The flax seed carries one of the biggest nutrient payloads on the planet. And while it’s not technically a grain, it has a similar vitamin and mineral profile to grains, while the amount of fibre, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids in flax leaves grains far behind in nutritive values. Additionally, flax seed is very low in carbohydrates, making it ideal for people who limit their intake of starches and sugars. And its combination of healthy fat and high fibre content make it a great food for weight loss and maintenance
Flax Seed Nutrition
Flax seed is high in most of the B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese. There are three additional nutrient groups which flax seed has in abundance, and each has many benefits.
Flax seed is Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are a key force against inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation plays a part in many chronic diseases including heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and even some cancers. This inflammation is enhanced by having too little Omega-3 intake (such as in fish, flax, and walnuts), especially in relation to Omega-6 fatty acid intake (in such oils as soy and corn oil). In the quest to equalize the ratio of these two kinds of oils, flax seed can be a real help.
Most of the oil in flax seeds is Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA). ALA is an Omega-3 which is a precursor to the fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty cold-water fish (called EPA and DHA). Because not everyone is able to easily convert ALA into EPA and (especially) DHA, it is best not to rely solely on flax for your Omega-3 intake, but ALA also has good effects of its own, and definitely helps in the Omega 3/6 balance.
Flax Seed is High in Fibre: both soluble and insoluble. This fibre is probably mainly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effects of flax. Fibre in the diet also helps stabilize blood sugar, and, of course, promotes proper functioning of the intestines.
Flax seed is high in phytochemicals, including many antioxidants. It is perhaps our best source of lignans, which convert in our intestines to substances which tend to balance female hormones. There is evidence that lignans may promote fertility, reduce peri-menopausal symptoms, and possibly help prevent breast cancer. In addition, lignans may help prevent Type 2 diabetes.
- – Flax seeds need to be ground to make the nutrients available (otherwise they just “pass through”)
- – Flax seed oil alone contains neither the fibre nor the phytochemicals of whole flax seed meal
Flax Seed Safety and Side Effects
Lot of research about the wonders of flax show little or no problems from eating it –- to the contrary, it has shown many benefits.
Big Fibre Load: Since flax has such a high fibre content, it’s best to start with a small amount and increase slowly, otherwise cramping and a “laxative effect” can result. People with irritable bowel syndrome may have an especially strong reaction to it, and should be extra-careful.
Oxidation/Rancidity: The oil in flax is highly unsaturated. This means that it is very prone to oxidation (rancidity) unless it is stored correctly. The very best way is nature’s own storage system – within the seed. Flax seeds not exposed to large amounts of heat stay safe to eat for at least a year. However, flax meal, and especially flax oil, are a different story. The meal, stored away from heat and light, will keep fresh for a few months, and the oil must be protected by refrigeration in dark containers, preferably being consumed within a few weeks of opening.