Are flaxseeds the new miracle food for the human race? Preliminary studies highlight that flaxseeds help combat heart diseases, breast cancer, and diabetes. Flaxseeds – the teeny-tiny powerhouse of nutrients are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B, fibre, antioxidants, and cancer-fighting lignans. We just need a few teaspoonfuls of these seeds daily to harness its numerous benefits.
What are Flaxseeds?
Flaxseeds, also known as linseed, are small, nutty, and shiny seeds that have an earthy aroma. However, long before flaxseeds were known as superfoods like today, it was primarily used to create textiles. It became a trendy food in recent years and a dietary staple due to its exclusive health benefits.
Flaxseeds that come from the flax plant are scientifically known as Linum usitatissimum. The plant grows up to 2-feet tall, and most likely it was first grown in the land of pyramids that is Egypt. Today, this superfood is cultivated throughout the world. Usually, there are two types of flaxseeds, the brown and the golden ones. Regular users believe that the brown ones have a more pungent taste than the golden ones. Both these types are excellent sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), but the brown ones have a slightly higher content of ALA.
The flax plant that is knitted into linen is considerably stronger than cotton. Nevertheless, today flaxseeds are used in all kinds of food from crackers to oatmeal, and frozen waffles. The Flax Council of the US says that not only the consumer demand for flaxseeds has increased over the years, its agricultural demand has also grown in leaps and bounds.
Nutritional Data of Flaxseeds
A usual serving of ground flaxseeds contain two tablespoons of the seed. The nutritional value of that particular serving comprises:
- 80 calories
- 3 gm of protein
- 4 gm of carbohydrates
- 6 gm of fat
- 4 gm of fibre
- 100 mg of phosphorus
- 60 mg of magnesium
- 120 mg of potassium
Essential components of Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds contain a plethora of nutritional components, but it owes its healthy superpowers to the three most significant elements. They are:
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids: They are commonly known as ‘good fats’ for the body. They prove to be effective for the robust functioning of the human heart. Every tablespoon of ground flax seeds contains 1.8 gms of plant omega-3s.
- Lignans: It is commonly known as a cancer-fighting agent. Lignans comprise plant oestrogen and antioxidant features. The best part is that flaxseeds contain around 75 to 800 times more lignans than any other plant-based food.
- Fibre: Both soluble and insoluble fibre are integral to flaxseeds.
Health Benefits of Flaxseeds
Besides the benefits listed below, there are numerous other advantages of using flaxseeds in our daily diet, but we need to ensure that we procure the most authentic variety of flaxseeds to leverage most of its benefits.
- Prevents cancer: Recent studies reveal that flaxseeds can keep breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer at bay. Experts opine that the plant-based omega-3 fatty acids that are found in flaxseeds, also known as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), prevent the incidence and growth of tumours in the human body. Similarly, lignans present in flaxseeds act as a guard against cancer. The primary function of lignans is to block enzymes that participate in hormone metabolism and contribute to the growth of tumour cells in the body. Besides this, there are other antioxidants in flaxseeds that help to stay away from cancer – the deadly disease.
- Improves cholesterol and heart health: Flaxseeds have a component called phytosterols. They are similar to cholesterol, but they can prevent the absorption of bad cholesterol into the intestines. Regular consumption of phytosterol can reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in the body.
- Eases the symptoms of arthritis: Flaxseeds are known to reduce joint pain and stiffness. To enjoy the benefits of flaxseeds and to check problems like arthritis, one could consume ground flaxseeds, flaxseed oil or flaxseed capsules.
- Keeps Blood Sugar in control: Components like lignans and phytoestrogens in flaxseeds can keep chromic conditions like diabetes at bay.
- Prevents constipation: As mentioned earlier, flaxseeds have both soluble and insoluble fibre. The insoluble fibre in flaxseeds does not dissolve in water; instead, it remains in the digestive tract, which in turn helps keep constipation away.
- Lowers blood pressure: Studies have proved that flaxseeds can lower blood pressure in the human body. People with high blood pressure can consume flaxseeds regularly to keep blood pressure under control.
