Is It Healthy? Flaxseed.

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Flaxseeds can be bought ground, crushed, whole, or as a powder and mixed in to anything from juice or water to smoothies, yogurt, soups, breads, or cereals! Flaxseed oil can even be added to foods, if you dislike the grainy texture of the crushed seeds. Flaxseeds are mighty popular in the world of nutrition and I’m here to tell you why flaxseeds ARE healthy and should be a part of your daily diet.

Soluble Fiber

  • Flaxseed meal and flour are considered a very good source of soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels, increases stool transit time (which reduces your colon’s exposure to cancer causing chemicals), and helps stabilize blood sugar in diabetic patients. Eating a diet high in fiber also helps prevent heart disease. In a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, people eating the most fiber, just 21 grams per day, had 12% less coronary heart disease and 11% less cardiovascular disease, compared to those eating just 5 grams daily.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is converted in to the essential fatty acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), found in fish, that helps protect the heart. While this conversion requires you to eat more ALA rich flaxseeds or oils, to get the same health benefits of EPA by eating fish, flax is still a  great alternative if you are not a big fish eater.  In fact, a study from the Journal of Nutrition discovered 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.”
  •  Most researchers believe that a diet rich in omega-3′s is beneficial to many parts of the body, including our bones. The more omega-3′s we eat, the more balanced our omega-6: omega 3 ratio (if you haven’t read about that yet, do so now!!). You see, because omega-6′s are pro-inflammatory in the body, we need enough omega-3′s, which are anti-inflammatory, to prevent excessive inflammation. The closer you get to keeping your ratio within a healthy range (anywhere from 4:1 to 2:1), the more balanced your body is. Read HERE about how to improve your levels!!

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Women’s Health

  • Flaxseeds are rich in lignans, which can also be found in grains, seeds, and legumes. Lignans are converted in to two hormone-like agents which have demonstrated numerous protective effects against breast cancer and are one of the reasons it is believed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a  lower breast cancer risk. Women who are vegetarian have much higher levels of lignans in their urine, compared to omnivores. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating approximately one ounce of ground flaxseed each day “will affect the way estrogen is handled in postmenopausal women in such a way that offers protection against breast cancer but will not interfere with estrogen’s role in normal bone maintenance.”
  • The lignans in flaxseed have also been shown to promote normal ovulation and lengthen the second half of the menstrual cycle, in which progesterone is the dominant hormone, restoring hormonal balance.
  • New research is also suggesting that flaxseeds might have a protective role in post-menopausal woman from cardiovascular disease. In a recent study, flaxseeds were shown to reduce total cholesterol levels in the blood of postmenopausal women who were not on hormone replacement therapy by an average of 60%. This may be preliminary research but it wouldn’t be harmful to start incorporating flax today!!

Lower Blood Pressure

  • In a 12 week study involving 59 middle aged men consuming either flaxseed oil (rich in ALA) or safflower oil (rich in omega-6′s) daily, those consuming flaxseed oil that supplied 8 grams of ALA per day, lowered both their diastolic and systolic blood pressure significantly! One possible explanation? The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3′s!!

The moral of this post? Flaxseed IS healthy! I incorporate flaxseed in to my meals daily. I use in my oatmeal or other cereals, sprinkle it on top of salads, shake it up in to salad dressings, or add it to my smoothies. There are just endless possibilities when it comes to flax! Give it a try today!

QUESTION: Do you eat flax? How do you incorporate it in to your meals?

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