My Dad regularly consumes ground flaxseeds. I haven’t gotten into the habit of mixing them into my morning smoothies yet, but flaxseed health benefits seem to have an outsized reputation, given the size of the seeds!
Did you know flaxseeds grow into flax plants, which people have been harvesting for time unknown to make linen?
For example, ancient Egyptians used linen to wrap their mummies!
Up to ten flaxseeds grow inside each of the plants’ spherical pods, or bolls. When the flax plant’s stunning blue flowers have fallen off, the bolls turn yellow and start to crack, releasing the nutritional powerhouses inside for harvest.
Flax oil (aka linseed oil) is a common industrial ingredient in paints, lacquers, printing inks, teabags, and cigarette paper. It also shows up in livestock feed, thanks to its high protein content.
But it was the flaxseed health benefits that convinced my Dad of the wisdom of consuming something we feed to cows, make into paint, and grew as plants to wrap the dead in ancient times.
What Are Some Flaxseed Health Benefits?
In addition to protein, flaxseeds are excellent sources of:
- polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3-fatty acids
and lignan precursors.
Flaxseeds are our predominant dietary source of lignan precursors. Why does that matter?
Because, according to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute, our gut bacteria convert lignan precursors into compounds called phytoestrogens.
They claim that lignans may be the “principal source of dietary phytoestrogens in typical Western diets” and that some research suggests they also play a crucial role in preventing “hormone-associated cancers, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.”
In a 2019 review of 662 studies on flaxseed health benefits, members of the University of Saskatchewan’s Drug Discovery & Development Research Group wrote:
“Literature evidence on lignans suggests potential benefit in cancer prevention and treatment.”
People who consume flaxseeds regularly may also improve their digestive health while lowering their LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and heart-disease risk.
And diabetes? There’s evidence that flaxseeds may reduce diabetes risk by lowering blood glucose and insulin levels.
Two Nutrition Experts on Flaxseed Health Benefits
Flaxseed health benefits are so far-reaching that many nutrition experts recommend including them in any diet, especially a plant-based one.
In the video 3 Super Foods We’re Not Getting Enough Of, medical doctor and Ph.D. scientific researcher Dr. Gil Caralho ranks flaxseeds first on his list:
“Tiny, but extremely powerful, flaxseeds are packed with healthy omega-3s and these amazing compounds called lignans.” He describes the list of flaxseed health benefits as “almost too good to be true.”
Dr. Michael Greger has enough respect for the balance of evidence supporting multiple flaxseed health benefits that they’ve made his Daily Dozen Checklist.
In fact, they are the ONLY single ingredient on his entire list.
That’s impressive because Dr. Greger may have reviewed more nutritional scientific studies than anyone else alive! His team of 200 doctors and researchers pore over every English language science journal to find all the relevant dietary studies.
With so much research under his belt, he must have found flaxseed health benefits compelling enough to warrant such singular support.
He also observes that as phytoestrogens, lignans have a dampening effect on estrogens, saying that one tablespoon daily of ground flax will extend a menstrual cycle (not the length of menses) “by an average of one day.” This will result in fewer “periods throughout your life, which means less estrogen exposure, and lower breast cancer risk.”
I watched all his videos on flaxseed health benefits and found many others backed by strong research, including:
- reducing depression risk.
- fighting against prostate cancer.
- fighting breast cancer
- improving skin health.
- lowering blood pressure
- improving brain health.
- maximizing weight loss.
- lowering inflammation.
Dr. Greger suggests taking one tablespoon of flaxseeds daily.
After researching their benefits for the past two days, I’ll be stopping by the store to buy my first bag of flaxseeds. I’ll be following Dad’s example as a regular flax-seed consumer along with my wife and children!