The omega-3 fatty acids have a balancing role in the diet. They correct imbalances in modern diets that lead to health problems. Nutritionists caution that the amount of omega-3 fatty acids eaten in North America no longer meets our bodies' needs. You can balance your consumption of fatty acids by adding flax to your diet. Current research shows eating flax seed provides health benefits.
A Lower Risk for Heart Disease: Nutritionists advise paying attention to the kinds of fats eaten. They suggest you eat less saturated fat and trans fats, and more polyunsaturated fat – which flax provides. Studies show a diet high in ALA reduces the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol and by preventing the buildup of harmful deposits in arteries. In other studies, where scientists studied large groups of people to find disease trends, increasing the ALA content of the diet corresponded to a decrease in risk of stroke and heart disease.
Prevention of Some Forms of Cancer: The link between diet and cancer is well-known. Flax contains dietary fibre and omega-3 fat in the form of ALA, which can reduce the risk of cancer. Furthermore, studies showed the ALA in flax slowed inflammation which led to cell growth in cancer. Another study on women newly diagnosed with breast cancer showed a slowing of tumour growth with the addition of flax to their diet.
Treatment of Immune Disorders: The lignans and ALA in flax help prevent inflammation that affects the body's immune system. Flax in the diet may be useful in the treatment of such immune disorders as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and lupus.
Diabetes: Studies show flax lowers blood glucose in healthy, young adults. The effect of flax in the diets of people with Type 2 diabetes is currently being investigated.
Relief from Constipation: Studies in older adults show eating flax helps increase the frequency of bowel movements.
Like any fibrous food, flax can upset your digestion if you add too much, too quickly. In a balanced diet, eating 5 g (1 teaspoon) of flax oil or 8 g (1 tablespoon) of milled flax daily provides enough ALA to meet dietary needs. Flax can be used in salads, smoothies, baked goods and mixes.
No, one flax seed is not better for you than another. Brown flax seeds provide the same nutritional benefits as golden (or yellow) ones. Both brown and golden flax seeds have plenty of lignans and dietary fibre, and both contain more than 50 per cent alpha-linolenic acid. This is an omega-3 fat which offers you health and heart fitness.
While some people prefer yellow-coloured seed in their cooking, brown flax seeds add the same nutrition to your diet as do golden ones. This means you can choose your flax seed freely. Brown flax seed may be more commonly found than golden, as more brown than golden flax seed is grown commercially.
Canadian flax is a high quality food. Flax contains the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA); fibre; and lignans (see table, below). Health experts prescribe these nutrients and other compounds for better health.
Omega-3 fatty acid. About 42% of flax seed is oil, and more than 70% of that oil is polyunsaturated fat, a healthy fat. Flax also contains 57% of the important omega-3 fatty acid, ALA.
Extra fibre. Flax seed contains soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre can lower blood cholesterol levels, while insoluble fibre moves the stool through the colon more quickly, helping bowel movements.
Lignans. Flax seed is also one of the richest plant sources of lignans, providing up to 800 times more lignans than most other foods in a vegetarian diet. Lignans are phytoestrogens – compounds that have been shown in laboratory studies of animals to help protect against certain kinds of cancer, particularly cancers of the breast and colon, by blocking tumour formation.
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