News & tips on health, fitness and nutrition

Monday, September 15, 2014

Flax Seed Health Benefits

The flax seed has long been known as a great non-animal source of omega-3 fatty acids, and recent research has found that this tiny nutritional powerhouse may reduce inflammation and provide skin health benefits.

Flaxseed is high in:

  • Vitamins and minerals, including most of the B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese
  • Fiber, both soluble and insoluble
  • Phytochemicals, including many powerful antioxidants such as lignans. In fact, because it’s a plant, flaxseed is one of the best sources of lignans around, Metsovas says.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, key to fighting inflammation. Flaxseed is a mega-source of the plant version of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Flaxseed oil is about 50 percent ALA — five times more than walnut oil or canola oil, which are the next highest sources of ALA.

Healthy postmenopausal women who ate a low-fat muffin enriched with flax seed daily for six weeks saw a 15% reduction in the inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein, according to a study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.

In addition to these flax seed health benefits, German and French researchers also suggest that flax seed oil supplements may protect skin against reddening and improve overall skin health. According to findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the omega-3-rich flax seed oil can decrease skin roughness and scaling. Subjects who took flax seed oil supplements for 12 weeks saw an increase in blood levels of ALA (alpha linolenic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid. When an irritant was applied to the subjects' skin, the researchers noted a 45% decrease in reddening of the skin in the flax seed oil group.

The ALA found in flax seed oil has been shown to be beneficial for preventing heart disease and arrhythmia. Studies have also found that taking flax seed oil may prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by reducing inflammation and increasing arterial elasticity.

The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Flax seeds are among the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and they are easy to incorporate into tasty foods like muffins and other baked goods. Recent research has revealed some unique flax seed health benefits. Among the most notable of recent discoveries is the finding that the ALA flax seeds contain can improve skin health and help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Flaxseed is the most potent plant source of omega-3 fats. Studies indicate that adding flaxseed to your diet can reduce the development of heart disease by 46%—it helps keep red blood cells from clumping together and forming clots that can block arteries. It may also reduce breast cancer odds. In one study, women who ate 10 g of flaxseed (about 1 rounded tablespoon) every day for 2 months had a 25% improvement in the ratio of breast cancer-protective to breast cancer-promoting chemicals in their blood. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of flaxseed a day on your cereal, salad, or yogurt. Buy it preground, and keep it refrigerated.

But don’t take flaxseed supplements. Plant estrogens, like human hormones, are not always benign. At high doses—and no one knows how much is too much—lignans might turn into cancer promoters.

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