They have been referred to as one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet that can support heart, cellular, vascular and blood sugar health—among other things. That’s an amazing amount of goodness packaged in these tiny seeds! We’re talking about flaxseeds, of course, because they may be small, but they pack a big health wallop.
Flaxseeds offer an array of health benefits, but here are three attributes of flaxseeds that are worthy of pointing out. Flaxseeds contain:
- Omega-3 fatty acids—Omega-3s are some of the “good fats” that people are raving about these days. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed offers about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
- Lignans—Lignans are plant-based chemical compounds known for their protective health qualities. Flaxseeds, through their lignin content, offer antioxidants and healthy, natural phytochemicals. In fact, flaxseeds contain 75 to 800 times more lignans than other types of plant foods.
- Fiber—Most of us don’t get enough fiber and its health benefits, but flaxseeds contain both types of fiber we need—soluble and insoluble.
Lilian Thompson, Ph.D., is an internationally known flaxseed researcher from the University of Toronto. She cites research indicating that among flax’s health benefits are cellular, cardiovascular and lung health. In particular, studies suggest that flaxseeds can support breast, prostate and colon health—and the plant omega-3 fatty acid ALA as well as the lignan content of flaxseeds appear to be responsible for those benefits. ALA and lignans alike support healthy, normal cellular growth, but the lignans also block enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism (in a good way) and interfere with the growth and spread of unhealthy cells.
Likewise, the omega-3s in flaxseeds support cardiovascular health in a variety of ways, including supporting healthy inflammation levels (by blocking the release of pro-inflammatory agents), a normal heartbeat, healthy arteries and possibly even healthy blood pressure levels—which is due to the omega-3s and the amino acid groups in flaxseeds.
Kelley Fitzpatrick, M.Sc., director of health and nutrition with the Flax Council of Canada points out an amazing stat about flaxseeds and unhealthy plaque buildup. She says, “Lignans in flaxseed have been shown to reduce unhealthy atherosclerotic plaque buildup by up to 75 percent.” It does so by keeping plaque from being deposited in the arteries and by keeping white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessels’ inner linings.
That’s not all these mighty seeds can do, though. Several studies indicate that the synergistic effects of the omega-3 ALA, the lignans and the fiber in flaxseeds can support healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels. As far as the cholesterol benefits, small particles of LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the bloodstream are linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. In one study, however, menopausal women who ate 4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed each day for a year, showed a decrease in these small LDL particles.
Other studies on the cholesterol benefits of flaxseeds indicate that three tablespoons a day is plenty for men’s health. In fact, an Iowa State University’s Nutrition and Wellness Center study found that, particularly where men are concerned, flaxseeds can offer “a wonderful, long term alternative for those who would rather opt for nature than drugs” for supporting healthy cholesterol levels. The studies also found that it doesn’t take a year for these effects. Positive outcomes were found after just four-to-twelve weeks. That’s good news for the 17 percent (maybe more) of Americans who have unhealthy blood cholesterol levels.
No wonder so many people love their flaxseeds and are upping their flaxseed intake. These tiny seeds really can make a mighty impact in so many ways.