Flaxseed

by Lynette Abbott

Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is a small, brown seed that comes from the flax plant. It is a good source of fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds can be eaten whole or ground into a meal called a flaxseed meal. They can also be pressed to produce flaxseed oil.

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Flaxseeds have a nutty flavor and can be added to a variety of dishes, such as smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, and baked goods. They may also be used as a vegan alternative to eggs in certain recipes. Some people take linseeds as a dietary supplement for their potential health benefits, which include improving digestion, reducing inflammation, and lowering cholesterol levels. However, it is important to note that more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits.

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Etymology

The word “flaxseed” is derived from the Old English word “fleax,” which is itself derived from the Latin word “linum,” meaning “flax.” Flax is a plant that has been cultivated for thousands of years for the fibers in its stem, which are used to make linen cloth. The seed of the flax plant is known as flaxseed.

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Global statistics about flaxseed

According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the total global production of flaxseed in 2021 was around 2.2 million metric tons, with the majority of production occurring in Russia, China, and Canada.

Global statistics about flaxseed

In terms of land area, the FAO estimates that flax was cultivated on around 2.3 million hectares of land globally in 2021. The largest area of flax cultivation was in Russia, followed by China and Canada. Here is a list with more detailed global statistics on flaxseed production:

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  1. Russia = 1,000,000 metric tons
  2. China = 500,000 metric tons
  3. Canada = 300,000 metric tons
  4. India = 100,000 metric tons
  5. Kazakhstan = 50,000 metric tons
  6. Other countries = 250,000 metric tons

The use of flaxseeds as food and as a source of oil can be traced back to ancient civilizations, including the ancient Egyptians, who used flaxseeds as a source of food and as a component of medicinal remedies. Linseeds were also used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a source of oil and as food.

Further, in terms of the domestication of flaxseeds, it is also thought that the plant was first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent, a region in the Middle East, around 8000 BCE. From there, it spread to other parts of the world as it was cultivated for its seeds.

General Uses of Flaxseed

There are two main types of flaxseed: brown and golden. Brown flaxseeds are more commonly available and have a nutty flavor, while golden flaxseeds have a milder flavor. Both types are equally nutritious and can be used in a variety of dishes, including smoothies, baked goods, and salads. It is important to note that linseeds should be ground before consuming to maximize their nutritional benefits, as whole flaxseeds are difficult for the body to digest. It can also be pressed to produce flaxseed oil.

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General Uses of Flax seed

Here are some examples of how flaxseeds can be used in dietary applications:

  1. Ground flaxseeds can be added to smoothies as a way to boost the fiber and nutrient content. For example, you can add a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds to your smoothie along with your favorite fruits, vegetables, and protein source.
  2. Flaxseeds can be used as an egg replacer in vegan baking. To do this, mix 1 tablespoon of ground linseeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let it sit for a few minutes until it forms a gel-like consistency. This mixture can be used in place of 1 egg in a recipe.
  3. Flaxseeds can be added to oatmeal or yogurt as a way to add a nutty flavor and boost the fiber content. For example, you can sprinkle a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds over your oatmeal or mix them into your yogurt.
  4. Flaxseeds can be used to thicken sauces and soups. To do this, mix a tablespoon of ground linseeds with a few tablespoons of water and add it to your sauce or soup as it is cooking.
  5. Flaxseed oil can be used as a healthy alternative to vegetable oil in baking recipes. It can also be used in salad dressings and dips as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
  6. Flaxseeds can be added to energy bars, granola bars, and other snack recipes as a way to boost the fiber and nutrient content. Simply mix a few tablespoons of ground flaxseeds into the dry ingredients before forming the bars.
  7. Flaxseeds can be used to make a healthy, low-carb alternative to breadcrumbs. To do this, grind flaxseeds in a coffee grinder or food processor until they are a fine, crumbly texture. You can then use the flaxseed “breadcrumbs” to coat chicken or fish before baking or frying.
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Here are a few more examples of how flaxseeds can be used in non-dietary applications:

  1. Flaxseeds can be used to make natural, homemade beauty products such as facial masks and exfoliants. To make a flaxseed facial mask, mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with a few tablespoons of water to form a paste. Apply the paste to your face and leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing off.
  2. Flaxseeds can be used as a natural hair conditioner. To do this, mix a handful of ground linseeds with water to form a paste and apply it to your hair. Leave the paste on for 20-30 minutes before rinsing off.
  3. Flaxseeds can be used to make a natural, homemade cleaner. To do this, mix a cup of ground flaxseeds with a few cups of water and let the mixture sit for a few hours or overnight. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and use the liquid as a natural cleaner.
  4. Flaxseeds can be used as a natural pest deterrent. Simply sprinkle a small amount of ground linseeds around the perimeter of your garden or in areas where you have a pest problem. The flaxseeds will give off a strong smell that will deter pests from entering the area.
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Health Benefits of Flaxseed

