Flaxseeds have been consumed for at least 6,000 years, making them one of the world’s first cultivated superfoods. Flaxseeds, sometimes called linseeds, are small, brown, tan or golden-colored seeds. In fact, linseed or “flax seed” are different names for the same seed.
1. High in Fiber But Low in Carbs
One of the most extraordinary benefits of flaxseed is that flax contains high levels of mucilage gum content, a gel-forming fiber that is water-soluble and therefore moves through the gastrointestinal tract undigested. Once eaten, mucilage from flaxseeds can keep food in the stomach from emptying too quickly into the small intestine, which can increase nutrient absorption and make you feel fuller. Because the fiber found in flaxseed is not able to be broken down in the digestive tract, some of the calories that flax contains won’t even be absorbed.
2. High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We hear a lot about the health benefits of fish oil and omega-3 fats lately, which is one reason why flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds have become known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Fish oil contains EPA and DHA, two omega-3 fats obtained only from animal foods that are critical for optimal health. Although flaxseeds do not contain EPA or DHA, they do contain the type of omega-3 called ALA, which acts somewhat differently in the body compared to EPA/DHA.
3. Helps Make Skin and Hair Healthy
Why is flaxseed good for your hair? Flaxseeds benefits for hair include making it shinier, stronger and more resistant to damage. The ALA fats in flaxseeds benefit the skin and hair by providing essential fatty acids as well as B vitamins, which can help reduce dryness and flakiness. It can also improve the symptoms of acne, rosacea, and eczema. The same benefits also apply to eye health, as flax can help reduce dry eye syndrome due to its lubricating effects.
4. Helps Lower Cholesterol and Treat Hyperlipidemia
A study published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism found that adding flaxseeds into your diet can naturally reduce cholesterol levels by increasing the amount of fat excreted through bowel movements. (6a) The soluble fiber content of flaxseed traps fat and cholesterol in the digestive system so it’s unable to be absorbed. Soluble flax fiber also traps bile, which is made from cholesterol in the gallbladder. The bile is then excreted through the digestive system, forcing the body to make more, using up excess cholesterol in the blood and therefore lowering cholesterol.
Using flax is a great way to naturally replace gluten-containing grains in recipes. Grains, especially those containing gluten, can be hard to digest for many people, but flax is usually easily metabolized and also anti-inflammatory.
6. High in Antioxidants (Lignans)
One of the greatest benefits of flaxseed is that it’s packed with antioxidants, specifically the type called lignans that are unique fiber-related polyphenols. Lignans provide us with antioxidants that help reduce free radical damage, therefore flax has anti-aging, hormonal-balancing and cellular-regenerating effects. They are found in unprocessed plant foods, including seeds, whole grains, beans, berries, and nuts. Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor gut health, smoking, antibiotics and obesity, all affect circulating lignan levels in the body, which is why a nutrient-dense diet is important for restoring levels.
7. Supports Digestive Health
One of the most well-researched benefits of flaxseed is its ability to promote digestive health. The ALA in flax can help reduce inflammation and protect the lining of the GI tract. Flaxseed has been shown to be beneficial for people suffering from Crohn’s disease and other digestive ailments. Plus, it promotes beneficial gut flora even in people with “normal” digestive systems. The fiber found in flaxseeds provides food for friendly bacteria in your colon that can help cleanse waste from your system.