They say good things come in small packages, and so it is with flaxseed. The seed has been held in high regard from time immemorial. It was even cultivated in ancient Egypt and China, but what good is it in these modern times?
Flaxseed is quite small and slippery so chewing is difficult, and the kernel is hard to digest, so it is best consumed in the ground form. It is best that this be done immediately before consumption, but if bought already ground, it is still quite nutritious.
Flaxseed is packed with many important nutrients, which makes it a powerhouse of health. It is high in fibre (soluble and insoluble), omega 3, antioxidants (lignans), manganese, and vitamin B.
The high-fibre content of flaxseed makes it very useful to prevent constipation, high cholesterol, cancer, and diabetes. Soluble fibre slows down the absorption of cholesterol, sugar, and toxins from the body by forming a gel-like substance when in water.
Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) is an essential fat, which has to be obtained from food and is utilised by the body in many of its functions. They are important for optimal brain development and function; reduction of inflammation; and the production of certain substances in the body that lower blood pressure, high cholesterol, and triglycerides, reduce clotting, and improve blood flow. It also helps to optimise the heart rhythm. These effects reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Type 2 diabetes, and kidney disease.
Lignans belong to the phytoestrogen family. They are oestrogen-like and have antioxidant properties. These help give flaxseed its cancer-fighting capabilities. Flaxseed may actually help to reduce the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer. It also helps reduce the formation of new blood vessels that could facilitate cancer growth. It also helps to reduce the incidence of hot flashes and damage to the skin from radiation.
Flaxseed is very easy to add to meals, especially in the ground form and doesn't have much taste, so it mixes in quite easily either before or after cooking. It is much less likely than fish - another source of omega 3 - to be contaminated with mercury and other toxins. It is not recommended during pregnancy, due to its oestrogen-like actions. It is best consumed with adequate water intake. It may cause bloatedness in some. The recommended daily intake is two tablespoons daily.