- Aids in weight control: Flaxseeds can keep hunger pangs at bay. The feeling of reduced hunger is due to the soluble fibre that is present in flaxseeds. It slows the process of digestion, thereby preventing the trigger of hormones that control appetite and provides a feeling of fullness for long. Thus, you can stay away from munching unnecessary junk during intervals, and the result is you stay in shape and enjoy balanced body-weight.
- Reduces inflammation: If you include flaxseed oil in your diet, you can notice a marked reduction of C-reactive protein – the inflammation marker in the body. Thus, flaxseeds can be highly useful to prevent chronic conditions of inflammation in the body.
- Eases menopausal symptoms: Flaxseeds can be highly beneficial for women’s health. Diligent consumption of these seeds can decrease the menopausal symptoms that a woman usually faces. It also takes care of problems like irregular periods and menstrual discomfort.
- Enhances BrainHealth: The high ALA content in flaxseeds increases the BDNF level (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). It is vital for neuron growth. Simultaneously, flaxseed oil can reduce lead and nitric oxide levels, thereby preventing free radical formation. It stops the oxidative damage of the brain cells.
- Boosts Immunity: Proteins in flaxseeds comprise amino acids like Arginine, Aspartic acid and Glutamic acid. These amino acids protect our body from various fungal infections, thereby increasing the overall immunity of the body.
- Improves skin health: Are you keen to have smooth and shiny skin with no signs of ageing? Then don’t look beyond flaxseeds. The ALA of flaxseeds helps to maintain lustrous skin texture. Regular consumption of flaxseeds can cure skin conditions like inflammation and eczema.
How to use Flaxseeds?
Most often, it is noticed that whole flaxseeds are not easily digested by our body. Hence, the best way to consume this nature’s superfood is to ground them before we have it. You can quickly grind the tiny seeds with a coffee grinder, mortar and pestle, or a spice mill. However, ensure to grind flaxseeds in small batches as per the requirement because the powdered form has a low shelf-life. Another easy way to consume flaxseeds is in the form of flaxseed oral supplements or capsules.
How to store Flaxseeds?
In most cases, it is seen that flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and powdered flaxseeds are slightly light-sensitive and can become unfit for usage with prolonged exposure to light. So when you are buying flaxseeds in any form, look for opaque products and read the label to look for the ‘use by’ dates.
Unlike whole flaxseeds, which can be kept at room temperature without much effect, the ground ones should be consumed as quickly as possible. Similarly, flaxseed oil can become rancid if not used correctly. Thus, when you buy flaxseeds, try to purchase in small quantities and use within the timeline mentioned to reap maximum benefits.
Taste of Flaxseeds
Like many other seeds, flaxseeds are mild and have a nutty taste. Thus, if you want, you can use flaxseeds both in sweet and savoury dishes. So if you have a finicky eater at home, you can slyly hide this powerhouse of goodness in any of their favourite dishes. Trust me! They would not be able to tell the difference. It’s a win-win situation for both.
How to consume Flaxseeds?
Flaxseeds are synonymous with versatility. Therefore without much effort, you can come up with delicacies that have ample quantities of flaxseeds. Whether it is your daily rotis, parathas, or pooris, you can add a spoonful of flaxseed powder to add to its health value. Or else you can all add these wonder seeds into your smoothies, salads, and soups. It will definitely add a nutty and toasty flavour to all your dishes and beverages.
3 Best Flaxseed Recipes and Benefits
Now let us see how flaxseeds can be added in our regular food-habits to derive maximum benefits from it. Below are given a few recipes that can be served on the table in a jiffy.
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed
- 1 cup flavoured soya milk
- 1 cup chilled and roughly chopped strawberries
- ½ cup roughly chopped and chilled bananas
- 2 teaspoons honey
Energy: 481 k.cal
Fibre: 17.4 g
(Calorie breakdown: 32% fat, 55% carbs, 13% protein)
Add strawberries, bananas, honey, and flaxseeds in the soya milk and blend it in a juicer or hand blender to make it smooth and frothy.
Pour the mixture equally into two glasses and garnish with chopped strawberry and banana, and it is ready to serve.
