the earliest people to cultivate flax as a food source. By 2,000 BCE irrigation ditches were formed along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers of the Fertile Crescent to insure a good water supply for the fields of flax.
  • In his epic poem The Iliad (8th century BCE) Homer writes that linen was used for cord and sail-cloth, an indication that the Greeks were cultivating flax plants and were, no doubt, consuming the seeds as well.

[edit] Source

  1. 1.0 1.1 Effect of flax seed ingestion on the menstrual cycle
  2. Summary of Storage and Cooking Stability Studies on flax

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • About Flax Seeds
  • Flax Info Sheet