Flax Seed Health Benefits
Flax seed contains:
- Lignans a type of phytoestrogen that is thought to balance estrogen activity in the body
- Omega-3 essential fatty acid which is known to lower blood cholesterol levels
- Both soluble and insoluble fibre which help to reduce cholesterol and aid in digestion
The medicinal use of flax seed dates back thousands of years. Ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians used flax seed as anti-inflammatory agents as well as for gastro-intestinal issues. In his encyclopedia of natural science entitled Historia Naturalis, Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79), a Roman naturalist, included thirty used for flax seed. Flax was also recommended as an excellent source of fibre by Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Civilizations in Asia also held flax seed in high esteem. Recordings in China indicate the use of flax seed as a treatment for dry skin and constipation. Indian Ayervedic practitioners recommended flax seed for the treatment of cardiac conditions, burns, swelling and even eye health. Ancient depictions of flax cultivation have been found in Egyptian tombs. Today, flax is cultivated in every part of the world except tropical regions and the poles.
Flax seed is a crop that grows well in the Prairie Provinces of Canada, and both brown and golden seed varieties are grown here. Both colours of flax seed have plenty of protein, dietary fibre, and alpha-linolenic fatty acid (ALA). While some people prefer the golden-coloured seed, brown flax seeds have the same nutritional profile, add the same nutrients to the diet, plus brown flax costs significantly less than the golden seeds.
The benefits of flax seed include heart-healthy fats, both types of dietary fibre, soluble and insoluble, and health-promoting plant compounds.
1. Heart Healthy Fats: Flax seed is a wonderful source of an essential fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 found in plants. This omega-3 fat helps prevent heart attacks by reducing the risk of potentially deadly blood clots, as well as abnormal heart rhythms.
2. Fibre: The tiny, tasty seeds are a wonderful source of both water soluble and insoluble fibre. Water-soluble fibre has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and stabilize blood glucose levels by slowing the absorption of sugar in the digestive tract. Insoluble fibre helps reduce the risk of intestinal cancers and keep the intestinal tract humming along nicely. Fiber also helps us feel full longer!
3. Plant Compounds: Flax seed is a rich source of plant estrogens called lignans. Besides acting as an antioxidant, with potential benefits for artery health, lignans are thought to protect against hormone-sensitive cancers such as those of the breast, endometrium and prostate. The lignans act as phytoestrogens and can interfere with how estrogen works in the body, in some cases countering estrogen’s effects.
“Today we know that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal growth and development and may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other auto-immune diseases.”
Dr. Artemis Simopoulous: The Omega Plan
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