The flaxseed offers a number of very significant health benefits. Over the last 10 years, hundreds of scientific studies have been conducted concerning the properties of the different elements in the seeds and the oil. Here’s what we have learned from those studies.
Anti-Hypertensive Action (Help With High Blood Pressure)
Dietary interventions to lower blood pressure in those people with hypertension are safer then medications that accomplish the same result. In a recent hypertension study, researchers compared the anti-hypertensive effects of flaxseed to those of other dietary interventions and concluded that "flaxseed induced one of the most potent antihypertensive effects".
Study participants incorporated flaxseed into their diet by adding milled flaxseed to a variety of different foods, including breakfast cereals, yogurt and salads. In all, 30 grams of milled flaxseed was consumed by the study participants who saw reductions in blood pressure of as much as 15 mm HG in systolic and 7 mm HG in diastolic. So, if your blood pressure is a little too high or you want to avoid the risk of developing high blood pressure, try adding some flaxseed to your diet. Safety studies have concluded that eating flaxseed will not lower your blood pressure if it is normal. The effect is only seen in hypertensive people.
Anti-Hyperglycemia Activity (Normalizing Blood Sugar Levels)
Hyperglycemia or high blood glucose (sugar) levels can lead to type II diabetes. Hyperglycemia and type II diabetes often accompany the metabolic syndrome which is characterized by obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Studies have shown that flaxseed has anti-hyperglycemic effects but does not induce hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Similar quantities to the amount mentioned above have been used in studies. In the most recent glycemic control study, participants who consumed 26 grams of ground flaxseed per day for 12 weeks "decreased glucose and insulin and improved insulin sensitivity".
It is becoming easier to add flaxseed to your diet. Flaxseed flour is now available and that may be particular beneficial to people with diabetes and those who have borderline high blood sugar levels, since the consumption of products made from traditional flour tend to raise blood sugar levels. Breads and other foods made with flaxseed flour may have a lower glycemic index than those made with white flour.
Benefits of Flaxseed for Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause does not always cause symptoms. But many women experience hot flashes, night sweats and other problems during the menopausal transition. Research has shown that a variety of plant foods and herbs are beneficial for reducing menopausal symptoms. Flaxseed meal and flaxseed extract are among the plant foods that have proven to be beneficial in some studies.
In general, it seems that women who consume a diet rich in plant-based foods, which are often sources of estrogen-like substances, have fewer menopausal symptoms than those who consume a more typical "modern" diet. The typical modern diet is often high in saturated fat and sodium, contains a lot of meat and cheeses, but is low in fruits and vegetables. When you're looking for something to snack on, try some flaxseed crackers. They are tasty and could reduce any menopausal symptoms you may be having.
Anti-Atherosclerosis Activity (Prevents Plaque Formation)
Atherosclerosis is the most common form of heart disease and is a leading cause of death worldwide. Flax and other seeds have been shown in animal studies to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while modulating the immune system function that leads to initial plaque formation in the arteries. In other words, adding flax to your diet may help lower your risk of atherosclerosis. The benefits, according to scientists, are due to the unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and fibers in the seeds.
Not all flaxseed supplements are the same in terms of fatty acids, antioxidant and fiber content. Some flaxseed products are defatted. They would provide the antioxidants and possibly the fiber but not the fatty acids that are beneficial for lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Of course, flaxseeds are not magic pills. You might still need to be careful about the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Luckily, flaxseed oils can be used in a variety of recipes that call for more saturated fats like butter.
Antioxidant Benefits of Flaxseed
Antioxidants help protect against heart disease by inhibiting oxidation of fats in the bloodstream, but that's not the only benefit. Antioxidants help to protect brain cells from damage that can lead to memory loss as we age. They may also improve memory and learning.
Free radical damage is a cause of cellular aging throughout the body. Antioxidants help to prevent and repair free radical damage. If left unchecked, free radical damage can lead to mutations in cellular DNA. These mutations can lead to something as benign as a wrinkle or something as serious as cancer.
A recipe capitalizing on the antioxidant benefits of berries, flaxseed and oranges is Flax Orange Cranberry Loaf. You basically triple the antioxidant benefits by consuming all three at the same time.
Flaxseeds are the richest known source of lignans. Lignans are phytoestrogens with antioxidant activity. Phytoestrogens are beneficial for menopausal symptoms, as mentioned above, and they may have anti-cancer activity according to researchers.
All antioxidants have some anti-cancer potential by limiting and repairing free radical activity. Phytoestrogens are believed to protect against hormone-dependent cancer tumors, which include some breast cancer and prostate tumors. In one published study, researchers report that flaxseeds have anti-cancer activity in laboratory studies and in clinical trials with volunteers who had hormone-dependent tumors. Several studies have shown the benefit of flaxseed lignans in reducing the growth of breast cancer tumors.
If you like meatloaf, you can easily add ground flaxseed to your recipe. Your pickiest eaters won't be able to tell that you have made their meatloaf healthier but you'll know. You can call it your anti-cancer meat loaf.
Benefits of Flaxseed for the Liver
Flaxseed oils are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, also called simply ALA. ALA is one of the long-chained omega-3 fatty acids. Studies indicate that ALA can protect against certain liver disease, such as fatty liver disease.
Antioxidants in flaxseeds can also benefit the liver. Some studies have focused on the “hepatic (liver) oxidant status” prior to and after supplementation with flaxseeds. Our livers are under a lot of stress because of all the heavy metals and other toxins in the environment. You can help improve your liver function by eating garlic, grapefruit, beets and carrots, as well as flaxseed. Green tea is another good choice. All of these foods and beverages provide potent antioxidants that benefit your liver and your whole body.
Other Possible Benefits
Researchers have also looked at the anti-inflammatory and immune system regulatory effects of flaxseeds. Inflammation plays a role in painful conditions like arthritis but is also a factor contributing to heart disease and cancer. The recommendation to reduce inflammation throughout your body is to increase your intake of natural anti-inflammatories. Omega-3 fatty acids provide the immune system benefits that result in less inflammation. Most people simply do not get enough omega-3s in their diets.
Adding flaxseed to your diet may also benefit your digestive system because of the added fiber. They may help with weight loss efforts by increasing your feelings of satisfaction after you eat a meal.
In truth, the benefits of flaxseed may be noticeable in every system of your body. If you want to do just one thing to improve your health, try flax. It's affordable and it's easy to add to your diet.