I would imagine anyone who is interested enough to read this newsletter might already have some form of flaxseed in his or her fridge or pantry. Whether it is flaxseed oil, ground flaxseed or whole seeds, each have its own unique way to improve our health.
The purpose of this letter is to shed some light on these tiny seeds to see why they got super star status in our diets. The name is derived from the Latin meaning ‘very useful’ which it is indeed. Currently, flaxseeds have become the focus for their ability to combat some of the negative effects of the western diet and lifestyle. Active components known to us are dietary fiber and α-linolenic acid, an Omega 3 fatty acid. It also provides us lignan precursors which is preventative against modern autoimmune diseases.
If we only consider the positive effects the fiber provides us, it would already be very beneficial in our diets. Flaxseeds offer us one of the best forms of fiber. They contain water soluble as well as insoluble fiber content which protects us from gastrointestinal disorders, such as constipation, diverticulosis and colon cancer. The fiber content also helps control cholesterol as it binds it to be excreted instead of being reabsorbed by the blood.
Omega 3 fatty acids initially were known for their anti-inflammatory properties. This is significant as inflammation now is acknowledged as the primary cause of all autoimmune diseases (cancer, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis etc.). As research uncovers more health benefits we also now know that omega 3 fats have anti blood clotting and anti-allergic properties and also help with lowering blood pressure.
So how do we incorporate flaxseeds in our diets to benefit from all of these wonderful properties? It is commonly believed that the whole flaxseed is not beneficial as we cannot break down its shell with our digestive enzymes. However, soaked seeds, ground flaxseeds as well as flaxseed oil have all the properties mentioned above. Extra care should be taken to protect the omega 3 fatty acids exposed in ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil. It is very sensitive to light, oxygen and temperature and therefore should be stored in a cool temperature away from light and in an air tight container.
Ground flax could be stirred into porridge, yogurt, smoothies etc. Soaking whole flaxseeds makes it more digestible. Soaked flaxseeds have an added benefit strengthening the gut lining to increase its ability to keep the bad stuff in the gut for excretion and help the nutrients to pass through the gut lining into the blood supply to take to the rest of the body. Weakness in the gut lining is known as leaky gut of which the extreme condition is celiac disease which has dire consequences.
Flaxseed meal may also be used in baking. See the blog on how the consumption of flaxseed muffins reduced the biomarkers of breast cancer in menopausal woman (www.ukudla4life.com/blogs)
Personally, I would not use flaxseed oil in the diet, because it is so susceptible to damage from light, oxygen and heat. But if you do choose to use it for its health benefits, make sure you store it in your fridge in an airtight container. Never use it for frying.