If you want to include more nutrition in your diet without even trying, you may want to befriend flaxseed.
“Flaxseed is widely available and sold whole or in ground form,” says registered dietitian and nutritionist Heather Shasa. “Go for the ground, ground or ground options as the milling process helps to unleash the power of the flaxseed, giving you access to the amazing nutrients.”
And those great nutrients do a lot.
Flaxseed is good for your heart, hormones, and gut health, and it’s a plant-based omega-3 food, says Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD. As Sauceda points out, if you buy whole flaxseeds, you can use a coffee grinder to pulverize them before consuming the seeds.
But before you go all-in on flaxseed, take note of this advice from Sauceda: “Flax is so full of fiber that your gut might not be a fan of it at first,” she says, advising you to add flaxseed slowly to your diet. diet and to drink more water.
As Sauceda says, if you eat whole flaxseeds, you may see whole flaxseeds appear in your stool (woe!) because of the fiber that makes it harder for you to digest. “This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you don’t find a lot of undigested food in your poop and your gut tolerates the fiber,” Sauceda says.
But there’s also a lot to discover about flaxseeds, such as what flaxseed actually is, why they’re so healthy, and the kind of complicated nature of those omega-3s.
Here’s what nutritionists have to say about it — and more.
What are flaxseeds?
“Flaxseeds are the edible seeds of the flax plant and are used to make flaxseed or flaxseed oil,” says Shasa, noting that flaxseed has a slightly nutty flavor. “Flaxseeds are one of the richest sources of lignans, a substance naturally found in plants. Lignans can act as an antioxidant, which can reduce damage to our cells, reduce inflammation and help reduce your risk of certain diseases.”
Is flaxseed healthy?
Here’s the diet breakdown: “Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed is about 15 grams and that would give you nearly three grams of protein, three grams of ALA fatty acids (a type of omega-3 in plants), and 3.5 grams of fiber,” says Sauceda, citing the USDA’s FoodData Central.A two-tablespoon serving of ground flaxseeds contains about 75 calories.
And flaxseed offers a variety of health benefits. First, they are good for your fat. Flaxseeds are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid — the aforementioned ALA — which is an essential omega-3 fatty acid, Shasa said.
That said, the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed pale in comparison to fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines — so take the label language on flaxseed products with an ounce of skepticism.
“The fiber in flaxseed may enhance its lipid-lowering effects,” Shasa says. “Research shows that 30-50 g of flaxseed per day lowers total cholesterol by 5% to 15% and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 8% to 18%. Evidence from small clinical trials in individuals with prediabetes and diabetes shows a modest decrease in fasting blood sugar and insulin levels.The potential health benefits don’t end there.Preliminary clinical research shows that flaxseed may affect the prostate by reducing markers of prostate cancer levels, especially prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and may also help slow prostate growth of prostate cancer cells.”
As mentioned earlier, the lignan content of flaxseed is also a health boon. “There is an interesting paper that discusses a link with lignans that interact with our gut microbiome and are converted to a compound that has anti-cancer properties and may also impact our brain health through the gut-brain axis,” Sauceda says.
Finally, flaxseeds may play a role in supporting cardiovascular health. “While ground flaxseeds may be easier to digest, there is also research on the benefits of whole flaxseeds for heart health,” Sauceda says. “It has been found that whole flaxseed has a positive influence on total cholesterol and the ‘bad’ cholesterol, also called LDL.” She also notes that flaxseed oil may also have anti-inflammatory effects.
How do you eat flaxseed?
While not something you want to eat as a snack, flaxseeds can be added to a variety of dishes. It’s worth repeating: “The best way to eat flaxseed is ground because you get more of their nutrition that way. Whole flaxseeds are hard to digest, and grinding them makes it easier for your body to access the nutrients,” Sauceda says.
Some of the ways Sauceda suggests using flaxseed is by sprinkling ground flax in your morning bowl of oats or in your smoothie. “Ground flax can also be used as crumb for chicken tenders,” she said. “Since flaxseeds are high in fiber, they can also be used as a thickener, such as in a creamy salad dressing.”
Shasa also emphasizes that you can use flaxseed as a vegan substitute for eggs in baked goods. Simply combine one tablespoon of flaxseed with three tablespoons of water and allow the mixture to thicken for five to 10 minutes.
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