I hadn’t really incorporated flaxseeds into my diet until after pregnancy. I always drank lots of probiotics, and had enough fruits and vegetables that my digestion was nice and regular. Pregnancy felt like something wacky happened to my stomach, like it slowed way, way down. I really don’t like that feeling. You can add flaxseeds to smoothies or baked goods, although I usually just combine ground flaxseeds with water every night and drink it that way. I keep mine in the fridge, but freshly ground flaxseeds and/or flaxseed oil could be used. Flaxseeds make my gut feel happy again.
What’s in flaxseeds?
As well as being high in Omega-3, flaxseeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber, manganese, and a good source of folate, vitamin B6, as well as the minerals magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. Another important nutrient contained in flaxseeds is lignan phytonutrients. The flaxseed is densely packed with nutrition. An anti-oxidant, an anti-inflammatory, and a source of abundant omega-3 essential fatty acids.
“Good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s. Extensive research has linked omega-3 fatty acids consumption to everything from reduced cardiovascular disease to cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. The ability of omega-3 fatty acids to significantly reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death — by 45 percent — was demonstrated in the GISSI Prevention study, in which more than eleven thousand patients participated. A recent review of the use of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of hypertension found that omega-3s protect against stroke and reaffirmed that the cardioprotective benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are related to their ability to improve blood pressure, vascular function, lipid metabolism, inflammation, and cardiac function.
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.
Flaxseeds have “mucilage” which is water-soluble, gel-forming fiber that can provide special support to the intestinal tract. For example, gums can help prevent the too rapid emptying of the stomach contents into the small intestine, thereby improving absorption of certain nutrients in the small intestine.
Lignans are fiber-like compounds, but in addition to their fiber-like benefits, they also provide antioxidant protection due to their structure as polyphenols. Among all foods commonly eaten by humans, researchers rank flaxseeds as the number one source of lignans.
What can flaxseeds help?
Flaxseeds may help certain conditions which include: arrhythmia, prostate cancer, blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, heart health, depression.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of flaxseeds make them a 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. Breast cancer and prostate cancer are included in the list of cancers know as “hormone-related” cancers. Their risk reduction may be more closely related to flaxseed than risk reduction for other cancers due to the high lignan content of flaxseed.
Melpo Christofidou-Solomidou of the University of Pennsylvania and his research team fed some mice flax seeds both before and others after radiating them. They found that both the before and after radiation flax fed mice survived even lethal doses of radiation in good health while many that weren’t fed flax died.
Not only did the flax fed mice survive, but they also got healthier. They had higher body weight and less lung inflammation, which is common with radiation therapy treated cancer patients. Apparently, the sole purpose of this study is to find a way for cancer patients to survive radiation.
Whole flaxseeds are known to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels, reduce postprandial glucose absorption, decrease some markers of inflammation, and raise serum levels of omega-3 fatty acids. This is of obvious benefit to diabetics who not only need help controlling their blood glucose levels, but who are also at much greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than the general population.
Depressed people have been reported to have lower omega-3 fatty acid levels (e.g., DHA) than people who are not depressed. Low levels of the other omega-3 fatty acid from fish, EPA, have correlated with increased severity of depression.