Some people call flax seeds a “functional food,” meaning anyone can eat them to improve their health.
In ancient Egypt and China, people grew flax as a crop. It has played a role in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years in Asia.
Today flaxseed is available in oil, powder, pills, capsules and powder. People use it as a dietary supplement to prevent constipation, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, and many other conditions.
Flaxseeds contain antioxidants, fiber, protein, and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and omega-3 for nutrition.
Consuming these nutrients can help reduce the risk of various conditions.
Benefits of Flaxseed
Flax seeds contain specific nutrients that have various health benefits.
Like other plant-based foods, flax seeds are rich in antioxidants. They can help prevent many diseases by scavenging molecules called free radicals from the body.
Free radicals occur as a result of natural processes and environmental stressors. If too many free radicals exist in the body, oxidative stress can occur, causing cell damage and disease. Antioxidants help remove free radicals from the body.
Flax seeds are a good source of lignins, which have been shown to have antioxidant properties.
Some scientists say flax seeds can be 800 times richer in lignans than other foods.
The potential health benefits of flaxseed are discussed in more detail below.
1. Flax seeds are rich in nutrients
A typical serving size for ground flax seeds is 1 tablespoon (7 grams).
Just one tablespoon provides a good amount of protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids and a rich source of some vitamins and minerals.
One tablespoon of ground flax seeds contains the following:
Protein: 1.3 grams
Carbohydrates: 2 grams
Fiber: 1.9 grams
Total fat: 3 grams
Saturated fat: 0.3 grams
Monosaturated fat: 0.5 grams
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.0 grams
Omega-3 fatty acids: 1,597 mg
Vitamin B1: 8% of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI).
Vitamin B6: 2% of the RDI
Folate: 2% of the RDI
Calcium: 2% of the RDI
Iron: 2% of the RDI
Magnesium: 7% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 4% of RDI
Potassium: 2% of the RDI
Interestingly, the health benefits of flax seeds are mainly attributed to omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fiber.
2. Flax seeds are high in omega-3 fats
If you are a vegetarian or don’t eat fish, flaxseeds can be your best source of omega-3 fats.
They are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the most plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.
ALA is one of two essential fatty acids you must get from your diet, as your body cannot produce them.
Animal studies show that the ALA in flax seeds prevents cholesterol from accumulating in the heart’s blood vessels, reduces inflammation in the arteries, and slows the growth of tumors.
In addition, an extensive review of 27 studies involving more than 250,000 people found that ALA was associated with a 14 percent lower risk of heart disease.
Several studies have also linked ALA to a lower risk of stroke.
3. Flax seeds are rich in dietary fiber
A single tablespoon of flax seeds provides 3 grams of fiber, around 8-12% of the daily fiber intake recommended for men and women. Flax seeds contain two types of dietary fiber: soluble fiber (20-40%) and non-soluble fiber (60-80%). These fibers are digested by colon bacteria, adding bulk to the stool and promoting regular bowel movements.
Flax seeds can improve cholesterol
Another health benefit of flax seeds is their ability to lower cholesterol levels. In one study of people with high cholesterol, eating 3 tablespoons (30 grams) of flaxseed powder daily for three months reduced total cholesterol by 17 percent and “bad” LDL cholesterol by nearly 20 percent.
Another study in people with diabetes found that taking 1 tablespoon (10 grams) of flaxseed powder daily for a month increased “good” HDL cholesterol by 12 percent.
Daily consumption of 30 grams of flax seeds in postmenopausal women reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by approximately 7% and 10%, respectively.
5. Flax seeds can help control blood sugar
Type 2 diabetes is a significant health problem worldwide. It is characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting in the body’s inability to secrete insulin or resist it.
Some studies have found that people with type 2 diabetes who added 10-20 grams of flaxseed powder to their daily diet for at least a month saw an 8-20% reduction in blood sugar levels.