With the rising emphasis on fitness and healthy eating, a tiny seed has come in to much prominence- Flax or Linseed, also known as “Alasi” in Hindi. The benefits of Flax seed are numerous and this tiny brownish seed is packed with micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy cholesterol that help fight several ailments such as, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, hot flashes. A single table spoon of ground flax seeds contain 2 grams of poly-unsaturated fatty acids, 2 grams of fiber and 37 calories. What’s even better is flax seed helps in losing weight and keeps the heart cholesterol free.
The history of Flax seeds as a food crop goes back to prehistoric Babylon as early as 3000 B.C along with Georgia, China and ancient Egypt. Although flax is a power house of nutrients, the basic health benefits of flax are as follows:
The high level of omega 3 fatty acid and Lignans present in flax combats prostate cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer. Three types of Lignans found in flax seed are-secoisolariciresinol, matairesinol and pinoresinol that has capacity to affect the hormonal workings and control hormone related cancers and hormone dependent tumors.
The positive impact of flax on human heart is boundless. About 50% of the calorie contained in flax comprises of fats, which is a mixture of several fatty acids such as, poly-unsaturated fats, mono-unsaturated fats, and very little saturated fats.
Most of the poly-unsaturated fats remain in the form ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Now, ALA is a “miracle” fatty acid that helps to reduce bad cholesterol, while leaving the good cholesterol in the blood intact. It also reduces blood-pressure and chances of stroke.
Lignans present in Flax seeds work effectively in controlling Type 2 Diabetes. Research shows that a daily intake of flax builds up insulin sensitivity in glucose intolerant people. This is because of the high level of soluble fibers in flax. Consumption of a table spoon of ground flax seeds for a month has shown to improve fasting blood sugar levels.
Two specific agents present in flax seeds, namely ALA and lignans have the capacity to check the flow of certain pro-inflammatory agents that are responsible for arthritis pain, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, joint pain, etc.
The antioxidant property of Flax seed has been shown to reduce the symptoms of hormonal imbalance, such as, hot flashes and night sweat in post-menopausal women. Research has shown that a daily intake of about 40 grams or 2 table spoons of ground flax seed helps to improve moderate hormonal problems as well as overall psychological health.
The omega 3 fatty acids helps treat skin diseases like acne, allergies and sun sensitivity. In addition, it rejuvenates the skin, regenerates the skin tone and makes it smooth, supple and glowing. It fights the problems of hair fall, dry scalp, dandruff, brittle hair and supplies nourishment to the hair follicles to make the tresses healthy and strong.
Flax seed is an excellent addition to the diet if you are looking to shed some extra pounds and stay healthy. The high fiber content in flax makes it heavier as it absorbs fluids and expands in volume that keeps the tummy fuller for a longer time and check cravings and over-eating. This is highly favorable for weight loss.
Although, calorie counters might feel a bit taken aback by the high calorie content of this seed, research shows that those calories come from “good fats” such as poly-unsaturated fats, and mono-saturated fats in the form of omega 3 fatty acids.
It is better to grind the flax seeds rather than eating them whole, because the lignans are better absorbed by the body if it is consumed in the ground form. Make it a point to take plenty of water with the flax seed powder.
Get a food processor or blender, even your coffee grinder will do. Get a packet of regular whole flax seed available in the market, but remember that once you open the packet, the seeds must be stored inside an airtight container because flax seeds have a tendency to turn rancid.
Grind one cup of flax at a time and refrigerate the powder immediately and try to use it up with in a week. Start slow and take about 2 table spoons every morning in empty stomach for a few weeks and let your body get accustomed to it, and look out for any side effects such as nausea, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and stomach pain. If things seem fine, then start adding it to your fruit salads, fruit smoothies and yogurt.
Don’t go for the whole seeds because it becomes too complex for the body to break it down and so it tends to pass through your system. Make it a point to grind the seeds before adding it to dishes.
While adding flax seed powder to any dish, keep in mind not to put the powder directly in to the oil, as it tarnishes the nutty flavor of the powder and excess also destroys the valuable properties of the seeds. There are no serious side effects of flax seed as such, and it’s a food that has been with us since prehistoric times.
Devi Gajendran is a Post Graduate in Nutrition (University of Madras, Tamil Nadu) and has tons of experience in Fitness and Nutrition. She is the chief advisor and full time contributor at the Fit Indian and has the final say on all the segments under the Fit Indian paradigm, such as beauty, fitness, home remedies, diseases, diet tips, weight loss, weight gain and so on. A foodie herself, she believes in the Hippocrates quote,” Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” A fitness enthusiast, she believes that the combination of diet and exercise can work wonders. When she is not sharing her valuable knowledge about food and fitness, she likes to spend quality time with her family members, do some healthy baking and listen to soft soulful music.