Superfood flexes its muscles
Gaetano Morello, ND
Flax has been used since the beginning of civilization. Traditionally flax fibre was used in textile production, but its health benefits were soon discovered.
Flax has been used since the beginning of civilization. What makes this fascinating crop grown primarily in the cool Canadian prairies the superfood that it has now become? In essence, Mother Nature made flax almost perfect.
Traditionally flax fibre was used in the production of textiles, but it didn’t take long for the healing properties of flax to be revealed as a remedy for blood cholesterol control, hormone balancing, superior digestion, cancer protection, and beautiful skin, hair, and nails.
Flaxseeds have a balanced ratio of both soluble and insoluble fibre; a rich concentration of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid; lignans; an amino acid profile suitable for vegetarians; plus a smattering of vitamins and minerals.
Today many Canadians are meeting only one-third to one-half of the daily recommended level of dietary fibre. According to the National Academy of Sciences, men should consume 38 g of fibre per day and women 25 g per day.
Studies show that soluble fibre helps to lower total blood cholesterol levels and control blood sugar while the insoluble fibre improves regularity. Just one tablespoon (15 mL) of ground flaxseed provides a minimum of 2 g of dietary fibre, which makes a healthy contribution to our overall fibre intake.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
According to Health Canada, our dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be 4:1. With the plethora of vegetable oils, margarines, and processed and convenience foods available, our fatty acid ratio is approaching an unhealthy 30:1. This shift has contributed to many of the diseases that now afflict so many Canadians.
Flax provides us with a rich source of omega-3, aiding in rebalancing this ratio and thus helping in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer, as well as in beautifying us through improved skin, hair, and nails.
Lignans are phytoestrogenic compounds that help to modulate estrogen hormone levels in both men and women. Lignans are found in all unrefined cereal grains, plants, and legumes.
In clinical trials flax has been shown to help in reducing hot flashes in menopausal women, help in the prevention of breast cancer, and even have possible benefits in prostate cancer treatment.
In one study performed at Duke University Medical Center in 2007, men taking 30 g (4 Tbsp) of ground flaxseed daily for 30 days had a reduction in prostate cancer tumour growth.
Another recent study publishedin the Journal of Gerontology (May 2007) also attributed high lignan levels in aging women to better performance on tests of memory than women with low intake.
This bite-sized nutrition superhero is so easy to invite along to your breakfast, lunch, or dinner table, you’ll be flexing your new flax muscle in no time.
Flax in Your Food
Flax is not only good for you but with its mild nutty flavour, it also tastes good. Add whole or freshly ground flaxseeds to your diet by mixing into:
Reap the Benefits
Aim for 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of freshly ground flaxseed or 1 tsp (5 mL) of flax oil per day.
Although you can sprinkle whole flaxseed onto many foods such as yogourt or cereals, the whole seed may pass through the colon undigested.
You can purchase ground or milled flaxseed in airtight packages, but you can also grind whole flaxseeds in a coffee grinder as you need them.
To increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, flax oil and softgel capsules are the richest source, although these forms are void of lignans and fibre.