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July 11, 2014

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist




Good things come in small packages. It’s hard to believe that
something so tiny and average-looking could provide so
many health benefits but it’s true of flaxseeds. The hard,
miniature seeds of the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) have
been used for thousands of years – flax is one of the oldest
crops in the world and its Latin name means “the most
useful”.

Today, flaxseeds help lower your heart disease risk, lower
your cholesterol, and may even prevent cancer. Read on to
find out why flaxseeds are the superfood you should be
sprinkling on your salad or cereal, mixing into yogurt, or
baking into muffins.

What are the Nutritional Benefits of Flaxseeds?

The American Nutrition Association says flaxseed is “an
excellent source of fiber and a good source of minerals and
vitamins.” Flaxseeds provide all the benefits that
fiber has
for the body, including treating constipation.

Flaxseeds are rich in lignans (0.3g per 100g) – lignans have
phytoestrogenic and antioxidant properties, somewhat
similar to the isoflavones in soy, and are a good source of
healthy fat without cholesterol or sodium.

Flaxseeds also contain alpha-linolenic acid, an essential fatty
acid also known as omega-3, vitamin B1, and manganese.

In order to reap these nutritional benefits from flaxseeds,
make sure they are ground before you eat them, as whole
seeds often pass undigested through your system.

Can Everyone Eat Flaxseeds?

Flaxseeds are believed to be safe. However, there are some
risks involved in eating flaxseeds.

For example, pregnant and breastfeeding women should
avoid flaxseed (or at least, avoid eating too much) because
flaxseed has an effect on estrogen levels.

Similarly, flaxseeds may not be suitable for women with a
history of breast or uterine cancer (estrogen-sensitive
cancers) because lignans may affect cancer cells – although
some studies show lignans actually inhibit cancer cell growth.

Flaxseeds are highly versatile – you can also coat meat in a
flaxseed and breadcrumb batter, use flaxseeds in smoothies,
bake them into bread, or sprinkle them over chips to
increase the nutritional value of the snack.

We looked at the evidence for why these tiny seeds pack a
powerful punch – take a look at the top 10 health benefits of
flaxseeds.























1.
Prevent Constipation and Digestive Problems with
Flaxseeds

Flaxseed contains 27g of fiber per 100g, according to the
USDA – an excellent amount.  To put this into perspective,
that's about a cup of flax seeds. And, the daily recommended
amount of fiber for women under 50 years old is 25 grams
per day and for men it's 38 grams per day. For women and
men over 50, the recommendation is 21 grams for women
and 30 grams for men. So just a cup of flaxseeds can satisfy
your daily fiber needs.


Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber and it
benefits the digestive tract – fiber helps improve the
absorption of nutrients in the intestines, and helps food pass
more easily through the digestive system. Eating a diet high
in fiber helps to prevent constipation and lowers the risk of
colon cancer. Germany's Commission E says flaxseed can be
used to good effect when treating
chronic constipation,
irritable bowel syndrome, and stomach discomfort.

2.
Improve Your Cholesterol Profile with Flaxseeds

Eating flaxseeds on a regular basis can help lower your
cholesterol, according to results from research including a
1999 study from the University of Toronto, which
demonstrated that flaxseeds were effective in lowering
LDL
cholesterol in men and women, and a 2010 study from Iowa
State University's Nutrition and Wellness Research Center,
which showed that three tablespoons of flaxseed a day
helped men with high cholesterol.

Not all studies agree with this finding, and it may be the fiber
in the flaxseeds that is responsible for the effect and not the
micro nutritional profile of flaxseed. However, adding
flaxseed to your diet may be a drug-free way to lower
cholesterol so it’s worth a try.

3.
Can Flaxseeds Help Prevent or Cure Cancer?

There’s talk that the lignans in flaxseed may have cancer-
preventing and curing properties and some studies suggest
that people eating large amounts of lignin-containing foods
have a lower incidence of breast and colon cancer.

A 2007 review from Folkhalsan Research Center, Finland
suggests that lignin-rich seeds “may be beneficial,
particularly if consumed for life” and have shown “clear
anticarcinogenic effects of flaxseed or pure lignans in many
types of cancer”.

And according to a 2005 study from Princess Margaret
Hospital, University of Toronto, flaxseed has the potential to
reduce tumor growth in patients with breast cancer.

Likewise, flaxseeds may help stop the growth of prostate
cancer tumors. A 2007 study from Duke University Medical
Center, Durham, North Carolina suggests that flaxseed may
help stop prostate cancers from growing.

The scientists believe that flaxseed halts the multiplication of
cells that, when out of control, form a tumor. The study
looked at 161 men who were due to have surgery for
prostate cancer.  (Read more about
foods that fight cancer.)

4.
Flaxseed Helps Treat Kidney Disease and Lupus

Flaxseed may have benefits for people suffering from lupus
(lupus nephritis), according to experts. A 1995 study from
the University of Western Ontario, Canada demonstrates that
up to 45g of flaxseed a day helps to treat kidney disease
associated with lupus. (Read more about
flaxseeds use as a
natural remedy for lupus.)

5.
Flaxseed for Skin Inflammation?

Many people believe that flaxseed has soothing properties,
and it is often used externally to treat skin conditions and
skin inflammation. This use is described in the 1997 report to
the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy,
Dusseldorf, Germany, but actual studies and evidence are
lacking.

6.
Does Flaxseed Improve Menopausal Symptoms?

Flaxseed is a plant-based source of estrogen and as such, it
is believed to have benefits for women going through the
menopause who do not want to take estrogen therapy.

A 2007 study from the Mayo Clinic shows that flaxseed in the
diet can reduce hot flashes in post-menopausal women who
do not take estrogen supplements. The trial consisted of 40g
of ground flaxseed per day and the frequency of hot flashes
decreased, on average, by 50 percent over the six-week
course of the trial.

7.
Flaxseed Helps Improve the Symptoms of Prostate
Enlargement

A 2008 study from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences
and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, which looked at
78 older men, showed that an extract of flaxseed improved
the symptoms of urinary discomfort associated with benign
prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement). The results
were seen after four months of treatment with 300mg or
600mg of the extract each day.  

8.
Benefits of Flaxseeds for the Liver

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in flaxseeds, are
believed to be effective for treating non-alcoholic fatty liver,
according to studies such as 2008 research from the
University of Catania, Italy. And flaxseed may also help to
reduce the risk of liver disease in men with high cholesterol,
according to a 2010 study from Nippon Flour Mills Co., Ltd.,
Central Laboratory, Midorigaoka, Atsugi, Kanagawa, Japan.

9.
Flaxseeds Help Improve Blood Sugar Control

Flaxseed, as a high-fiber food, may help to delay glucose
absorption so if you suffer from diabetes or pre-diabetes it
can help your blood sugar control. A 2013 study from
researchers at the University of Montana demonstrates that
daily consumption of flaxseed improves glycemic control in
obese men and women with pre-diabetes.

10.
Eat Flaxseed to Protect Your Skin from Damage by X-
Ray Radiation

Here is a truly startling discovery about flaxseeds.

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the
University of Pennsylvania demonstrated in a 2011 study
that a diet of flaxseed can protect skin tissue and organs
from the damaging effects of radiation.  

The study showed that a diet of flaxseed given to mice
protected lung tissue before x-ray radiation exposure and
also helped to reduce the tissue damage after exposure
occurred.




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