Seeds are the gift of life. They pack a BIG nutritional punch in a tiny body.
That cute little seed that you see in health food stores, on blog posts, used as a vegan egg substitute, and all over the Instagram wellness world.
Flaxseed, Flax meal, Golden Flax. What exactly is flax, and why is it all the rage?
.. this is a long one, folks, but FULL of impactful and important information! Bear with me as we dive into the fascinating history and astonishing health benefits from this miraculous little seed.
The Latin name for flax is Linum Usitatissimum, which means “most useful”. It is a food and fiber crop with a beautiful pale blue flower. The fruit of the crop is a dry capsule which contains the seeds.
Flax has been used for centuries for medicinal reasons, as a nutritional supplement, and even as a textile (linen!).(1) Ancient records show that flax was cultivated in Babylon in about 3000 B.C.E.
Around 650 B.C.E. Hippocrates wrote about using flax for the relief of abdominal pains. In the same era, Theophrastus recommended the use of flax mucilage as a cough remedy. (3)
In ancient Egypt, flax was considered a symbol of purity, therefore Egyptian priests wore only linen made from flax. Temple walls were covered in flax flower paintings and mummies were entombed in linen.(1)
Flaxseeds occur in two basic colors: brown and golden. Most types of these two varieties carry similar nutritional value and an equal amount of omega-3 fatty acid.
Flax meal is simply ground flaxseed.
- Rich in omega-3 fatty acids (nearly twice the level of omega-3 fatty acids as fish oil) (3)
- Dietary fiber
- Manganese (read more about manganese benefits here)
- Vitamin E
More Fun Flaxseed Facts:
- Flax has a soothing, anti-inflammatory effect.
- Benefits the heart, arteries, skin, hair & brain function.
- Is great for the gut!
- Used to treat IBS.
- Ground flaxseeds (flaxseed meal) is more easily digestible; therefore enhances their nutritional value. (3)
- If grinding, use immediately!
- Never heat flax oil.
- Flax oil should be cold-pressed and purchased in an opaque bottle that has been kept refrigerated.
- Flaxseeds can be purchased either whole or already ground.
- Whole flaxseeds have a longer shelf life. (3)
- Store in an airtight container
- Always keep in the refrigerator or freezer (for all types: whole, ground, & oil). (2)
- Ground flaxseeds stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator will keep fresh for 6 months; in the freezer, for one year. (3)
Flaxseeds are an excellent source of the omega-3 essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), as well as phytoestrogens (known as lignan) content.
**Phyto is a word-forming element that means plant or vegetation.
ALA has shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, and both ALA and lignans have both been shown to reduce the risk of cancer.
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are the most abundant sources of plant lignans. These components are fiber compounds that can bind to estrogen receptors and interfere with the cancer-promoting effect of estrogen on breast tissue. Thus, may help to control cancer of the breast or the uterus. (3)
Many experimental studies in humans and animals have demonstrated that both ALA and lignans exert significant anticancer effects.
In one study, researchers followed twenty-eight postmenopausal nuns for a year and tracked blood levels of two cancer-related estogens, estrone sulfate, and estradiol. In addition to their normal diets, the nuns received daily supplements of 0, 5, or 10 grams of ground flaxseed. Estrogen levels fell significantly in the women taking ground flaxseed, where those in the control group who were not taking flaxseed remained stable. Reducing estrogen reduces breast cancer risk. (3)
Flaxseed oil has also been used to alleviate premenstrual syndrome symptoms (PMS) and ease breast tenderness due to its estrogen-like effects.
The beneficial oil has also been used to treat skin conditions, inflammation, and arthritis. It is usually taken internally for all the purposes mentioned above.
The oil may be used externally to help the healing of scalds and burns.(4)
1 tablespoon of flax contains:
Protein: 1.3 grams
Carbs: 2 grams
Fiber: 1.9 grams
Total fat: 3 grams
Saturated fat: 0.3 grams
Monounsaturated fat: 0.5 grams
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.0 grams
I have always been a fan of flaxseed, but once I learned what just ONE tablespoon of this miracle seed contains, I became obsessed and made sure to incorporate it into my daily diet.
I keep both flaxseed and ground flaxseed meal in (repurposed) glass jars in my refrigerator door. Right where I can see them; reminding me to use in my dishes every day!
I add flaxseed/flaxseed meal to almost everything I make:
- Egg scramble (to go along with my actual eggs),
You name it, you can (and should) add it! Hot or cold cereals, into muffin, cookie, or bread recipes.
You will see with time that a lot of my recipes incorporate flax!
What’s your favorite way to incorporate flax into your diet? If it’s not yet a daily staple in your house hopefully, I have now convinced you to think otherwise!
- Bauman, E, M.Ed., Ph.D., Friedlander, J, NC. (2017) Foundations of nutrition textbook. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College.
- Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: Atria Books