It’s no secret I’ve been a huge fan of flaxseed for many years. We’ve had it available in the dining halls for a long time along with a posting of some of the potential health benefits. Let’s revisit those here and add even more benefits to the list.
What initially got me most excited about flaxseed was its benefits related to lowering the risk for hormonally driven cancers - especially breast and prostate. Dr. Bob Arnot (an ND grad) wrote about these benefits in his books, The Breast Cancer Prevention Diet and The Prostate Cancer Prevention Diet. Flaxseeds are a top source of a phytonutrient called lignans. These compounds possess antioxidant and estrogen-like properties which help explain their ability to lower cancer risk. Ingestion of flaxseed or bread containing this ingredient was associated with a 20% reduction in the risk of breast cancer (Lowcock et al., 2013). There is also a possibility that lignans could prolong the lifespan of patients with breast cancer (Mason & Thompson, 2014). In addition, some studies have shown that consuming 25 grams of flaxseed a day may reduce tumor growth in individuals with breast or prostate cancer (MD Anderson, 2019).
Next is the sheer nutritional power of flaxseed. It is rich in magnesium, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorus, copper, potassium, selenium, iron, and calcium. It is also high in fiber and omega- 3 fatty acids. The fiber helps support regularity and acts as a prebiotic to feed the good microbiome in your gut. The type of omega-3 fatty acids found in flax, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), has been linked with a lower risk for heart disease and a lower risk of heart attack (Vaszily, 2021). In addition, multiple studies have also shown a connection between ALA and a reduction in stroke risk (Vaszily, 2021). And to round out its cardiovascular benefits, flaxseed has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol, while also raising HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering blood pressure!
A newer touted health benefit of flaxseed is its ability to combat chronic inflammation. Its omega-3 content, fiber level, and antioxidant activity are the three main sources attributed to this benefit. Chronic inflammation is also referred to as slow, long-term inflammation lasting several months to years (Pahwa et al., 2021). The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks chronic diseases as the greatest threat to human health. The prevalence of diseases associated with chronic inflammation is anticipated to increase persistently for the next 30 years in the United States (Pahwa et al., 2021). Worldwide, 3 of 5 people die due to chronic inflammatory diseases like stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, and diabetes (Pahwa et al., 2021). By improving dietary habits and incorporating flaxseed, we can begin to make a dent in these statistics.
One important tip with flaxseed is that you want to eat it in the ground form. If the seed isn’t ground, it will simply pass through the body without being able to work its magic. The fat can also go rancid, so be sure to store it in the refrigerator. Strive for 1 to 2 tablespoons a day. Sprinkle it on cereal, oatmeal, salad, yogurt, toast, applesauce, pancakes, cereal, peanut butter sandwiches, ice cream, smoothies, and whatever else you think has potential. In South Dining Hall the flax is in a glass shaker jar on the backside of the salad bar. In North Dining Hall, it too may be found on the salad bar in a shaker.
Lowcock, E. C., Cotterchio, M., & Boucher, B. A. (2013). Consumption of flaxseed, a rich source of lignans, is associated with reduced breast cancer risk. Cancer causes & control : CCC, 24(4), 813–816. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10552-013-0155-7
Mason, J. K., & Thompson, L. U. (2014). Flaxseed and its lignan and oil components: can they play a role in reducing the risk of and improving the treatment of breast cancer?. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism = Physiologie appliquee, nutrition et metabolisme, 39(6), 663–678. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2013-0420
Adams, M. (2019, August 9). 3 nutrients cancer survivors should know. MD Anderson Cancer Center. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from mdanderson.org
Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2021 Sep 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/
Vaszily, B. (2021, December 6). 9 Incredible Health Benefits of Flaxseeds. The Art of Anti-Aging. Retrieved December 7, 2021, from theartofantiaging.com