- Shannon Crocker MSc RD & Jessica Rego MHSC RD
5 Fantastic Reasons to Eat Flax
Flaxseeds. They're not on the top of the food trend lists at the moment. In fact, they’ve been around for a while – and you’ve likely heard of them, if not already tried them yourself. And maybe you've forgotten about them. Flax is nutty, crunchy, and usually in recipes it plays more of a supporting role. Flaxseeds are something you might just add to a dish for a little crunch.
BUT, when it comes to nutrition, flax is a star!
Flax contains both soluble and insoluble fibre; both are beneficial for health. In fact, 1 tablespoon (15ml/7.1g) of ground flaxseeds will give you 2g of fibre (plus a little over 1g of protein).
It's time to consider adding flax to your diet again, here's why!
Here are 5 Facts on Flax (try saying that three times fast).
Flaxseeds may help:
1. Lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure (a risk factor for heart disease) according to this study.
2. Lower total cholesterol and LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol (also a risk factor for heart disease), says this study.
Proof is in the pudding (or labelling claim in this case): Health Canada approved a health claim reviewing evidence showing a link between consuming ground whole flaxseeds and lowering blood cholesterol.
3. Flaxseeds are loaded with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is a type of omega-3 fat (aka a healthy fat), that may help to decrease your risk of heart disease. One systematic review and meta-analysis looking at several studies suggests alpha-linolenic acid has an association with moderately lower risk of heart disease.
Woot! Over 50% of the fat content found in flaxseeds are omega-3 fat ALA’s!
Quick Tip: Give flaxseed oil a try (drizzle on salads, add to smoothies), as it will give you a boost in ALA omega-3 fats. But keep in mind that flaxseed oil doesn’t have the fibre, protein, or lignan content found in the seed.
4. Relieve menopausal symptoms of hot flashes, although results from studies have been mixed. (Hey, if you’ve lived through hot flashes, it’s worth a try!)
5. Lower risk of breast cancer, as seen in this paper. Flaxseeds contain a rich source of lignans (phytonutrient), a compound in plants that may play a protective role against some cancers.
Quick Tip: Make sure to grind flaxseeds to get the full benefits of the healthy fats and lignans. You can find whole flaxseeds available in two colours, a dark brown and a golden hue. When it comes to fibre, omega-3 fats, lignans, and protein, you’ll get the same nutritional benefits.
One final word: we think flax is super; but it’s not a miracle food. In fact, there’s no one ‘super food’ that will make or break your health on its own. As always, an overall healthy eating pattern is what counts. In our books, flax definitely fits into a healthier diet to build a better you.
And, if you have any special health considerations/diets or are pregnant/lactating and not sure about flax, talk to your health care professional before adding more flax into your day.
Jessica and Shannon
Caligiuri SP et al. Flaxseed consumption reduces blood pressure in patients with hypertension by altering circulating oxylipins via an α-linolenic acid-induced inhibition of soluble epoxide hydrolase. Hypertension. 2014;64(1):53-59. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.114.03179.
Edel AL et al. Dietary flaxseed independently lowers circulating cholesterol and lowers it beyond the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications alone in patients with peripheral artery disease. J Nutr. 2015;145(4):749-757. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.204594.
Flax Council of Canada. Retrieved from https://flaxcouncil.ca/
Flower G et al. Flax and Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review. Integr Cancer Ther. 2014;13(3):181-192. doi: 10.1177/1534735413502076.
Health Canada. Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch Health Canada. (2014). Summary of Health Canada's Assessment of a Health Claim about Ground Whole Flaxseed and Blood Cholesterol Lowering. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/fn-an/alt_formats/pdf/label-etiquet/claims-reclam/assess-evalu/flaxseed-graines-de-lin-eng.pdf
HealthyFlax.org. Retrieved from https://healthyflax.org/
Pan A et al. a-Linolenic acid and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(6):1262-1273. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.044040.
Pruthi S et al. Pilot evaluation of flaxseed for the management of hot flashes. J Soc Integr Oncol. 2007;5(3):106-112
Pruthi S et al. A phase III, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of flaxseed for the treatment of hot flashes: North Central Cancer Treatment Group N08C7. Menopause. 2012;19(1):48-53. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318223b021.
Values on nutrition content is taken from the Canadian Nutrient File.
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