Monday, September 13, 2010
Flax seeds are tiny little seeds, about the size of sesame seeds, crammed with nutritional goodness. They are ancient, originating in Mesopotamian river valley and have long been know for their healing properties.
Flax is a really good source of healthy Omega 3 fats; fiber; phytosterols, which block cholesterol absorption; and is the richest source of lignans. Lignans are phytoestrogens. What the heck is a phytoestrogen? It's a compound that either has estrogenic properties (behaves like the hormone estrogen in the body) or anti-estrogenic properties. Estrogen, as you know, is the female sex hormone, but in elevated amounts can lead to breast and other cancers. Whether a phytoestrogen mimics estrogen or develops anti-estrogenic properties depends on how much is ingested. Phytoestrogens can be divided into two camps, the flavonoids (found in soy) and lignans both groups are good sources of antioxidants. Studies have shown that eating lignans can have reduced rates of breast, prostate, ovarian cancers, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
Flax has long been used for relieving gas and abdominal pains, improving digestions, preventing and treating constipation, stabilizing blood sugar and inhibiting tumor growth. Studies have also shown flax to be beneficial to lowering elevated cholesterol levels. These golden or brown seeds are best bought whole but must be ground so that the nutritional benefits can be absorbed. The pre-ground flax seeds are often rancid and should therefore be avoided. I grind mine in my coffee grinder or in my blender when making a smoothie. Flax oil is readily available but because it is extremely sensitive to light and heat, it also goes rancid quickly and there is no way of identifying rancid oil, so it is best to leave it on the shelf. There are some online resources where "fresh" flax seed can be ordered. If you buy the oil, it should always be refrigerated, sold in a dark bottle and NEVER used for cooking.
Flax seeds are high in Omega 3 fats (w3) which by now, we should all be aware are the "good" fats. Alpha linolenic acid is a health promoting fat that many of us do not get enough of. When we consume a diet rich in vitamins and minerals (by eating fresh fruits and vegetables often), the alpha linolenic acid can be converted to anti-inflammatory substances which can prevent many common diseases and illnesses.
You can get flax seeds at your local health food store or Whole Foods. Remember to buy them whole, grind them yourself and start adding them to salad dressings, smoothies, sprinkling on your sandwiches. Adding a couple of tablespoons each day of flax is a great nutritional boost.
For more information:
"Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill" by Udo Erasmus