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What Makes Flax Seed so Healthy

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c-14-oz-organic-milled-flax.jpgFlax from the blue-flowered plant crop grown mainly in cool, northern climates such as that of the western Canadian prairies and the northern plains of the US. The omega-3 fatty acid and fiber in flax are nutrients that help keep us healthy and well.

The flax seed is one of the most nutritional seeds on the planet. And while it’s not a grain, it has a similar vitamin and mineral profile to grains, but, flax seed is very low in carbohydrates, making it ideal for people who limit their intake of starches and sugars. And its combination of healthy fat and high fiber content make it a great food for weight loss and maintenance -- many dieters have found that flax seed has been a key to keeping them feeling satisfied.

Flax seed is high in most of the B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese, but this little seed is just getting started.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a key force against inflammation in our bodies. Mounting evidence shows that inflammation plays a part in many chronic diseases including heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and even some cancers. This inflammation is enhanced by having too little Omega-3 intake (as found in fish, flax, and walnuts), especially in relation to Omega-6 fatty acid intake (in such oils as soy and corn oil). In the quest to equalize the ratio of these two kinds of oils, flax seed can be a real help.

Most of the oil in flax seeds is alpha linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is an Omega-3 which is a precursor to the fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty cold-water fish (called EPA and DHA). Because not everyone is able to easily convert ALA into EPA and (especially) DHA, it is best not to rely solely on flax for your Omega-3 intake, but ALA also has good effects of its own, and definitely helps in the Omega 3/6 balance.

Flax Seed is High in Fiber: You’d be hard-pressed to find a food higher in fiber -- both soluble and insoluble -- than flax. This fiber is probably mainly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effects of flax. Fiber in the diet also helps stabilize blood sugar, and, of course, promotes proper functioning of the intestines.

Phytochemicals: Flax seed is high in phytochemicals, including many antioxidants. It is perhaps our best source of lignans, which convert in our intestines to substances which tend to balance female hormones. There is evidence that lignans may promote fertility, reduce peri-menopausal symptoms, and possibly help prevent breast cancer. In addition, lignans may help prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Hormonal Effects: Lignans contain phytoestrogens which research has shown to be beneficial.

Tips for flax seed users:

  • Drink plenty of water. There is so much soluble fiber in flax that it is important to drink plenty of water when eating flax products, otherwise constipation may result.
  • Remember to start slowly if you aren’t used to a high fiber diet.