Have you heard about the many benefits of flaxseeds? The health benefits are overwhelming!
Flaxseeds are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids; in fact, they're one of the top sources. Flaxseeds primarily have alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which makes them a good source of omega-3 fatty acids to add to baked goods. ALAs are able to withstand high temperatures that occur during baking.
Because of the high omega-3 content, flaxseeds can be helpful to the cardiovascular system. ALA and the lignans flaxseeds contain can help protect the blood vessels from inflammatory damage and help reduce stress. With the high content of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds can definitely help us increase our overall omega-3 intake, and by doing that, we will then help regulate and possibly lower our risk of high blood pressure. Because of the high fiber content, flaxseeds can also help reduce the ratio of LDL (the "bad" fat) to HDL (the "good" fat) cholesterol.
Another benefit of flaxseeds is that they contain lignans. Lignans are like fiber, but you're getting much more than just fiber. They also provide antioxidant protection through their unique structure, which gives them even more health support. For example, oxidative stress (often related to lack of antioxidant intake) and excessive inflammation are common risk factors for a variety of health issues (insulin resistance, arthritis, cancer, asthma, obesity, etc.) and lignans have been shown to reduce this stress. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of flaxseeds also make them a good candidate for cancer prevention. How is this possible? Chronic inflammation and chronic oxidative stress are risk factors for cancer development. Cancer risk reduction is strongest for breast, prostate and colon cancer. Breast and prostate cancer are included in the list of hormone-related cancers, meaning our hormones are directly related to how often these types of cancer cells multiply.
Thirdly, flaxseeds also have high fiber content (about 4 grams in 2 tablespoons) and mucilage gum content. Mucilage gum is a water-soluble fiber that is gel-forming and can provide great support for the intestinal tract. This type of fiber prevents food from going through the digestive tract too quickly. This improves the absorption of nutrients. The fiber content of flaxseeds helps delay gastric emptying and improve absorption of nutrients. Flaxseed fibers also help to steady passage of food in the intestines. It is known that a high-fiber diet can help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, and because of the high content of fiber in flaxseeds, this is a good way to get fiber into your system.
The combination of these three benefits - omega-3 fatty acids, high lignan content and mucilage gums - is what makes flaxseeds so great for our health. Now, how can you incorporate more flaxseeds into your diet? Finding creative ways can always be fun. Adding ground flaxseeds to muffins, cookies and bread is a good way to do this. As mentioned earlier, the particular omega-3 fatty acid they contain is able to withstand high temperatures for a good amount of time. This means they will not lose their benefits. Grab some ground flaxseed for your baked goods, smoothies or yogurt.
Brittany Buchanan graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in nutrition and dietetics. She works for Victoria Independent School District.
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