Superfood 101: Flaxseed!

Flaxseeds have been cultivated in the Mediterranean basin as far back as 4000 B.C.E. There is evidence that man has been eating flaxseed as far back as the Neolithic Era. Flaxseed is comprised of flavorful meat which is packed with oil and has many nutritional and healing benefits. The non-food grade flaxseed oil is known as linseed oil, which is used commercially in paints and wood finishes. Flaxseed is used in livestock feed and is grown throughout the world. Ayurveda has been using flaxseed for centuries; the entire plant is used. The seeds are included in the diet for taste and healing.  The beneficial oil is also extracted from the seeds, and the stem fibers are made into thread for weaving linen. Holistic healing uses flaxseed for its concentrated amount of nutrients. A member of the Linaceae family, it is known as “sana bija” in Hindi. 

Flaxseed contains omega-3 fats, vitamin B, copper, manganese, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium. It is a nutritionally unique food combining high amounts of omega-3 fats with lignans that work like fiber in the diet and the mucilage or gum which refers to a water soluble gel-forming fiber to support the intestinal tract.

Here are 5 more reasons to eat more flaxseed:

1. Because of the presence of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances in flaxseeds, they are beneficial in preventing cancer. Inflammation and chronic oxidative stress increase the risk of cancer and there is evidence that adding flaxseed to the diet reduces the risk of breast, prostate and colon cancers, as well as “hormone related” cancers. The lignans present in flaxseed are the key factors in the prevention of these cancers.

2. Flaxseed aids in digestion because of its high content of fiber. This helps to improve the absorption of nutrients in the lower digestive tract. The mucilaginous fiber contributes to the ease of food passing through the intestines. Crushed flaxseeds relieve constipation.

3. Women can relieve the problems of menopause (like hot flashes) by adding flaxseed to their diets due to the presence of lignans that promote estrogen production. Flaxseed also relieves the discomfort of vaginal dryness and mood swings. The presence of fatty acids makes flaxseed effective in reducing menstrual cramps, the symptoms of endometriosis, infertility and impotency in men.

4. Flaxseed is helpful in regulating cholesterol by lowering the bad cholesterol and helping to prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the body. This is due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids, which also reduce the risk of liver disease in men who have high cholesterol levels. In turn, this is also effective in decreasing the risk of heart disease by reducing the build-up of plaque in the arteries causing hardening of the arteries.

5. For those suffering with blood sugar disorders, flaxseed regulates the levels of blood sugar because of the presence of alpha-linolenic acid, protein and fiber contained in flaxseed oil content. As a result, it reduces complications like kidney failure.

 

Flaxseed is a healthy addition to the diet. It adds flavor to recipes like salads, stews, and desserts.

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