The use of flaxseed in our diets dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who utilized flaxseed for medicinal purposes. The good news is that scientists of the 21st century are in full agreement with this centuries-old practice. Researchers are continuing to unveil the profound positive impact that flaxseed has on health and well-being, including the top 3 benefits in our diet.
Flaxseeds contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy plant-based fats, and antioxidants. They can contribute to preventing cell damage and supporting one’s energy levels, immune system, cardiovascular health, nervous system, skeletal system, and many other bodily processes. Vitamins and minerals present in flaxseeds include:
- Vitamins B1, B2, and B6
Flaxseeds And Heart Health
Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3s and omega-6s, which are essential fatty acids that the body cannot make itself. These omega-3 fatty acids are key to supporting overall cardiovascular health. Findings show they lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, and may also reduce the risk of heart attack. According to a placebo-controlled, randomized FlaxPAD Trial, patients fed 30g of milled flaxseeds daily for six months experienced a remarkable decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Researchers also found that flaxseed decreases the progression of atherosclerosis, which is the accumulation of cholesterol, fat, and other substances within your artery walls brought about by high intake of cholesterol or trans fat. Additionally, it has the ability to lower circulating trans fat levels. A study demonstrated that rats placed on a flaxseed supplemented diet prior to and after the induction of a heart attack, receive less intense heart attacks, left ventricular dilation, and irregular heart beats.
Flaxseeds And The Brain
Omega-3 fatty acids also contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These acids play a role in brain health and development. In particular, we know that DHA aids in pre- and postnatal brain development. When lost, it can result in poorer performance in spatial and learning tasks. A study in which newborn puppy brains are heavier and contain significantly greater amounts of both ALA and DHA when mothers receive flaxseed during pregnancy demonstrates this principle. The same heightened brain mass is true in pups who consume milled flaxseed or flaxseed oil soon after birth.
Researchers further found that depressive symptoms were reduced and improvements occurred in motor hyperactivity and spatial memory in direct correlation with increased intake of flaxseed.
Flaxseeds And Cancer
On top of the heightened levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds also contain a group of bioactive components called lignans. Lignans may play a large role in protecting the body from cancer. In a recent clinical study, subjects were told to eat a muffin containing 25g of flaxseeds for 40 days. There was a noticeable reduction in tumor growth among women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. It is also possible to observe the effects of flaxseeds on prostate cancer, according to yet another study. In this study, subjects were asked to eat a low-fat diet with 30g of flaxseed daily. Results showed a reduction in prostate-specific antigen levels (a marker of prostate health) in men with a precancerous prostate condition called prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia.
Research remains ongoing to determine more in-depth results on the overall role of flaxseed and lignans in treating cancers.
To conclude, this centuries-old tradition of utilizing flaxseed as medicine continues to prove effective today and has been verified through repeat studies. What’s more, the top 3 benefits of flaxseed continue to evolve. Recent breakthroughs involve evaluating the impact of flaxseeds on gastro-intestinal health and diabetes, proving there is still much to uncover on the benefits of flaxseeds.