Flaxseed or linseed (Linum usitatissimum L.) comes from the flax plant, an annual herb. The ancient Egyptians used flaxseed as both food and medicine. In the past, flaxseed was used mostly as a laxative. It is high in fiber and has a gummy material called mucilage, both of which expand when they come in contact with water. They add bulk to stool and help it move more quickly through the intestines.
1. Prevention of Cancer
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of flaxseeds also make them a logical candidate for cancer prevention. That’s because chronic inflammation (even low level inflammation) and chronic oxidative stress are risk factors for cancer development. In the case of flaxseeds, evidence of risk reduction is strongest for breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.
Flaxseed is thought to prevent the growth of cancerous cells because its omega-3 fatty acids disrupt malignant cells from clinging onto other body cells. In addition, the lignans in flaxseed have antiangiogenic properties – they stop tumors from forming new blood vessels.
One US study presented at the 43rd annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) revealed that consuming flaxseed can stop prostate cancer tumors from growing. Dr Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, lead investigator of the study said that the team was “excited that this study showed that flaxseed is safe and associated with a protective effect on prostate cancer.”
2. Cardiovascular Benefits of Flaxseed
The primary omega-3 fatty acid in flaxseeds—alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA—can be helpful to the cardiovascular system in and of itself. As the building block for other messaging molecules that help prevent excessive inflammation, ALA can help protect the blood vessels from inflammatory damage.
Risk of oxidative stress in the blood vessels can also be lowered by flaxseed intake. In addition to being a very good source of the mineral antioxidant manganese, polyphenols in flaxseed—including flaxseed lignans—provide measurable antioxidant benefits.
Researchers at the Iowa State University’s Nutrition and Wellness Research Center found that cholesterol levels lowered among men who included flaxseed in their diet. Suzanne Hendrich, lead author of the study, said that for “people who can’t take something like Lipitor, this could at least give you some of that cholesterol-lowering benefit.”
3. Prevents Hot Flushes
A study published in the Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology suggests that a dietary intake of flaxseed can decrease the risk of hot flashes among postmenopausal women. “Not only does flaxseed seem to alleviate hot flashes, but it appears to have overall health and psychological benefits as well,” concluded Dr. Pruthi.
4. Digestive Health Benefits of Flaxseed
The strong fiber content of flaxseeds—including their mucilaginous fiber—help to delay gastric emptying and can improve intestinal absorption of nutrients. Flaxseed fibers also help to steady the passage of food through our intestines. Finally, the lignans in flaxseed have been shown to reduce risk of colon cancer. This impressive group of digestive tract benefits is likely to receive more attention in future research studies.
5. Balances Blood Sugar
There is strong evidence to suggest that consuming flaxseed every day improves glycemic control in obese men and women with pre-diabetes, according to a study published in Nutrition Research.
6. Flaxseed is Good for Your Skin and Hair
If you want healthier skin, hair and nails then consider adding 2 tbsp of flax seeds to your smoothie or 1 tbsp of flaxseed oil to your daily routine.
The ALA fats in flax seeds benefits the skin and hair by providing essential fats as well as b-vitamins which can help reduce dryness and flakiness. It can also improve symptoms of acne, rosacea, and eczema. This also applies to eye health as flax can reduce dry eye syndrome.
Flaxseed oil is another great option since it has an even higher concentration of healthy fats. You can take 1-2 tbsp internally to hydrate skin and hair. It can also be mixed with essential oils and used as a natural skin moisturizer.
7. Weight Loss Benefits of Flaxseed
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that flaxseeds and walnuts may improve obesity and support weight loss.
Since flax is full of healthy fats and fiber, it will help you feel satisfied longer so you will eat fewer calories overall which may lead to weight loss. ALA fats may also help reduce inflammation.
This is important for weight loss in that an inflamed body will tend to hold on to excess weight. Add a couple of teaspoons of ground flaxseed to soups, salads, or smoothies as part of your weight loss plan.
8. Protects Against Radiation
A diet of flaxseed may protect skin tissue from being damaged by radiation, revealed researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The investigators concluded that their “study demonstrates that dietary flaxseed, already known for its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, works as both a mitigator and protector against radiation pneumonopathy.”