It seems like nearly everyday there is a new superfoods out there. Nearly every day a new study shows that some food is a super hero.
It's very easy to forget the ones that have stood the test of time, such as flaxseeds. Flaxseeds are one of the world's first cultivated superfoods! You know what they say: Oldie but goldie!
What are flaxseeds?
Flaxseed were once cultivated in Babylon in 3000 BC. Yep, you read right. They are that old. Even King Charlemagne believed in the 8th century so strongly in the benefits of flaxseeds, that he passed laws requiring to consume it.
Derived from the blue flax flower, flaxseeds are slightly larger and darker than sesame seeds. They contain 534 calories per 100 grams and consist of 42% fat, 29% carbs and 18% protein.
Why you should add them to your diet
The health benefits of flaxseeds are tremendous and popular around the world. Loaded with fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, it's a must to give them a place in your kitchen pantry.
1. Improves digestion
Because flaxseeds are very high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, they help improve the movement of food in our intestines. Plus, the high fiber content also helps with the absorption of the nutrients we eat.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water into a a gel-like substance and helps us feeling full longer and removes harmful cholesterol during the elimination process.
Suffering from constipation? You can take 1-3 tablespoons of flaxseed with a huge glass of water to help naturally relieve constipation.
2. Controls diabetes
Unlike grains, flaxseeds contain no excess starch. In fact, all of their carbs come from lignan, an antioxidant which consists of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Besides the proven benefits of balancing oestrogen levels in women and the testosterone-DHT relationship, lignans also help people who suffer from diabetes mellitus.
This study shows, that flaxseeds and it's components have hypolipidemic (producing a decrease in the level of lipids in the blood) and hypoglycaemic (producing a decrease in the level of sugar in the blood). It is not proven yet if flaxseed oil or flaxseed lignan delay the development or reduce the incident of diabetes. However, it is proven that they both improve glycemic control.
3. Fights menopausal symptoms
The lignans in the flaxseeds can be used as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy, because lignans are phytoestrogens, which show estrogenic properties.
A study from 2015 shows that the lignans found in flaxseeds reduce the frequency of hot flushes in menopausal women, without any significant side effect.
By the way, flaxseeds are one of the best foods to balance your hormones not only in women, but also in men. They're boosting testosterone levels by eliminating excessive oestrogen we experience through food and environment.
4. Improves your mood
Feeling down all day long? For weeks now? There are plenty of prescription drugs available, but it could be easier to add flaxseeds to your diet.
Give these tiny superheroes a try before you visit your doc! Through their rich content in omega 3's, they will boost your serotonin levels and trigger a response of relaxation in your body.
Furthermore, their high fiber content helps to absorb vitamins, such as vitamin B, C and D (which are all crucial for our mood improvement) better.
5. Healthy skin and hair
Flaxseeds are full of alpha-linolenic acids, which is one of the most common omega-3 fatty acids in Western diets. Our bodies usually use ALA for energy, but it can also reduce dryness and flakiness.
Moreover, it can also improve symptoms of acne, rosacea and eczema.
You can use 1-2 tbsp of dietary flaxseeds oil to hydrate your skin and hair. Plus, mixed with some essential oils you can create your own natural skin moisturiser.
6. Support weight loss
Trying to loose some pounds? Add more flaxseeds to your diet. Since they are full of healthy fats and packed with fiber, they will help you feel satisfied longer. Hence, they may help you with cravings in between meals.
The aforementioned ALAs also help to reduce inflammation. This is important, because an inflamed body will more likely hold on to excess weight.
7. Gluten free
Flaxseed also have become one of the best natural ways to replace gluten-containing grains. If you suffer from celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity give it a try!
Especially in cooking, flaxseeds are a great substitute for grains and are often used along with coconut flour.
Should I eat grounded or whole flaxseeds?
I would recommend to use the ground version if possible. Whole flaxseeds are more likely to pass through your intestine undigested, which means you won't get the benefits.
If you can't find the ground ones in you grocery store, buy the whole flaxseeds and ground them yourself. You can simply use a processor or blender for that.
Make sure to store the grounded flaxseeds away from sunlight and air tight, because their nutritional value will oxidate otherwise.
What's with flaxseed oil then?
First let me say: Flaxseeds are a whole food; flaxseed oil is not. Therefore, flaxseed oil is more processed.
The oil contains more ALA than the seeds. One tablespoon of flaxseeds contain 2g while the same amount of the oil contains 7.25g. Makes sense, because it's much more concentrated.
However, keep in mind that the whole seeds contain a lot more other nutrients, which are not in the extracted oil, such as fiber, lignans, copper, magnesium, vitamin B6 and folate.
If you feel like you are lacking on omega-3 fatty acids, go ahead with the oil. But if you're looking for a wider range of health benefits, the fresh flaxseeds can't be beaten.
Who might should not take flaxseeds
Flaxseeds can have a laxative effect when consumed in a larger amount. If you suffer from an irritable bowl syndrome you might have a strong reaction to it. Use it wisely!
Also people who suffer from a seizure disorder should avoid the intake of flaxseeds or flaxseed supplements, since it can aggravate the condition.
Always make sure to drink plenty of water along with your flaxseed meal, so it doesn't swell up or obstruct the digestive tract.