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Flaxseed has been a part of human and animal diets for thousands of years. Even in the days of Hippocrates, flaxseed was eaten for its health benefits. Recently, however, flaxseed has gained popularity among health-conscious Americans. Despite the hype surrounding this little seed, a lot of people have never heard of it. It may not exactly be a wonder food, but flaxseed certainly has nutritional benefits.
Flaxseeds contain the following nutrients:
Lignans. Flaxseeds are one of the best plant sources for lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that may protect against certain types of cancer, including breast cancer and prostate cancer. Even the National Cancer Institute has identified its cancer-fighting potential.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds are the best plant source of healthy omega-3's, which are also found in fish. Fifty grams of flaxseed has about the same amount of omega-3's as three pounds of salmon!
Fiber. Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which keep the digestive system in tip-top shape.
Protein. Flaxseed is a complete protein source, meaning that it contains every amino acid that your body can't make on its own. It’s uncommon to find plant-based foods that are complete proteins, so flaxseed makes a great addition to vegetarian diets.
One tablespoon of flaxseed contains:
35 to 40 calories
1.6 grams of protein
2.8 grams of carbohydrate
2.8 grams of fat (0.3 grams saturated, 0.6 grams monounsaturated, and 1.8 grams polyunsaturated)
2.5 to 8 grams of fiber
3 milligrams of sodium
Research shows that flaxseed may have the ability to:
Prevent cancer and reduce tumor growth in the breasts, prostate and colon
Decrease the risks of developing heart disease, blood clots, strokes, and cardiac arrhythmia by lowering total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure
Regulate bowel functions and prevent constipation
Relieve breast pain related to a woman’s hormonal cycle
Help improve blood glucose control in diabetics
Help reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and asthma
Most grocery stores do sell packaged flaxseed on their shelves, but natural foods stores tend to also offer sell flaxseeds in bulk form too. There are two "types" of flaxseed: brown and golden. Although the color and price differ, the nutritional benefits are the same. The brown flaxseed is less expensive than the golden, but because golden flaxseed is lighter in color, it’s easier to hide in a variety of foods.
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. Through her company, An Ounce of Prevention, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy to apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.
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