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The Tranquil Way | Flaxseed, anyone?

Published:Tuesday | December 6, 2016 | 12:00 AM

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?

Flaxseeds are quite small and slippery, so chewing is difficult and the kernel hard to digest, therefore they are best consumed in the grounded form. It is best that this be done immediately before consumption, but if bought already grounded, it is still quite nutritious.

Flaxseeds are packed with many important nutrients which make them a powerhouse of health. They are 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 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, as well as enabling reduced clotting and improved blood flow. It also helps to optimise the heart rhythm.


Reduce risk


These effects reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, 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. They also help reduce the formation of new blood vessel that can facilitate cancer growth. They also help to reduce the incidence of hot flashes in those who consume them and lessen damage to the skin from radiation.

Flaxseed is very easy to add to meals, especially in the grounded form, and does have much taste so it mixes in quite easily either before or after cooking. It is much less likely to be contaminated with mercury and other toxins than fish, another source of omega-3. It is not recommended during pregnancy, due to its oestrogen-like actions. Its best consumed with adequate water intake, however, it may cause bloatedness in some. The recommended daily intake is 2 tablespoons daily.