A common ingredient or topping found in health foods of all types, flaxseeds are growing in popularity and is now commonplace in supermarket aisles alongside other nuts and seeds.
Grown best in cooler climates, it’s a crop that we Brits have decent access to all year round, making it easy to get hold of and not too expensive to add into your everyday diet.
However, despite consuming flaxseeds in meal replacement shakes, smoothie bowls and cereal bars (amongst a myriad of other foods!), few of us understand the health benefits of flaxseeds and their nutritional content.
So, want to know more about what’s really in these tiny dots of brown seed and what they could do for your health and wellbeing? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Flaxseed?
You may have heard of flaxseeds previously but not realised it; as they’re also commonly known as linseed. This crop is cultivated for both food and fabric purposes, and here in the UK (and the majority of the Western world), the fabric made from linseed is called linen. You no doubt have some linen products in your house, so this important little ingredient is already embedded in your life in some way, shape or form!
For the rest of this article, we’ll refer to the ingredient as flax or flaxseeds, but both iterations are correct and mean exactly the same thing. Crop-wise, the flax varieties tend to have slightly longer stems and are grown more for food than fibre: but both are otherwise identical, and likewise can be used for both purposes.
Flaxseeds are best grown in cooler and non-tropical climates, even here in the UK. The seeds can be harvested and are sometimes processed into oil, but more commonly are used as-is or ground into a powder. Flaxseeds exist in two varieties: brown or yellow (but often known as ‘golden’, to make it more appealing to consumers!). Both are essentially the same in nutritional profile but are aesthetically different.
Are Flaxseeds Good for You?
Flaxseeds have been known as a healthy food for centuries, but the exact health benefits have only been completely understood recently, as a result of scientific and medical studies into the ingredient. Such studies have uncovered rich nutritional values and an abundance of fibre and Omega-3 fatty acids, which have led to them being labelled as a ‘superfood’.
Regular consumption of flaxseeds as a dietary additive is positive and fits well with an otherwise rounded and balanced diet, which is why we at Nutribuddy include them in several of our products!
Flaxseeds Nutrition: The Lowdown
The nutritional content of brown flaxseeds and golden flaxseeds varies slightly, but not enough that you should consume one over the other. On average, you’ll find a standard serving of ground flaxseeds is about a tablespoon’s worth. Within this tablespoon, you can expect to find:
1597mg Omega-3 fatty acids,
8% RDI Vitamin B1,
2% RDI Vitamin B6,
2% RDI Calcium,
2% RDI Folate,
2% RDI Iron,
7% RDI Magnesium,
4% RDI Phosphorous,
and 2% RDI Potassium.
These numbers may seem low but remember that these are teeny tiny seeds we’re talking about, which are often ground up. The mix of vitamins, minerals and nutrients within them mean that flaxseed’s health benefits are considerably more powerful than you may expect from something so small!
5 Amazing Flaxseeds Benefits
Flaxseeds Are a Brilliant Weight Loss Aid
Just one portion of flaxseeds contains around 10% of your recommended daily intake of dietary fibre; which promotes satiety and keeps you feeling fuller for longer! There are two types of fibre within foods, and most contain one of the two – but flaxseeds have both, both soluble and insoluble. Fibre is indigestible, so you’ll pass it, but it can help speed up some bodily functions on its journey through.
Soluble fibre soaks up liquid and turns into a gel-like consistency in the intestines. This spreads out and lines the intestines, preventing the body from absorbing all of the fats it’s taken on. Slowing down this metabolic function makes the consumer feel fuller faster, as well as stopping them absorbing too many calories and helping mediate the blood sugar, avoiding any sudden leaps or drops.
Insoluble fibre does not change shape or solidify at all as it passes through the body. However, it continues to absorb fluid, and so sits in the gastrointestinal tract. This means its presence speeds up the waste functions of the body and as it attracts other food by-products and indigestible material, helping to prevent constipation and intestinal blockage.
It’s been clinically proven that a high-fibre diet can help you lose weight; so consuming flaxseeds really is an easy way to up your intake!
Goodbye, High Cholesterol – Flaxseeds to the Rescue!
Cholesterol is a fatty substance in the body, and whilst everyone has some of it, it can easily build up in the blood vessels and cause damage. There are lots of dietary and lifestyle factors that can contribute to an individual’s cholesterol levels, but it can also be down to unlucky genetics.
High cholesterol levels can block blood vessels, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. There are several medicines used to treat high cholesterol levels to try and mediate them in a safe way, but those on them will need to take them for life. So, if you can keep your levels in check without medicating, it’s definitely preferable.
Flaxseeds contain Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), a plant-based Omega 3 fatty acid. It’s an ‘essential’ fatty acid, which means that it has to be consumed through food as it isn’t produced by the body naturally. ALA has been shown to reduce cholesterol by blocking it from being deposited in the heart vessels. This, in turn, helps lower inflammation and prevent tumour growth. There’s still lots of exploration to be done into this field, but so far the medical studies yield positive results.
