The Latin name for flaxseed is Linum usitatissimum, which means “very useful”. The plant is grown to provide material for fabric (what we usually call linen), string and linseed oil for wood preservation. Its nutritional benefits, however, are even more amazing. It lowers LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, reduces plaque buildup in arteries, protects against cancer, helps with blood sugar control and helps prevent constipation.
The three main nutritional components of flaxseed are:
Omega-3 fatty acids – one of the best plant sources of alpha-linoleic acid, known as ALA
Lignans – the highest plant source available
Fiber – both soluble and insoluble
The health benefits from eating flaxseeds are many:
- Heart health – the Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and help to normalize the heartbeat. They contain phytosterols, which help reduce the absorption of cholesterol into the intestines and result in lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Regular consumption of flaxseeds has also proven to lower blood pressure in hypertensive people. The lignans in flaxseed help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries by as much as 75%.
- Cancer – studies have shown, according to the NIH, that lignans help protect against breast, prostate and colon cancer, interfering with the growth and spread of tumors. They are phytoestrogens, a plant-based nutrient that acts like estrogen and not only appears to protect against breast cancer, but also helps reduce hot flashes, prevent osteoporosis, and help with menstrual relief.
- Diabetes – the fiber and lignans in flaxseeds help slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, resulting in better blood sugar control.
- Digestion – the insoluble fiber in flaxseeds aids digestion and helps prevent constipation.
- Weight loss – flaxseed’s soluble fiber helps you feel full longer, so you eat less often.
To get the most benefit out of flaxseeds, it’s better to eat them ground instead of whole. You can sprinkle them on cereal or yogurt, bake them into muffins, breads, or cookies, add them to smoothies, pancakes, waffles, casseroles or thick soups or chili. They’re highly nutritious and excellent sources of antioxidants and minerals.