Flaxseed makes a great vegan egg replacement, but did you know that it also packs an impressive nutritional punch too? Here are the top 10 benefits of flaxseed that show why you should be adding it to your diet today.
Flaxseed, also known as linseed, refers to the seeds of a flax plant. This mighty seed has been used as food for both humans and animals for thousands of years, as well as in fabrics (linen), paints and varnish.
It is only more recently that flaxseed has been recognised for packing a favourable nutritional punch, with the market for flax-based products growing to include ground flax, linseed oil and foods with added flaxseed.
Due to its versatility, flaxseed can be used in a range of food products from bars and cereals to dressings and beverages.
Flaxseed comes in two main varieties; golden and brown. In just one tablespoon, both varieties provide over 1g of protein, almost 3g of fibre, and 1.6g of omega 3 fatty acids.
In addition, flaxseed provides an abundance of antioxidant compounds including phenolic acids, phytoestrogens and flavonoids.
We dive into the top evidence-based benefits of including flaxseed in your diet and uncover the top 10 benefits of flaxseed you need to know about.
Top 6 benefits of flaxseed
1. Plant-based source of omega-3s
When your diet does not include oily fish, it is important to consider an alternative source of omega-3 fats to support a health body and brain function.
Luckily, these humble little seeds are a wonderful plant-based source of omega 3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which our body can convert into long chain fatty acids that we would get from fish.
All you need is 1 tbsp daily to meet your ALA requirements.
2. Source of soluble fibre
Flaxseed is a rich source of fibre; just 1 tbsp provides 3g of fibre, which equates to 10% of our daily recommended intake.
Around 20% of this fibre is soluble, which absorbs water and works like a gel in your bowel.
This not only bulks out your stools, making them softer and easier to pass, but also feeds our healthy gut bacteria, producing anti-inflammatory substances like butyrate that works to support blood sugar levels, regulate hunger hormones, and reduce our risk of bowel disease.
3. May improve cholesterol levels
Research suggests that the soluble fibre content of flaxseed also benefits our cholesterol levels. Flaxseed may reduce the unhealthy low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, known as LDL-C, in our blood, particularly in those who have increased levels.
Soluble fibre does this by binding to cholesterol in the gut, preventing it from being re-absorbed1.
4. May lower blood pressure
Flaxseed has been found to support the reduction of blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease2.
This is thought to be down to the fibre content along with the anti-inflammatory effects of flaxseed.
This may be due to the down-regulation of oxylipin, a hormone that promotes inflammation and constriction of blood vessels 3.
5. Provides dietary lignans
Lignans are a type of polyphenol known as phytoestrogen. Flaxseed is one of the most concentrated sources of lignans.
Laboratory research has found that lignans possess antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
Dietary intake of foods high in lignans, such as flaxseed, may reduce the risk of certain types of cancers including post-menopausal breast cancer and bowel cancer.
Some evidence also suggests that lignan intake is associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease4,5.
6. May support weight management
Some research suggests that introducing whole flaxseed into the diet long-term can support body weight reduction, particularly in those living with overweight or obesity6.
The effect is likely to be down to the action of soluble fibre, leading to increased feelings of fullness and promoting a healthy gut microbiome.
Love learning about the power of plants? Find more foodie facts here:
- Top 10 health benefits of bananas
- The delicious health benefits of mango
- Top 10 health benefits of turmeric
How much flaxseed should you eat every day?
When it comes to eating flaxseed, 1-2 tablespoons per day is enough to obtain the benefits. But if you don’t currently use flaxseed in your diet, approach this cautiously.
Having too much, too soon may cause some abdominal symptoms due to the sudden increase in fibre.
Start with 1 teaspoon daily and increase this slowly based on your tolerance, and your gut will adapt over time.
How to use flaxseed
Going for ground or milled flaxseed over whole will improve absorption of all the nutrients these seeds have to offer.
This is because our digestive system is unable to breakdown the tough outer shell.
You can buy ground flaxseed, or you can grind them yourself, but once ground, keep your flaxseed in the fridge to preserve their nutritional value.
With their mild flavour and small volume, adding flaxseed to your diet is really easy. You can add a tablespoon to your breakfast smoothie, porridge, overnight oats or soya yogurt, sprinkle them over your lunchtime salad, or even stir into your soup or stew at dinner.
Cooking with flaxseed
You can also bake with flaxseed; stir 1 tablespoon of flaxseed into 3 tablespoon of water and set aside for 10 minutes to create a ‘flax egg’ that will help bind your bake.
Alternatively you can choose linseed oil for omega 3 fatty acids, which is produced by cold-pressing the flax seeds to extract their oils.
Flaxseed oil is not suitable for cooking, as many of its nutrients are destroyed in heat, but it can be used in a dressing or drizzled over a salad.
Linseed oil provides a more concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids than ground flaxseed, but bear in mind that choosing the oil instead of the whole or ground seeds will remove the gut-healthy fibre.
Flaxseed is certainly a powerhouse of nutrition and can be really easily incorporated into your daily diet.
Remember to start small and build up over a few weeks and you will have increased your protein, fibre and omega 3 fatty acids; you may also be reducing your risk of obesity, heart disease, and cancer to boot.
Did you know that one in two people in the UK will develop cancer in their lifetime?
Find out how you can prevent and treat symptoms of cancer with a plant-based diet.