Flaxseed Plant Power: Four Reasons Why It May Be the New Wonder Food


Flaxseed is obtained from a plant known as common flax or linseed (Linum usitatissimum), the seeds themselves are available in yellow, golden, or brown flax varieties. Mostly known as the plant from which linen is produced from, it is also a food source. The 8th-century king Charlemagne had once issued a proclamation requiring his constituents to eat flaxseed in accordance to his strong belief of its health benefits. Contemporary studies on the properties and health benefits of flaxseed are now agreeing with medieval knowledge. In this day and age, natural approach to living is being highly sought after.  Dubbed as the “superfood”, what reasons could there be for people to adding flaxseed to their diet? Such reasons will be explained below.

High Fiber Content

Flaxseed contains a good amount of dietary fiber, both the soluble and insoluble types.  Soluble fiber being able to slow down digestion and stabilize blood glucose levels, increases the feeling of fullness therefore promoting a healthy and balanced diet, reduces blood cholesterol levels, and potential anti-cancer benefits. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, is a bulk-forming laxative, probably the safest and most natural kind of way to promote good bowel movement. As insoluble fiber also accelerates the speed by which food travels through the gastrointestinal tract and therefore prevents constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, and diverticulitis.

Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are present in linseed oil which is found in flaxseed. One of these fatty acids is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the same fatty acid found in fatty fish such as salmon. ALA has antioxidant properties, and its presence in flaxseed helps reduce total and LDL cholesterol (the so-called “bad” cholesterol). Another benefit of ALA is lowering blood triglyceride and blood pressure levels. What does this tell us? It has the capability of preventing cardio- and neurovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. Though still under debate, ALA may (or may not) have potential as an anti-cancer substance.

Good Source of Lignans

Lignans are a class of phytoestrogens that are said to have anti-cancer and antioxidant properties. Being phytoestrogens, an idea exists that lignans attach themselves to estrogen receptors and therefore interfere with the activity of estrogen-stimulated breast cancer cells. It therefore appears to show a lot of promise to women who are suffering from breast cancer as well as for those wishing to prevent getting it in the first place. Being phytoestrogens, lignans also play a role in reducing other gynecological ailments such as premenstrual syndrome and menopausal problems such as hot flashes and night sweats.

Protection against Cancer

Recent studies indicate that flaxseed protects against certain types of cancers such as breast, prostate, and colon cancers. The above-mentioned components serve to protect the body against cancer. As stated earlier, it contains omega-3 fatty acids, one of which is ALA. There is some debate as to whether ALA is a substance that protects against cancer (because of its antioxidant properties) or promotes the formation of cancer (as shown in a study that concluded that ALA promotes the growth of the prostate and therefore increases the risk of prostate cancer). Another substance attributed to flaxseed’s anti-cancer properties are lignans. Lignans have the potential of fighting cancer through blocking enzymes involved in hormone metabolism and interfering tumor cell growth and proliferation. The high soluble and insoluble fiber content also provides cancer prevention. While soluble fiber has indirect effects on metabolism that could protect against cancer, the lower transit time of food in the digestive tract brought about by insoluble fiber lowers the risk of colorectal cancer through prevention of predisposing factors.

Given the number of benefits it has, flaxseed is as very good addition to any diet. Flaxseed can be easily integrated into staples such as grains or bread and therefore it doesn’t have any strange taste that one would associate with herbal medications. It is worth noting that given its benefits, flaxseed appears to have a better role in preventive medicine rather than as direct intervention against disease. Is flaxseed really wonder food? You’ll have to see for yourself.

 

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