If you are looking to add more nutrients to your diet without even trying, you might want to befriend flax seeds.
“Flaxseed is widely available and is sold in its whole or ground form,” says one registered dietitian nutritionist. Heather Chasa. “Opt for the ground, ground, or ground options because the grinding process helps unleash the power of flaxseed, giving you access to its incredible nutrients.”
And these amazing nutrients do a lot.
Flaxseeds are good for your heart, hormone and gut health. Plus, they’re a plant-based omega-3 food, says Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD. As Sauceda notes, if you buy whole flax seeds, you can use a coffee grinder to grind them before consuming the seeds.
But before you jump into flaxseeds, take note of this advice from Sauceda: “Flax is so high in fiber that your gut might not be a fan at first,” she says, advising slowly and slowly add flax seeds to your diet. drink more water.
As Sauceda says, if you eat whole flaxseeds, you may see whole flaxseeds appear in your stool (wee!) due to their fiber which makes them harder to digest. “This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you don’t find a lot of undigested food in your poop and your gut is tolerating the fiber,” Sauceda says.
But there’s also a lot to explore about flaxseeds, like what flaxseeds actually are, why they’re so healthy, and the rather complicated nature of these omega-3s.
Here’s what nutrition experts have to say about all this and more.
What are flax seeds?
“Flaxseeds are the edible seeds of the flax plant and are used to make flaxseed or flaxseed oil,” Shasa explains, noting that flaxseed has a slightly nutty flavor. “Flax seeds are among the richest sources of lignans, a compound found naturally in plants. Lignans can act as an antioxidant, which can reduce damage to our cells, decrease inflammation and help reduce your risk of certain diseases.
Are flax seeds healthy?
Here’s the nutritional breakdown: “Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed is about 15 grams and that would give you nearly three grams of protein, three grams of ALA fatty acids (a type of omega-3 found in plants) and 3.5 grams of fiber,” Sauceda says, referring to the USDA Food Data Center. A two-tablespoon serving of ground flaxseed contains about 75 calories.
And flax seeds provide a variety of health benefits. First, they have healthy fat. Flaxseed is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid — the aforementioned ALA — which is an omega-3 essential fatty acid, Shasa said.
That said, the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds pale in comparison to fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, so take the label language on flaxseed products with a grain of skepticism.
“The fiber found in flaxseeds may improve one’s lipid-lowering effects“, says Shasa. “Research shows that 30 to 50 g of flaxseeds per day reduce total cholesterol by 5% to 15% and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 8% to 18%. Evidence of small clinical studies with people with prediabetes and diabetes shows a slight decrease in fasting blood glucose and insulin levels. The potential health benefits don’t stop there. Preliminary clinical research shows that flaxseed can affect the prostate by reducing markers of prostate cancer levels, especially prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and can also help slow the growth of prostate cancer cells.
As mentioned earlier, the lignan content of flaxseeds is also a boon to health. “There is an interesting paper which discusses a link to lignans interacting with our gut microbiome and being converted into a compound that has anti-cancer properties and possibly impacting our brain health via the gut-brain axis,” Sauceda explains.
Finally, flaxseed may play a role in supporting cardiovascular health. “Although ground flax seeds are easier to digest, there are also to research examining the benefits of whole flaxseeds on heart health,” says Sauceda. “Whole flaxseeds have been found to have a positive impact on total cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol aka LDL.” She also notes that flax seed oil may also have anti-inflammatory effects.
How do you eat flax seeds?
Although not something you would want to eat as a snack, flaxseeds can be added to a variety of dishes. It bears repeating, “The best way to eat flaxseeds is to grind them, because that way you’ll get more of their nutrition.” Whole flaxseeds are difficult to digest, and grinding them up makes it easier for your body to access its nutrients,” says Sauceda.
Sauceda suggests using flax seeds in two ways: sprinkle ground flax into your morning bowl of oats or into your smoothie. “Ground flax can also be used as breadcrumbs for chicken fillets,” she said. “Because flax seeds are high in fiber, they can also be used as a thickening agent, such as in a creamy salad dressing.”
Shasa also points out that you can use flax seeds as a vegan egg replacement in baked goods. Simply mix one tablespoon of flax seeds with three tablespoons of water, allowing the mixture to thicken for five to 10 minutes.
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