The presence of healthy fatty acids, protein, phytoestrogens as well as both soluble and insoluble fiber has contributed to its popularity.
Flaxseed (botanical name, Linum usitatissimum) is a member of the Linaceae family and is not related to the New Zealand perennial plant harakeke. Originating from India, flax is a slender looking plant, growing to about 1.2m with pale blue flowers which produce glossy brown seeds. Today most of the flaxseed is grown commercially in Canada, China, United States, India and Ethiopia. New Zealand also grows small crops of flaxseed, mainly in the South Island. There are two basic varieties of flaxseeds, brown and yellow or golden. Both have very similar nutritional characteristics and equal numbers of omega-3 fatty acids.
Benefits & Uses
Flax is used as both a food and as a fiber for textiles, known as linen. Flaxseed can be used as a nutritional superfood by eating the whole seeds, best soaked overnight for better digestibility, ground and added to smoothies, cereals or just plain yoghurt. Flaxseed oil is also available and can be taken straight from the spoon or added to salads or vegetables after cooking.
Flaxseed is a rich source of nutrients, including:
- Omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Omega-6 linoleic acid
- Lignans including phytoestrogens
- Fiber, soluble and insoluble
- Vitamins (A, C, E, folic acid)
- Minerals (including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus).
Flaxseed delivers an excellent ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This is good news because omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to support healthy prostaglandin pathways, making it very beneficial for joint health.
The protein profile of flaxseed includes proteins that have been confirmed by research to be beneficial for a healthy cardiovascular system. The omega-3 fatty acid ALA and high fibre content in the seeds help to keep blood vessels healthy, support healthy cholesterol levels as well as blood sugar balance.
Having some trouble to get good bowel motions going? Consuming flaxseeds can help to get things moving thanks to the high insoluble and soluble fibre content. Soluble fibre acts as a mucilage, drawing water into the gut, helping to soften stools and supporting regularity. Insoluble fibre not only helps to bulk the stool but also can be used as a food source for healthy gut bacteria.
Healthy weight management:
The high fibre content in flaxseed has also shown to support normal appetite and contribute to weight management.
Lignans in flaxseed have shown to help the body to neutralise free radicals and to support hormonal balance.
Flaxseed is valued for its balancing effect on skin health. Research has shown that it helps to hold moisture within skin layers as well as balancing skin irritation.