It’s an Amazing Source of Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that the body needs to stay healthy; particularly for heart health. Omega-3 fats help protect the heart in a variety of ways, including improving effective circulation, reducing the risk of clots, lowering blood pressure and lowering the number of triglycerides that enter the body after a meal. Don’t be misled by the word ‘fat’; these are good fats, and ones you should actively seek to consume!
Lots of foods considered healthy are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, and several of them are plant-based. Most have Omega-3 added to them, but flaxseeds contain the acids naturally without the need for artificial additions or overt processing. There are also Omega-3 supplements available, but it’s always preferable to gain nutrients from unprocessed whole foods.
Flaxseeds are a fantastic source of Omega-3 that can be easily added to a whole host of food and drinks – an ideal way to incorporate more of these brilliant fatty acids into your diet!
Flaxseeds Have No Time for High Blood Pressure!
Blood pressure is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body. Too low a blood pressure can result in fainting and dizziness, but too high a blood pressure puts an additional strain on the body’s vital organs – so there’s a fine balance to be struck!
High blood pressure is more common than low and can be extremely dangerous. It may display no symptoms but increases the risk of several life-threatening illnesses including heart disease, kidney disease and vascular dementia.
A clinical investigation into the regular consumption of flaxseeds as part of a well-balanced diet significantly decreased blood pressure. Reviewing a whopping 15 previously published clinical trials, this study concluded that flaxseeds and flaxseed powder were hugely beneficial in reducing otherwise dangerous pressure levels.
You don’t need to already be suffering from high blood pressure to need to balance yours, so stay mindful of it regardless. Plus, consuming flaxseeds won’t slow down blood pressure that’s already too low, so you don’t need to avoid flaxseeds if you suspect yours is a little on the slow side!
They Can Even Help You Wave Goodbye to Menopause Symptoms
Lots of women can identify with the symptoms of the menopause as their bodies fluctuate hormonally every month, but those going through it, know that it can be devastating to health and wellbeing. Aside from the menstrual irregularities as a woman’s periods peter out to end, menopausal symptoms include hot flushes (severely, to the point of sweating and dizziness, in some cases), night sweats, urinary problems, insomnia, weight gain, mood swings, migraines, fatigue and cognitive changes. However minimal or severe, all can have a huge impact on day-to-day life, so usually, any intervention or reduction of symptoms is welcomed!
There are a million and one ‘miracle cures’, herbal remedies and supplements available to help combat menopausal discomfort, but few have been medically proven or investigated into.
Anecdotally, the consumption of flaxseeds has been said to improve menopausal symptoms amongst women suffering, but it wasn’t until 2015 this was properly looked into. And it turned out not to be an old wives tale after all! An obstetrics and gynaecology study involving 140 women found that amongst women who consumed flaxseeds regularly for three months, their menopausal symptoms decreased and their quality of life tangibly increased!
Flaxseeds Side Effects: Should You Be Worried?
As with any food, flaxseeds aren’t perfect, and it is possible for individuals to be allergic to them.
The number of flaxseeds in Nutribuddy products are well measured and curated to fit into a wider healthy diet and active lifestyle, so you can be sure that you won’t be eating too many of them. However, should you eat too many flaxseeds through any other method of consumption, side effects can include bloating, flatulence, stomach ache and diarrhoea. These side effects are more common with the intake of too much flaxseed oil, rather than the seeds themselves or ground seeds.
Unless you have a specific dietary need that means you shouldn’t eat flaxseeds, you shouldn’t worry about their side effects. Your body will be making a lot of adjustments and begin feeling different as you embark on a healthier, more prosperous, diet, so remain mindful that any minor side effects could be as a result of any ingredient you’re newly consuming.
The health effects of flaxseeds far outweigh the risk of any uncomfortable side effects, so don’t hesitate to give them a go to start enjoying their incredible benefits.
The Bottom Line
For what may look like small grey dots, flaxseeds more than a pack a punch nutrition-wise. A great weight loss aid that can help lower cholesterol, mediate blood pressure, boost Omega-3 and even reduce the symptoms of the menopause, these super seeds really have it all.
What’s more, you can add flaxseed to pretty much any dessert, yoghurt, cereal or smoothie – or, of course, a delicious Nutribuddy shake! Flaxseeds add texture and a great vitamin boost to drinks, so if there’s not already sufficient in your beverage, grab a spoonful and mix them in!
It’s easy to become disillusioned with the number of seeds and dietary supplements now available on the health food market, but unlike some other ingredients, flaxseeds are nothing new. They have been famed for their health properties for centuries and continue to be enjoyed worldwide. As research continues into their many brilliant benefits, we’re sure that more will be uncovered and there will be even more to love about them!
Flaxseeds are rich in nutrition and their health benefits varied and vast. You’ll find them in several Nutribuddy products but more can be added for a nutrient boost – ask us if you need more info on what they’ll pair best with and how to mix them in!