Flaxseeds are widely recognized today as one of the most healthy superfoods that you can consume. It tastes slightly sweet, nutty, and even "Charles the Great ordered his subjects to eat flax seeds for their health. So it’s no wonder they acquired the name Linum usitatissimum (flaxseed), meaning “the most useful.”
In one serving of flaxseed (1 tbsp; 7 grams), there are nutrients such as:
Protein: 1.3 grams
Carbs: 2 grams
Fibre: 1.9 grams
Total fat: 3 grams
Omega-3 fatty acids: 1,597 mg
Vitamin B1: 8% of the 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 the RDI
Potassium: 2% of the RDI
The highlight of flaxseeds is their high omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 is naturally occurring in fish such as salmon. Thus this is an excellent option for vegetarians. Fatty acids are essential to our body because they provide long-lasting energy for your body to function. They also constitute the structure of your cells, meaning that fatty acids are crucial for cell repair, growth, and regulation of your lymphatic system (immune system). The type of omega-3 in flaxseeds is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a mostly plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. ALA has shown in animal studies that it can help prevent cholesterol from being deposited in the heart's blood vessels, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and reduce tumour growth. "Also, a large review of 27 studies involving more than 250,000 people found that ALA was linked to a 14% lower risk of heart disease."
Another powerful nutrient in flaxseeds is their ligands. Ligands are found in most plant-based foods such as whole grain, seeds, and most abundantly, in flaxseeds. Flax seeds contain up to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods. Ligands have antioxidant and estrogen properties and have been shown to help lower the risk of heart disease, menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis and breast cancer. Interestingly, ligands mainly lower the risks of cancer. For example, according to a Canadian study involving more than 6,000 women, those who eat flax seeds are 18% less likely to develop breast cancer. For men, there are fewer studies, though in a tiny sample of 15 men, those given 30 grams of flax seeds a day while following a low-fat diet showed "reduced levels of a prostate cancer marker, suggesting a lower risk of prostate cancer."
Lastly, flaxseeds cannot be overlooked for their high fibre. One tablespoon of flaxseeds contains 3 grams of fibre, 8–12% of the daily recommended intake for men and women, respectively. There are two types of fibre -- soluble (20–40%) and insoluble (60–80%) -- which helps to regulate bowel movements. As fibre is passed through the small intestine, it is fermented by the bacteria in the large bowel and adds bulk to the stool, helping to promote bowel movements. High amounts of soluble fibre can also help slow down the digestion rate, which can aid in weight loss because hunger hormones are suppressed during digestion.
Furthermore, fibre can also help reduce cholesterol as fibre is digested by binding bile salts to be secreted. For the body to replenish these bile salts, cholesterol is pulled from your blood into your liver. This process lowers your blood levels of cholesterol.
All in all, flaxseeds are a versatile ingredient that you can incorporate into your foods in many ways, such as adding to yogurts, muffins, bread, oatmeal, cookies, smoothies, or salads. Here are some delicious recipes to try out!