Flaxseeds

As promised earlier, I bring you a post on the health benefits of flaxseeds 🙂

Flaxseeds come from the flax plant, and in recent years they have become increasingly popular in the eyes of the media and health gurus due to the abundance of health benefits that they provide. The seeds themselves are slightly larger than sesame seeds and can range in color from a light gold to a dark brown depending on their variety. Many commercial cereals and breads now include whole flaxseeds in their list of ingredients, and you can buy whole or ground flaxseeds in most grocery and health food stores across the US and Canada. Although the whole seeds provide a nice crunch and nutty flavor, the nutrients in the seeds are more easily absorbed by our digestive system when the seeds have been ground and then added to foods.

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Nutritional Benefits

Omega 3 Fats  – Flaxseeds are an excellent source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) which is an omega-3 fatty acid, and it can be converted by our bodies into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which is the omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil. So consuming flaxseeds not only provides us with the benefits of ALA, but also those of EPA fatty acids. For vegetarians, and individuals who don’t eat fish, flaxseeds are an excellent way in which to reap the benefits of these important fatty acids. Just two tablespoons of these seeds, at 95 calories, provide over 145% of our recommended daily value for omega-3 fats, over 30% of our DV for manganese, 15% of our DV for fiber and over 15% of our DV for magnesium. Moreover, those two tablespoons also provide almost 15% of our DV for folate, which is especially important in preventing birth defects for pregnant women.

The omega-3 fats in the seeds have many notable health benefits. Firstly, they have important anti-inflammatory properties which can help alleviate symptoms of arthritis, osteoarthritis, and migraines. They also help reduce the formation of blood clots and keep our cell membranes and artery walls flexible, thus reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Numerous studies have also shown that omega-3 fats can help reduce high levels of blood cholesterol, and aid in controlling high blood pressure.

Fiber – As I mentioned above, flaxseeds are also high in fiber; 2 tablespoons provide 4g (15%DV) of fiber, which not only aids in reducing high cholesterol, but also improves digestion 🙂

Lignans – Flaxseeds are also an important source of lignans, which are part of a group of chemical compounds found in plants. They are a type of phytoestrogen, which are estrogen-like compounds) that also serve as antioxidants in our body. Research has shown that lignans may have an important effect in protecting against certain types of cancers that are affected by hormones, such as breast cancer, and so this may be an important nutritional addition to many women’s diets.

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Adding Flaxseeds to Our Diet

Often enough, we know the nutritional benefits of eating certain types of foods but are then at a loss for creative ways in which to incorporate them in our daily meals. Fortunately, flaxseeds don’t take that much work to add to one’s diet! Some easy ways in which to add these nutritional power seeds to meals are:

– Sprinkle a tablespoon of flax onto your morning bowl of cereal, oatmeal or yogurt (probably the easiest way to add it!)

– Add ground flaxseed meal to a bread/cake/muffin, pancake or waffle mix.

– Sprinkle it in PB & J sandwiches

– Add it to smoothies and soups

– Sprinkle ground flaxseeds on salads and vegetables, or add to rice and grain pilafs.

However you decide to add them to your diet, I encourage everyone to actually make the addition! It’s so simple – and the nutritional benefits are immense 🙂

Cheers!

References:  Flaxseeds, WebMD article, Lignans, Phytoestrogens

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Posted on January 18, 2011, in Food, Nutrition Tips. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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