Flaxseed, also called linseed, are tiny brown seeds that are brimming with many different nutrients. This superfood is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, thiamin, and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.
Flaxseed is also rich in lignans—polyphenols found in plants—which are known to reduce the risk of cancer and chronic disease.
These little brown seeds can have a huge positive impact on your health. There are several ways in which you can benefit from adding this superfood to your diet.
Health Benefits of Flaxseed
1. Improves Digestive Health
Flaxseed is a well-known cure for constipation. Its high fiber content makes it the perfect supplement if you’re looking to increase your fiber intake quickly and easily.
The fiber in flaxseed is not broken down easily, which means that it remains in the stomach for a while, keeping you full and satisfied for a long time after eating. Since much of it can’t be broken down, many of the calories in flaxseed are not absorbed, but rather they’re flushed right through the digestive tract.
Add two tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your daily diet, and you’ll benefit from up to 20 percent of your daily recommended intake (DRI) of fiber from flaxseed alone.
2. Lowers Blood Pressure
People with hypertension—or chronically high blood pressure—can benefit from eating flaxseed or using flax oil in their salads and cooking.
Flaxseed contains many anti-inflammatory components, such as omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, which help to keep the arteries relaxed and clear from plaque buildup.
Research shows that people who add flaxseed or flaxseed oil to their diets without changing anything else can experience a significant reduction in blood pressure. (1)(2)
Hypertension is a risk factor for coronary artery disease, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and many other serious conditions. Flaxseed can help to reduce that risk.
RELATED: What is Normal Blood Pressure?
3. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Research shows that flaxseed oil and ground flaxseed reduce total serum cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels in patients with high cholesterol. (3)(4)(5)(6)
Flaxseed contains a few important nutrients that help to keep total cholesterol levels down. First, it’s packed with fiber, which binds to fatty deposits in the digestive tract and pulls them out of the body before they have a chance to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
The lignans are believed to be the main reason LDL cholesterol levels are reduced when eating flaxseed.
People with high cholesterol levels are at risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Eating cholesterol-lowering foods like flaxseed and getting regular exercise are necessary habits for a healthy heart.
4. Balances Blood Sugar
Flaxseed contains many nutrients that are essential to balancing blood sugar.
In one study, 60 type 2 diabetics were given flaxseed for three months. At the end of the trial, the flaxseed group had a significant reduction in fasting blood sugar levels, while the control group did not. (7)
5. Fights Cancer
Flaxseeds are the richest source of lignans, which studies show reduce the risk of cancer-related to hormone changes, such as prostate, breast, and ovarian cancers.
Lignans are phytoestrogens, which are naturally occurring compounds in plants that imitate the hormone estrogen. This is especially beneficial for women as they approach menopause. During and after menopause, hormone levels decrease, and the risk of ovarian and breast cancer increases.
In one study, daily flaxseed supplementation actually reduced tumor size in breast cancer patients. (8)
Other studies show similar results—flaxseed inhibits cancer cell growth and reduces tumor size. (9)(10)(11)
6. May Relieve Symptoms of Menopause
As mentioned above, the lignans in flaxseeds mimic estrogen in the body. This may be good news for women approaching or experiencing menopause, which comes with uncomfortable symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, sleep problems, and vaginal dryness.
Flaxseed may relieve some of these symptoms because it helps to balance hormones in menopausal women.
7. Supports Weight Loss
Flaxseed is a unique food because it is high in fiber but low in carbohydrates. This is an excellent combination for those looking to shed a few pounds.
In addition, flaxseed contains nutrients that stimulate fat burning and improve metabolism. The essential fatty acids present in flaxseed are one such nutrient that stimulates weight loss.
The fiber in flaxseed helps to keep you full for a long time so that you don’t crave unhealthy snacks between meals. Simply add two tablespoons of ground flax to your smoothie, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, or any other food, and stay full until the next meal.
8. Reduces Inflammation
The antioxidants found in flaxseed fight oxidative stress and reduce chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is behind many chronic diseases such as allergies, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), neurodegenerative diseases, and more.
An anti-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and probiotics can help to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases like the ones listed above.
Since flaxseeds are full of many anti-inflammatory nutrients and compounds, they’re an excellent addition to anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
9. Improves Hair and Skin Health
The essential fatty acids in flaxseeds help to strengthen the hair while giving it shine and flexibility.
Omega-3 fatty acids have lubricating effects on the body, so eating ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil daily can help to nourish your hair, skin, eyes, and nails.
People with skin conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea may benefit from adding flaxseed to their daily diets.
10. Boosts Immune Function
All those beneficial fatty acids, lignans, antioxidants, and minerals help to strengthen all systems and functions in the body. Specifically, the omega-3 fatty acids and the lignans provide support to immune cells.
This can improve autoimmune conditions such as arthritis and lupus as well as improving the body’s ability to fight off bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that may threaten your health.
11. Supports Cognitive Health and Prevents Neurodegeneration
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are considered “brain foods” for a reason. Essential fatty acids are found in high concentrations in the nervous system and in the brain, where they help to build cell membranes, promote new cell formation, conduct nerve transmission, and form brain chemicals.
Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids improve memory and cognition and protect against neurodegenerative and neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and more. (12)
How To Eat Flaxseeds
If you buy whole flaxseeds and eat them as is, you’ll be missing out on a lot of nutrients. Ground flaxseeds are easier to digest and have greater bioavailability than whole flaxseeds.
You can buy ground flaxseeds in the supermarket or in a health food store, or you can buy whole flaxseeds and grind them yourself. Add ground flaxseed to just about anything—smoothies, muffins, cereal, oatmeal, salads, soups, and more—for an easy and effortless nutritional boost.
Keep in mind that flaxseed oil should be eaten cold or at room temperature, and it should not be used for cooking. Flaxseed oil has a low smoke point, so it very quickly forms harmful compounds when exposed to high heat.
Flaxseed oil can also be applied topically to nourish your hair, skin, and nails.
Both ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil are incredibly nutritious and contain beneficial ingredients that should definitely be a part of your daily diet. Pick up some flaxseed from our favorite supplier or grab one in your local supermarket or health food store—and always opt for organic when possible!