It is important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the potential health benefits of flaxseeds and how they should be incorporated into the diet. However, some studies have suggested that consuming linseeds may have a number of health benefits, including reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improving bowel regularity, and reducing the risk of breast cancer. Here is the list of potential health advantages of flaxseed:

Reduce constipation

Flaxseeds are a good source of fiber, with a tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseeds providing 2 grams of fiber. Consuming enough fiber can help improve bowel regularity and reduce constipation. It is recommended to consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that consuming a combination of ground flaxseeds and water was effective in relieving constipation in elderly patients. Another study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that consuming linseeds improved bowel movements and reduced constipation in women with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Maintain heart health

Flaxseed may help maintain heart health due to its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is essential for maintaining heart health. They help reduce inflammation throughout the body, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease.

potential health advantages of flaxseed

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming linseeds improved cholesterol levels and reduced the risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women. Another study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that consuming flaxseeds improved blood pressure and reduced the risk of heart disease in men and women with high cholesterol levels.

Reduce the risk of cancer (breast/prostate)

There is some evidence to suggest that consuming flaxseeds may help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Flaxseeds are high in plant compounds called lignans, which have estrogen-like effects and may have a protective effect against certain types of cancer, including breast cancer.

One study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention looked at the relationship between lignan intake and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. The study found that women with the highest lignan intake had a lower risk of breast cancer compared to women with the lowest lignan intake.

Another study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment examined the effects of flaxseeds on breast cancer cell growth in a laboratory setting. The study found that flaxseeds slowed the growth of breast cancer cells and induced cell death.

Flaxseed improves skin health

Flaxseeds are high in antioxidants, which can help protect the skin from free radical damage and improve overall skin health. You can consume flaxseeds as part of your diet or use flaxseed oil topically on your skin as a moisturizer.

Flax seed improves health

One study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology examined the effects of a flaxseed-based diet on skin health in a group of postmenopausal women. The study found that the women who consumed linseeds had improved skin elasticity and moisture content compared to the control group.

Another study published in the journal Nutrition Research examined the effects of flaxseeds on skin health in a group of women with eczema. The study found that the women who consumed linseeds had improved skin hydration and reduced eczema symptoms compared to the control group.

May improve hair and nail health

The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds may help improve hair and nail health, making them stronger and more lustrous. One study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology examined the effects of a flaxseed-based diet on hair and nail health in a group of postmenopausal women. The study found that the women who consumed flaxseeds had improved hair density, thickness, and overall hair health compared to the control group.

Another study published in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology examined the effects of flaxseed oil on nail health in a group of women. The study found that the women who applied flaxseed oil to their nails had improved nail strength and reduced splitting and breaking compared to the control group.

May reduce inflammation

Flaxseeds contain compounds called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and lignans, which may have anti-inflammatory effects. One study published in the journal Nutrition Research examined the effects of flaxseeds on inflammation in a group of overweight and obese men. The study found that the men who consumed linseeds had reduced levels of inflammatory markers in their blood compared to the control group.

Another study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer examined the effects of flaxseeds on inflammation in a group of women with breast cancer. The study found that the women who consumed flaxseeds had reduced levels of inflammatory markers in their blood and improved immune function compared to the control group.

Flaxseed improves brain function

Flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health and function. Omega-3 fatty acids may help improve brain function by reducing inflammation in the brain and improving blood flow.

One study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience examined the effects of flaxseeds on brain function in a group of older adults. The study found that the adults who consumed flaxseeds had improved cognitive function, including memory, attention, and processing speed, compared to the control group.

Another study published in the journal PLOS ONE examined the effects of flaxseeds on brain function in a group of postmenopausal women. The study found that the women who consumed linseeds had improved brain function, including memory and verbal fluency, compared to the control group.

May improve bone health

Flaxseeds have been shown to improve bone health through several mechanisms. According to a review published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, flaxseeds contain high levels of lignans, which are plant compounds that have estrogenic activity. Estrogen is known to play a role in bone health, and low estrogen levels have been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis.

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In addition to their lignan content, flaxseeds also contain high levels of dietary fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, which may also contribute to their positive effects on bone health.

