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Flax Seed

Overview

Flax seed has been used as a food for centuries in many cultures. It adds valuable fiber to the diet, promoting good digestive function. In addition, flax seed is one of the few non-seafood sources of alpha linoleic acid, one of the essential omega 3 fatty acids that have been identified as basic building blocks of cells. Omega 3 is used in the formation of every cell in the body, and is especially important in the formation of neural and brain cells.

 

When there is a deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids, the body will attempt to make do by substituting omega 6, which fits the bill, but is inferior for the job. Flax seed is one of the most potent sources of omega 3 fatty acid, particularly for those that limit their intake of animal foods. Omega 3 fatty acids have been pinpointed as being beneficial in treating depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and a number of other neuro-psychological disorders. They have been shown to reduce the incidence of coronary incidents in patients with coronary problems, and help reduce and reverse the damage done by diabetic neuropathy.

 

Finally, flax seed is one of the highest sources of plant lignins, a phytoestrogen that has strong antioxidant properties. Preliminary research shows that the plant lignins in flax seed may help protect against several forms of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

 

To quote Beverly Clevidence, director of USDA’s Phytonutrient Lab, “Flaxseed is a grain that holds a lot of promise.”

 

What flax seed does:

Flax seed is a rich source of LNA (alpha linoleic acid), a form of omega 3 fatty acid that is used by the body in the formation of new cells of all kinds. It helps to promote healthy cell growth. In the absence of sufficient omega 3 fatty acids, the body turns to omega 6. The effect is rather like making a substitution of whole wheat flour for white in a cake. What you end up with will be edible – but it won’t have all the qualities of cake. Scientists postulate that many of the ailments that afflict modern society – diabetes, heart disease, mental illnesses and coronary disease – may all share a common dietary lack of sufficient omega 3 fatty acids for the body’s needs.

 

In addition, flax seed is a high quality source of soluble and non-soluble fiber, which helps promote healthy digestive and elimination functioning in the body.

 

Health Benefits of flax seed:

Flax Fights Cholesterol

An important flax seed benefit is cholesterol reduction. A number of studies have shown that including flax seed in the diet helps lower LDL, the ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Flax Fights Diabetes

A flax seed benefit that is being explored is its role in reducing blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. Research at the University of Toronto has linked flax seed with lower blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. This is borne out by other studies which suggest that flax seed and omega 3 fatty acid benefit the body’s regulation of insulin at a cellular level.

Flax Fights Cancer

The American National Cancer Institute has singled out flax seed as one of the six foods that deserve special study. Because flax seed contains a high amount of phytonutrients that serve as antioxidants, and because omega 3 fatty acids seem to play a role in preventing the formation of abnormal cells in the body, many doctors recommend eating flax seed every day. This important flax seed benefit is being studied closely in many research projects.

Flax Fights Constipation

Another important flax seed benefit is the addition of fiber to the diet. As noted above, flax is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. In fact, one ounce of flax seed contains 32% of the US RDA for fiber. Fiber in the diet promotes healthy digestive functioning and regular bowel movements, which can be a major concern as people grow older.

Flax Fights Inflammation

Flax may be beneficial to people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In one 1996 study, patients who added flax seed to their diet on a regular basis showed marked improvement in their condition, with inflammation levels dropping by nearly 30 percent.

Flax Fights Menopausal Symptoms

The phytoestrogens in flax may help alleviate some menopausal symptoms. Further research is needed to prove its effectiveness, but it appears that treating the symptoms of menopause may be another important flax seed benefit.

Flax fights Heart Disease

There’s a large and growing body of work that highlights the effects of flax seed on heart disease. Among other things, it helps lower cholesterol, reduces clotting time and promotes health cell regrowth. All of these are associated with a lowered risk of heart disease.

Flax and the Immune System

The lignans and the EFA present in flax seed seem to bolster immune system operation. Because many of the diseases mentioned above are suspected of being, at least in part, autoimmune disorders, there is every reason to believe that flax seed can keep the immune system intact.

Flax fights “The Blues”

The effects of omega 3 essential fatty acid on neuropsychological disorders like schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, OCD, ADD is well documented by various studies.

 

Possible Side Effects of flax seed

Flax seed, is a natural food that seems to show no adverse side effects.

Summary

Because our modern diets are high in foods that contain omega 6 but low in omega 3, supplementing the diet with flax seed – a potent source of omega 3 – is highly recommended by the American Heart Association.

 

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