Flax Can Protect Your Brain and Four More Things You Need to Know

April 30, 2014

Flaxseeds have a very long and popular history, which actually dates back to the Stone Age! Find out five reasons why you should add flax to your diet today...

Flaxseeds have a very long and popular history, which actually dates back to the Stone Age! They have been used as a food, medicine, and are actually the source of fiber used to make linen. Today flaxseeds can be found in products around the supermarket, and are not just something in a health food store.  Flax is an increasingly common ingredient in breads, cereals, pastas, crackers and baking mixes; they can also be found whole or ground. Hands down, flaxseed and foods that contain flax can play an important role in promoting health and wellness. Here are five things you should know about flax.

Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which are essential for normal GI function. Diets rich in fiber are known to aid in reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as helping to maintain a healthy weight.

One of the reasons flax has gained popularity in the past few years is that it is rich in the essential fatty acids omega 3 (linolenic) and omega 6 (linoleic). Omega 3 and 6 are essential because they play a fundamental physiological role and cannot be synthesized by the body- thus considered essential. The typical American diet is low in omega 3s, which are found naturally in cold-water fish, like salmon and sardines, walnuts, flaxseeds, soybeans, chia and hemp seeds, Brussels sprouts, and a few others. Omega 3 and 6 are known for their role in protecting the brain and body cells from the physiological effects of stress, reducing heart disease risk factors, possibly reducing risk of dementia, reducing symptoms of some skin ailments, demonstrate anti-inflammatory effects, and helping support pregnancies and infant brain and eye development.

Another great thing about flaxseeds is that they are high in beneficial phytochemicals, specifically lignan, as well as various antioxidants. The lignans from flax are especially great for women as they may promote fertility, reduce peri-menopausal symptoms, and possibly help reduce breast cancer risk, as well as helping to prevent type 2 diabetes.

The amazing health benefits of flaxseed can only be found in the ground seeds. Whole seeds (unless chewed really, really well) pass through the body undigested; as a result the health benefits of the fiber, fatty acids, and antioxidants are lost.

Ground flaxseeds can be found in the health food or refrigerated section, in a vacuum-sealed package, or on the shelf. Flaxseeds should be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator (for up to 3 months) or freezer (for up to 6 months) to extend shelf life. Flaxseed oil is especially perishable and should be purchased and stored in an opaque bottle that has been kept refrigerated. It should not be used for cooking, which destroys all of the benefits discussed above. Flaxseed oil should be used as a finishing oil; it tastes sweet and nutty and is great on salads, in smoothies or drizzle it on your favorite meal.

And a few more tips:

A daily serving is about two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds and contains roughly 95 calories and 5 grams of fiber. A serving of flaxseed oil is one tablespoon and contains 120 calories.

Adding flax to your diet is easy. Ground flaxseeds are perfect sprinkled on your hot or cold cereal, in smoothies, or to top off cooked vegetables and salads. Add flaxseeds to your homemade muffin, cookie or bread recipe. Substitute flaxseed mixture for eggs in home baking such as muffin and pancake (1 tbsp milled flaxseed, plus 3 tbsp water = 1 egg)…warning: final product may have less volume and taste gummier.

SupermarketGuru encourages you to look into adding flax to your diet, but as with any dietary changes it is essential that you speak with your physician before making any changes.