Flaxseed is a popular traditional food and remedy, as flaxseed and flaxseed oil, or linseed oil, contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid.
Omega-3 fats are important for maintaining the body’s health. Oily fish are a common source of some types of omega-3, but for non-fish eaters, alpha linolenic acid from vegetable oils, including flaxseed, are an alternative.
Lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. The soluble fiber in flaxseed has been shown to lower cholesterol, helping to prevent the buildup of plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to high blood pressure, stroke, or heart attack. Fiber is also believed to lower blood sugar levels, which is important for people who have type 2 diabetes.
Reduce bone loss. A study of diabetic rats showed a delay in bone loss after they were fed flaxseed, thanks to its concentration of fatty acids.
Help with weight management. Flax expands when ingested, making you feel fuller. You might want to take flax 30 minutes before meals to control your appetite.
Improve digestive health. The fiber in flaxseed can help relieve constipation and make you more regular.
Increase immunity. ALA has been shown to decrease inflammation, which allows your immune system to function better. Preliminary research suggests that flaxseed can help relieve autoimmune and inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and lupus.
Fight cancer. Studies show that flaxseed may have a role in fighting cancer, particularly colon and breast cancer. The benefit is based on its high concentration of lignans, which are believed to inhibit tumor growth.
However, chemical differences mean vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids may not be as heart-healthy as those from oily fish.
How much flaxseed should you take?
There is no set dose for flaxseed. Flaxseed must be ground prior to ingestion or it won’t be able to provide benefits for the health conditions described. Ask your doctor or a dietitian for advice.
Flaxseed can be mixed with liquid or food, such as muffins or bread. For better absorption, some people grind whole flaxseed before using it.