A high fiber food that’s low in carbohydrates, evidence of flaxseed use by human beings dates back more than 30,000 years. Also known as linseed, flaxseed is considered a superfood and comes packed with omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, lignan antioxidants, plant-based protein, various B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, manganese and thiamine. A member of the Linum genus of the Linaceae family, the flaxseed plant produces seeds that are small and range in color from gold, brown to tan. The benefits of these seeds are many, as they are able to promote healthy digestion, skin and hair health, increased antioxidant activity within the body, weight loss, and healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range.
The most common forms of flaxseed are ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil. While it’s possible to ingest whole flaxseed, crushed flaxseed is the best way to ensure that your body is able to digest its many health benefits more completely. Ground flaxseeds deliver fiber, lignans, and minerals like potassium, whereas flaxseed oil doesn’t but is a more effective way to provide your body with a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
7 Benefits of Flaxseed
Promotes stronger hair, skin, and nails
Flaxseed is packed with ALA fats (alpha-linolenic acid), which is a fatty acid that nourishes the scalp and boosts both hair strength and elasticity, while also strengthening the nails. The B vitamins in flaxseed — such as thiamine — also play a role in promoting skin and hair health, especially during times of high stress. Flaxseed also delivers a healthy dose of magnesium, which is essential because magnesium plays a crucial role in maintaining and promoting proper hair and nail growth.
High fiber content
When ingested, flaxseed delivers a high amount of mucilage gum, which plays a significant role in supporting the health of the gastrointestinal tract. Mucilage gum is a gel-forming fiber that the human body is unable to digest. As a result, it slowly moves through the digestive tract, creating a feeling of satiety and increasing nutrient absorption. Its high levels of both soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as its low carbohydrate levels, help to promote colon detoxification and may even support a reduction in sugar cravings.
Supports healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range
Along with the proper amount of diet and exercise, taking a flaxseed supplement is an excellent way to support healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range. Flaxseed’s cholesterol benefits are due to its fiber content. When we ingest flaxseed, the soluble fiber goes to the digestive tract where it absorbs fat and cholesterol and is excreted from the body via bowel movement undigested.
Builds a healthy defense against free radicals
Lignans are antioxidant phytonutrients that are a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Voracious scavengers of free radicals, lignans have a higher antioxidant value than the vast majority of fruits and vegetables, making them great for boosting a robust immune system and protecting against cellular damage.
Aids healthy digestion
Many people who take flaxseed supplements do it for the digestive benefits they deliver. The gastrointestinal effects of flaxseed are thanks to a few factors, one of which is its ALA fats (alpha-linolenic acid), which promote the health of the GI tract lining, while simultaneously boosting beneficial digestive flora within the gut. Further, both the soluble and insoluble fiber within flaxseeds help to add bulk to the foods being digested, which supports the digestive tract’s ability to eliminate waste.
Assists in weight loss
While flaxseed shouldn’t be the only part of your weight loss routine, it can prove to be a valuable asset along with a healthy diet and exercise regimen. That’s because flaxseed is loaded with fiber and healthy fats, which promote a “full” feeling in the stomach, which reduces appetite and may result in fewer calories consumed.
Encourages healthy hormone levels in women
Flaxseed is rich in lignans, which are a type of phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogen is a nutrient which is found in plants that has a loose similarity to the female hormone estrogen. In cases of menopause or during menstruation or times of female hormonal imbalance, taking flaxseed may prove to be a beneficial way to boost estrogen levels and promote a healthy hormonal balance.
How Does the Body Use Flaxseed?
When ingested, flaxseed adds bulk to stool due to its high soluble and insoluble fiber content, which not only promotes elimination but helps clear the digestive tract of toxins, cholesterol and fats. It should be noted that this effect is more pronounced with ground flaxseed, as whole flaxseed tends to pass through the system undigested depriving you of its contents, like omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart health and lignans, which are powerful antioxidants that support the body against free radical damage.
While flaxseed is a popular supplement, it can be mixed in with food in a wide variety of ways in the form of both ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil.
You can add a healthy boost to any meal by sprinkling ground flaxseed on salads, cereals, cooked vegetables, berries. You can also use ground flaxseed as a gluten-free flour substitute in your favorite recipes for cookies, pancakes, muffins and more.
Flaxseed oil is considered a healthy alternative to many other cooking oil options used today and it’s also used in margarine. Flaxseed oil is an excellent addition to healthy shakes and smoothies and can be drizzled onto a salad.
Flaxseed Nutritional Profile
Flaxseed per 100 grams
Protein 18.3 g
Carbs 28.9 g
Sugar 1.6 g
Fiber 27.3 g
Fat 42.2 g
Omega-3 28.1 g
Omega-6 5.9 g
Flaxseed Oil Per 100 grams
Omega-3 53.4 g
Omega-6 14.3 g