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Surprising Health Benefits and Side Effects of Flax Seed

Updated on January 12, 2017
Seven surprising health benefits of flax seeds.
Seven surprising health benefits of flax seeds. | Source

Flax Seeds Can Work Wonders for Health

Do you love flax seeds, or are you considering adding them to your diet?

As you probably already know, wholesome foods such as flax seeds can work wonders on your health.

Conversely, unhealthy eating habits and the modern lifestyle adversely impact the heart. Even people in their twenties complain of cardiac symptoms like hypertension, chest pain, and high cholesterol levels.

In such situations, the knowledge about the richest natural source of omega-3, flax seed, may play a vital role in maintaining optimum health.

What Is Flax Seed?

A field of flax.
A field of flax. | Source

Flax seeds are extracted from flax plants, shown above. The scientific name of flax is Linum usitatissimum, which is why it is also known as linseed. In India, it is known as alsi.

It is a food and fiber crop that is used as an edible oil, a nutritional health supplement, and an ingredient in wood finishing. Generally, flax seed oil is used to make medicine to prevent several lifestyle disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, benin prospetic hyperplasia (BPH), vaginal infection, heart disease, migraines, etc.

Flax seeds have 50-60% more omega-3 than fish oil. It contains omega-6 and omega-9 as well.

Omega-3, AKA the Good Fatty Acid—Why Do You Need It?

Good fats like omega-3 (for example alpha linolenic acid, or ALA) and omega-6 (linolenic acid) are essential for optimum health.

Unsaturated fats act as lubricants, cushions, and insulators that guard against stress. ALA, an omega-3, increases the tissue concentration of docosahexaeonic acid (DHA). DHA is a special type of fat stored in brain to enrich brain cell communication and development. Studies have also shown that DHA improves visual acuity.

Although the human body needs omega-3, the human body cannot generate it. The body isn't even very good at converting one type of omega-3 into another—for example, the ALA in flax seed oil into the DHA found in fish oils. ALA is not found in fish oil, so it must be consumed in flax seed oil and nuts.

The Seven Health Benefits

Flax Seed Benefits at a Glance

At a glance, flax seeds are beneficial for the following:

  • Colon and breast cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Memory boosting
  • Inflammation
  • Hot flashes in menopausal women
  • Atherosclerosis prevention

Flax Seed Benefits in Depth

Flax seed is one of the most concentrated vegetarian sources of omega-3 fats. It contains 50-60% omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha linolenic acid. It is also rich in antioxidants, vitamin B, dietary fiber, a group of phytogens called lignans, protein, and potassium. These components help the human body to maintain overall health.

People around the world have also started to use flax seeds oil in various ways. For example, the oil can be used to soften skin.

Flax seeds are especially beneficial for following disorders:

  1. Diabetes - The high amount of fiber in flax seed helps stablize blood sugar and reduce appetite. The daily intake of lignan in flax seed modestly improves blood sugar with type-2 diabetes.
  2. Breast cancer - Women who have higher levels of alpha-linolenic acid in their breast tissue are less in danger of breast cancer. So intake of linolenic acid may prevent cancer, and flax seed is the source of linolenic acid. The lignin present in flax seed protects against estrogen-sensitive breast cancer also.
  3. Improvement in ADHD - Flax seeds are the source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, known as alpha linolenic acid. ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Linseed improves attention and self-control and lessons impulsiveness and restlessness in children suffering from ADHD.
  4. Heart-Disease - Alpha linolenic acid lowers the risk of heart disease.
  5. Colon cancer - A healthy colon is essential to a healthy body. When the human colon becomes less active, the body does not eliminate its waste materials, called toxins, efficiently. This inactivity may be the cause of colon cancer. The regular use of flax seed has a protective effect for the colon.
  6. Inflammation - Omega-3 fatty acids and lignans present in flax seeds with ALA help check inflammation in the body, blocking the release of inflammatory agents. It is beneficial to arthritis and Parkinson's disease.
  7. Hot flashes- The oil in flax seed reduces hot flashes in women going through menopause. It does so by reducing the side effects of the premanopausal stage and lowering cholesterol.

Benefits of Flax Seed By Federico Lopez

Role of Omega-3 in Body Building

People often lift weights for physical appearances. Weight lifting increases muscle mass and decreases body fat. Flax seed oil is the richest source of short-chain omega-3 fatty acid ALA-Alpha linoleic acid, an essential nutrient for anyone engaging in this activity.

Prevents Hair Loss—Unique Benefit of Regular Consumption

Flax seeds are a rich source of vitamin E. It has proven to improve capillary growth, and capillaries provides nourishment to the hair roots, shaft and the scalp.

Omega-3 fatty acids nourish hair follicles and help make hair strong and healthy, which prevents hair loss.

Are You Clear ?

Is Flax seed the better option for vegetarians?

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Commonly Experienced Side Effects

Flax seed or flax seed oil it considered safe for most adults. But like everything, it should be consumed in moderation. Commonly experienced side effects are:

  • Loose stools or diarrhea - Consuming more than 30 grams of flax seed daily may cause loose stools or diarrhea.
  • Increased chance of prostate cancer - Excess intake of flax seed oil increases the chance of prostate cancer.
  • Premature birth - If consumed during pregnancy, flax seed or its oil may result in premature birth.
  • Severe bleeding - It increases the risk of severe bleeding in patients with bleeding disorders. The risk of bleeding is increased during and after surgery.

Flax Seeds Are Natures Gift for Vegetarians!

Several U.S. government agencies, including USDA and NIH, approve flax seeds and flax seed oil as a source of omega-3. So it's fair to say that flax seeds are another of nature's nutritional gifts, especially for vegetarians.


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