One study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that postmenopausal women who consumed flaxseeds had significantly higher bone density compared to those who did not consume flaxseeds. Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that flaxseeds improved bone strength in rats.

Flaxseed reduce the risk of diabetes

Some studies have suggested that consuming flaxseeds may help improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. A review published in the journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy, flaxseeds contain high levels of fiber, lignans, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which may all contribute to their blood sugar-lowering effects.

Flax seed reduce the risk of diabetes

One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming flaxseeds improved insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese individuals. Additionally, a review published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease found that flaxseeds may also help lower cholesterol levels, which is a risk factor for diabetes.

May improve digestion

The high fiber content of flaxseeds may help improve digestion and reduce the risk of digestive issues. In addition to their fiber content, flaxseeds also contain lignans, which may have a prebiotic effect, meaning they can help to support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

According to a review published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fibers, both of which may contribute to their positive effects on digestion. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance when it comes into contact with water, which can help to slow down digestion and keep you feeling full for longer. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, adds bulk to the stools and helps to promote regular bowel movements.

May improve weight management

Consuming flaxseeds may help improve weight management due to their high fiber content. One study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that consuming flaxseeds as part of a low-calorie diet led to significant weight loss and reduced waist circumference in overweight and obese individuals. This may be due, in part, to the high fiber content of flaxseeds, which can help you feel fuller and more satisfied after eating, leading to less overall food intake.

Another study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that adding ground flaxseeds to a weight loss diet led to a significant reduction in body weight and body fat, as well as a decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol and an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.

May improve immune function

The high levels of antioxidants in flaxseeds may help improve immune function and reduce the risk of infections. One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that linseeds may have immune-boosting effects due to their high content of polyphenols, antioxidants that help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Another study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that consuming flaxseeds may improve markers of immune function in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, some research suggests that the lignans found in flaxseeds may have anti-inflammatory effects, which could potentially help boost the immune system.

May reduce menopausal symptoms

The lignans in flaxseeds may help reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. One study published in the Journal of Women’s Health found that consuming linseeds as part of a low-fat diet led to a significant reduction in hot flash frequency and severity in postmenopausal women.

Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that consuming flaxseeds led to a significant reduction in hot flash frequency and severity, as well as an improvement in overall quality of life, in postmenopausal women.

May reduce the risk of kidney stones

Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that can form in the kidneys. Consuming flaxseeds may help reduce the risk of kidney stones due to their high content of dietary fiber and mucilage.

One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that increasing dietary fiber intake was associated with a reduced risk of kidney stones in both men and women.

Another study published in the Journal of Urology found that consuming flaxseeds reduced the risk of recurrent kidney stones in individuals who had a history of the condition. This may be due, in part, to the high fiber and mucilage content of flaxseeds, which can help reduce the absorption of calcium and other minerals that can contribute to the formation of kidney stones.

Side Effects of Flaxseed

Flaxseeds are generally considered to be safe when consumed in moderate amounts as part of a healthy diet. However, like any food, they can cause side effects in some people. Here are some potential side effects of flaxseeds to be aware of:

1. Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to flaxseeds and may experience symptoms such as hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. If you experience any of these symptoms after consuming flaxseeds, it’s important to stop consuming them and speak with a healthcare provider.

Side Effects of Flaxseed

2. Digestive issues: Consuming large amounts of flaxseeds may cause digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. This is due, in part, to the high fiber content of linseeds, which can absorb water and expand in the digestive tract. It’s important to start with a small serving of flaxseeds and gradually increase your intake to allow your body to adjust to the increased fiber.

3. Interactions with medications: Flaxseeds may interact with certain medications, including blood thinners, blood pressure medications, and drugs that are metabolized by the liver. It’s important to speak with your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications before adding flaxseeds to your diet.

4. Hormonal changes: Flaxseeds contain lignans, which have estrogen-like effects in the body. As a result, consuming large amounts of flaxseeds may alter hormone levels and potentially affect fertility, menstrual cycles, and menopausal symptoms. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider before adding linseeds to your diet.

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5. Lower blood pressure: Some research suggests that consuming flaxseeds may lower blood pressure. While this may be beneficial for individuals with high blood pressure, it may also potentially cause blood pressure to drop too low in individuals who already have low blood pressure.

6. Increased risk of bleeding: Flaxseeds may increase the risk of bleeding in some individuals, particularly if they are consuming large amounts of flaxseeds or are taking blood thinning medications. It’s important to speak with a healthcare provider if you are taking any blood thinning medications before adding flaxseeds to your diet.

