Flax Seed: A Superfood Or Just A Myth?
With an increase in the hecticity of life, inhabitants of the 21st century have yielded to ‘superfoods’ in order to obtain all the required daily intakes of fats, minerals, vitamins, fibers and proteins at a go. Superfoods are a marvellous gift of nature which are stuffed with immense quantities of the required nutrients for our body. Besides, they also contain loads of antioxidants which ward off different neurological and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. With such dense quantities of nutrients, superfoods are best for working individuals who usually miss their meals and fail to reach their daily limit of nutrients, further weakening their system and becoming prone to innumerable diseases. The most famous superfoods include blueberries, kale, nuts and salmon. Including them in our daily diet is extremely beneficial and healthy.
One of such superfoods, recently being marketed at a proliferating rate is Flaxseed. Also known as linseed, these brown little seeds loaded with sumptuous amount of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acid, proteins, fibers, antioxidants and lignans. The detailed benefits of flax seeds and flax oil have been listed below:
1. Excellent Source Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Primarily found in fishes like salmon, sardines and mackerel, Omega-3 fatty acids are the healthy fats essential for the well being of our body. Flax seeds contain a plant-based form of this acid known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA helps in preventing several cardiovascular diseases including heart attack. It lowers blood pressure, raises ‘good’ cholesterol in the body, reduces the number of triglycerides, prevents the clotting of blood vessels and possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Besides, omega-3 is also known to improve eye health, bone density, prevent cancer and protect the neurological and immune system. Just one tablespoon of flaxseeds contains 1597mg of omega-3 fatty acids. Hence it can be used as a vegan replacement for fish and fish oil.
2. Biggest Source Of Lignans
Flax seeds contain 800 times more lignan (a type of plant compound), than any other plant. Studies have revealed the antioxidant and estrogen properties of lignans, which act again the formation of cancers, especially breast cancer in women. Lignans provide phytoestrogen, a form of estrogen derived from plants, which block the production and level of mammalian estrogen in the body, hence reducing the risk of hormone-related cancers of the breast, uterus, ovary and prostrate. Besides, lignans also help to keep the heart healthy.
3. Full Of Dietary-Fibers
Dietary fibers are mainly present in fruits, vegetable, pulses and cereals. Some of them, being insoluble add bulk to the stool, preventing constipation. Since a massy stool is easier to excrete, fibers help in stabilizing bowel movements. Apart from this, fibers help in maintaining blood cholesterol level and controlling blood sugar (as it slows the absorption of sugar). Healthy digestive and excretory system prevent the manifestation of many ailments and help in attaining ideal body weight.
4. Benefactor Od High-Grade Proteins
Flaxseed protein which contains sumptuous amount of amino acids, aspartic acid, glutamic acid and arginine is a perfect replacement for meat. Such proteins are essential for the all-round development of the body including the proper functioning of the immune system, lowering of cholesterol, improving bone health, digestive system and protection against cancers.
Therefore, no doubt one can call the flaxseed a real ‘superfood’ due to its innumerable benefits and advantages. Moreover, being so versatile, one can include them in our daily diet in all sorts of dishes like a bowl of cereals, flaxseed oil in dishes, in smoothies or in salads and curries for a crunch.
Yet there have been a lot of discussions and controversies regarding the side effects and phytoestroginal properties of the flax seeds. Since phytoestrogens affect the production of mammalian estrogen in the body, it is debatable whether they prevent or insist on the formation of breast cancers. Some scientists also believe that phytoestrogens prevent the formation of cancers by lowering the level of estrogen in the blood. Hence women with a previous history of breast or ovarian cancers or polycystic ovarian syndrome are advised to refrain from flax seeds. Also, females who are pregnant, breastfeeding or willing to conceive should also abstain from their consumption. Adolescent girls should also minimize the intake of flax seeds as they intervene in the blood estrogen levels, thus affecting the menstrual cycle. Men too, who had a family or past history of prostate cancer should limit the intake of flax seeds.
Flax seeds also possess other side effects. They might not be suitable for everyone and might induce loose stools or lead to intestinal blockage. The intake limit varies from person to person and may lead to several irregularities in the system. It may also lead to allergic reactions, bloating, indigestion, constipation, flatulence and stomach ache. The anti-inflammatory properties sometimes even worsen inflammation in the body.
Thus, it is advisable to consult a doctor before consuming flax seeds or rather substitute it with other vegan substitutes like nuts and chia seeds.