Many health gurus and personal trainers recommend sprinkling flaxseed into your smoothies and over your salads, but a lot of us are left wondering why. What, exactly, is it about flaxseed that makes it such a healthful addition to your diet? Actually, there are a lot of reasons why it’s so beneficial to include flax in your meals. Here are just a few of this tiny seed’s health benefits.
The most frequently touted health benefit of flax is that it contains abundant levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are important for Westerners, primarily because we normally don’t get enough of them. Omega-3s are a group of essential fatty acids, meaning that we cannot manufacture them within our own bodies, so we need to get them from our diets. This is a trait they have in common with omega-6 fatty acids.
The difference is that we typically get plenty of omega-6s already. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Americans often get 14 to 25 times more omega-6s (commonly found in meat and vegetable oils) than omega-3s (often found in fish and nuts). The natural ratio should be closer to 3 or 4 omega-6s to 1 omega-3, and this imbalance puts us at risk of inflammation. Left unchecked, inflammation can lead to chronic diseases such as arthritis, skin issues and even heart disease and cancer.
In a nutshell, getting that ratio closer to 3 or 4 to 1 is increasingly important. Because flax contains high levels of omega-3s, it’s a great way to help tilt the scale back into balance.
Probably because of omega-3s’ ability to combat inflammation, flax is suspected to help prevent cancers of the breast, prostate, ovaries and colon. According to Dr. Axe, another possible reason that flaxseeds may help prevent cancer is because they have hormone-balancing effects. If you’ve ever tried seed cycling, you’ll know that flaxseed is part of a helpful hormone-balancing regimen. Hormonal imbalances contribute to the cancers mentioned above, which is one of the potential reasons why flaxseed may be helpful for preventing cancer.
Lignans are one of the primary hormone-regulating nutrients found in flax. In addition to hormone regulation, lignans have a strong antioxidant effect, which does double duty in helping prevent cancers and diseases. Antioxidants can also help fight signs of aging, both on the surface and inside the body.
“Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits for anti-aging, hormone balance and cellular health,” explains Dr. Axe. “Polyphenols support the growth of probiotics in the gut and may also help eliminate yeast and candida in the body.”
Contains Fiber and Promotes Digestive Regularity
Finally, flaxseed is packed with a whopping 27.3 grams of fiber per 100 grams of flaxseed, according to the USDA. This high fiber content makes it great for promoting good digestion. Fiber helps to keep you regular by moving through the digestive tract (it’s indigestible itself), cleansing and eliminating foods that may be causing blockages. In fact, eating a lot of fiber is one of the most surefire ways to maintain a healthy body weight, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.