7. Decreased absorption of certain nutrients: Flaxseeds may decrease the absorption of certain nutrients, such as calcium, iron, and zinc. It’s important to ensure that you are getting enough of these nutrients from other sources if you are consuming flaxseeds regularly.

Dosage of flaxseed

There is no specific best time of day to eat flaxseeds. It’s generally recommended to incorporate flaxseeds into your diet in a way that works for you and your lifestyle. Some people prefer to consume flaxseeds in the morning as part of their breakfast, while others may prefer to incorporate them into their lunch or dinner. It’s also fine to consume flaxseeds as a snack throughout the day.

Dosage of flaxseed

Further, the appropriate dosage of flaxseeds will depend on your age, sex, and overall health status. It’s generally recommended to start with a small serving of flaxseeds and gradually increase your intake to allow your body to adjust to the increased fiber.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, a general guideline for flaxseed intake is as follows:

  • Adults: 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds per day
  • Children: 1 teaspoon of ground flaxseeds per day

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines and that you should speak with a healthcare provider before adding flaxseeds to your diet, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions.

It’s also important to store flaxseeds properly to ensure that they remain fresh and retain their nutritional value. Flaxseeds should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent them from going rancid. Ground flaxseeds should be used within a few days of grinding, as they can lose their nutritional value over time.

Here is a detailed guide for using, buying, and storing flaxseeds:

  1. Look for flaxseeds that are golden or brown in color, as they tend to have a milder, nuttier flavor than darker flaxseeds. This is because lighter colored flaxseeds are generally lower in lignans, which can have a slightly bitter taste.
  2. Store flaxseeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent them from going rancid. Flaxseeds contain polyunsaturated fats, which are prone to oxidation and can become rancid when exposed to heat, light, and oxygen. Storing flaxseeds in the refrigerator or freezer can help to extend their shelf life.
  3. Grind flaxseeds in a coffee grinder or blender before consuming them to ensure that they are properly digested. Flaxseeds have a hard outer shell that can be difficult for the body to break down. Grinding the seeds allows your body to better absorb the nutrients they contain.
  4. Use ground flaxseeds within a few days of grinding, as they can lose their nutritional value over time. It’s best to grind only the amount of flaxseeds that you will use within a few days.
  5. Mix ground flaxseeds into oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt, or sprinkle them over salads and other dishes. This is an easy way to add a boost of fiber and nutrients to your diet.
  6. Add ground flaxseeds to baked goods such as bread, muffins, or cookies to boost their nutritional content. Flaxseeds can be used as a substitute for some of the fat in baked goods, which can help to reduce the calorie and fat content of the recipe.
  7. Start with a small serving of flaxseeds and gradually increase your intake to allow your body to adjust to the increased fiber. Consuming large amounts of flaxseeds may cause digestive symptoms such as bloating and gas.

Nutritional properties of flaxseed

Flaxseeds are a good source of several important nutrients, including dietary fiber, lignans, and omega-3 fatty acids. Here is a more detailed breakdown of the nutritional content of flaxseeds per 1 ounce (28 grams) as a percentage of the daily value (DV):

Nutritional properties of flaxseed

  • Calories: 150 (8% DV)
  • Protein: 5 grams (10% DV)
  • Fat: 8 grams (12% DV)
  • Saturated fat: 1 gram (5% DV)
  • Monounsaturated fat: 2 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams (3% DV)
  • Dietary fiber: 6 grams (24% DV)
  • Sugars: 1 gram
  • Sodium: 0 milligrams (0% DV)
  • Potassium: 150 milligrams (4% DV)
  • Lignans: 260 milligrams
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 6.8 grams

Flaxseeds are also a good source of several essential vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 0.2 milligrams (8% DV)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 0.3 milligrams (10% DV)
  • Iron: 2.2 milligrams (10% DV)
  • Magnesium: 80 milligrams (20% DV)
  • Phosphorus: 84 milligrams (10% DV)

It’s important to note that these values are for 1 ounce (28 grams) of flaxseeds, which is considered a serving size. The daily values (DVs) for these nutrients may vary depending on your age, sex, and overall health status. It’s also important to consume a varied diet to ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients you need.

Conclusion

Flaxseed is a nutrient-rich food that can be easily incorporated into a healthy diet. These tiny seeds pack a punch when it comes to nutrition, providing a good source of fiber, lignans, and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to their nutritional benefits, flaxseeds have been shown to have potential health benefits such as improving digestion, reducing cholesterol levels, and improving skin health. While flaxseeds are generally considered to be safe when consumed in moderate amounts, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider before adding them to your diet, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions.

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