The flaxseed smoothie is an excellent source of fibre, potassium and is fortified with vitamins A, B-12, and D, and calcium. While strawberries and bananas are packed with vitamin C, fibre, antioxidants, and much more. A daily dose of the smoothie can
- Protect your heart
- Increase HDL (good) cholesterol
- Lower your blood pressure
- Promote weight loss
- Prevent constipation
- 1 cup thickly grated bottle-gourd
- 1 cup freshly-beaten, low-fat curd
- ½ cup finely chopped mint leaves
- 1/4th teaspoon dry-roasted cumin powder
- 1/4th teaspoon black salt
- One and a half tablespoon dry-roasted and roughly ground flaxseeds
- A pinch of salt
Energy: 352 k.cal
Fat: 14.8 g
Carbohydrates: 35.2 g
Protein: 19.6 g
Fibre: 14.5 g
(Calorie breakdown: 38% fat, 40% carbs, 22% protein)
- Mix the bottle-gourd in one cup of water and cover it with a lid. Cook it on a low flame for four minutes.
- Combine all the ingredients along with the bottle-gourd in a big mixing bowl.
- Refrigerate for around an hour and serve chilled with any main-course of your choice.
Flaxseed Raita has numerous health benefits. Bottle gourd contains vitamin C, K, and calcium. Flaxseeds are loaded with nutrients like Omega 3, Lignans and fibre. Curd, on the other hand, has high quantities of calcium, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-12, potassium, and magnesium. The raita has incredible benefits such as
- Stabilizing the blood sugar level and maintaining blood pressure
- Cooling the body
- Promoting weight loss
- Relieving stress
- Maintaining a healthy digestive system
- 1 cup peanuts
- 1/4th cup roasted gram
- ½ cup flaxseeds
- 8 to 10 broken red chillies
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- 4 to 5 garlic pods
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Salt as per taste
Energy: 1652 k.cal
Fat: 116.8 g
Carbohydrates: 85.5 g
Protein: 61.3 g
Fibre: 46.5 g
(Calorie breakdown: 64% fat, 21% carbs, 15% protein)
- Take a heavy bottom skillet and dry roast the flaxseeds. Remove them and allow it to cool.
- In the same skillet dry roast the peanuts till you get a pleasant nutty aroma. Once the smell has filled your kitchen, switch off the stove.
- In the hot pan, add the roasted gram, garlic pods, and cumin. Toss all of them together till they are nicely heated.
- As a next step, add 1 tablespoon of oil and fry the broken red chillies till they are crisp.
- Then cool the red chillies and blend them to a fine powder.
- In the next step, add garlic, cumin, flaxseeds, roasted gram, and peanuts and blend them all together.
- You can preserve the flaxseeds podi in an airtight container for around a month.
Flaxseed podi is a mixture of flaxseeds, peanuts and gram. Loaded with nutrients containing more than 30 essential vitamins and minerals, and are a good source of protein, fibre, lignans and good fat. These podi has various health benefits such as
- Helps in lowering your blood cholesterol levels and maintains healthy heart functions
- Weight Management
- Good for skin and hair
- Prevent gallstones
- Help in blood sugar control
Flaxseeds are indeed the new superfood in our day-to-day lives, and for most of us, it is safe to consume flaxseeds in measured quantities. But specific aspects must be considered as you start consuming the teeny-tiny seeds.
- Do not ever consume unripe flaxseeds. They could not only cause digestive issues but might also contain toxic compounds.
- During pregnancy, it is better to avoid flaxseeds because they might trigger hormonal reactions due to the lignans and plant estrogens present in flaxseeds.
- If you are consuming flaxseeds in any form, it is recommended that you stay hydrated with adequate quantities of water. If the body remains dehydrated, it won’t be able to digest the excess fibre. This could lead to stomach cramps and constipation.
Undoubtedly, there are numerous health benefits of flaxseeds, which has become a new trend in Indian kitchens. Today a lot of youngsters are using flaxseed supplements as a weight loss agent. But we can leverage the full benefits of this nature’s miracle only when it is complemented with a balanced diet and regular exercises. It can never be an alternative. Another important aspect is that we should use flaxseeds following all the necessary guidelines, and get it from genuine sources. Nowadays considering the new fad, the market has been flooded with adulterated products. Hence, we must be careful while we shop for flaxseeds. Last and not least, even now if you have not yet incorporated flaxseeds in your diet, do it right away and experience the magic. Just adhere to a routine, and soon you will experience the difference.