Flax Seed (Linseed): Benefits, Nutrition, Side Effects and Facts

Flax Seed (Linseed): Benefits, Nutrition, Side Effects and Facts

Flax seed (commonly spelled as flaxseed), also known as linseed, are the seeds of an annual plant called, Linum usitatissimum, which has been cultivated for thousands of years for textile fiber and nutrition. Flax seeds and extracts such as flax seed oil were eaten by a variety of peoples in the ancient world, and came back into fashion in the late twentieth century. Flax seeds are considered by many to be healthy and flavorful, and can be found in most health food stores as well as some supermarkets.


The ancient civilization of Ethiopia and ancient Egypt, saw the extensive cultivation of this plant. The seeds are obtained from the fruits of the flax plant, which grow in the form of round, dry capsules. The seeds are glossy brown and have the shape like that of an apple. Flaxseed has been associated with treating and curing several kinds of medical conditions and although it is a natural product, it does not lack its share of side effects.


The flax plant is an annual plant which grows between 20-40 inches (50-100 centimeters) in height. The plant has a green stalk which terminates in blue to purple flowers. Flax fiber is extracted from the stalk, which is beaten to loosen the fiber, allowing it to be spun and woven. Flax fiber is strong, durable, and can be woven into very fine fabrics. Flax seeds come from the flowers of the plant, and can be found whole, pressed into flax oil, or ground into flax seed meal for baking.


Flax seeds contain a large amount of a nutritious polyunsaturated oil. This healthy oil is high in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, both of which reduce the risk of coronary disease and cancer. The fatty acids contained in flax seeds also raise the levels of good cholesterol while lowering high blood pressure. Flax seeds contain an omega 6 fatty acid known as linoleic acid, which is considered to be a very important component of human health and wellness. In addition, flax seeds are high in dietary fiber, which promotes good digestion.


For vegetarians, flax seeds are an excellent dietary supplement. They are a plant based source of omega acids and contain several other essential nutrients such as vitamin B6, magnesium, and folate. Flax seeds also contain a small amount of protein which can supplement the vegetarian diet. Non-vegetarians can also benefit from flax seeds, because they are a concentrated and healthy nutritional supplement.


Like many other healthy fats, flax seed oil is very fragile. It is usually found refrigerated in the store and should be kept refrigerated and used quickly at home. Although flax seed oil is not suited to cooking, it can be used in dressings or sprinkled directly onto food. The flax seeds themselves can be toasted and added to salads, added to baked goods, eaten straight, or enjoyed in a variety of other culinary settings. Flax seeds and flax seed oil have a nutty, rich flavor which many consumers find quite enjoyable.


Flax Seed Nutrition Facts

2 tbsp (approximately 13 g) of Red Mill Flax seed Meal contains:

Nutrient

Quantity

Calories

60

Calories from Fat

40

Protein

3 g

Dietary Fiber

4 g

Calcium

2%

Iron

4%

Sugars

0

Cholesterol

0

Sodium

0

Total Fat

4.5 g

Total Carbohydrates

4 g

Yellow or brown, both types of flax seed are rich in dietary fiber and they provide healthy fats. 20 g of flax seed contain:

Nutrient

Quantity

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

3.5 g

Dietary Fiber

5.4 g

Calcium

2%

Iron

4%

Omega 6 Fatty Acids

1 g

Carbohydrates

6.6 g

Protein

4 g

Folate

53.86 mcg

Calcium

38.56 mg

Potassium

134.94 mg

After knowing about Flax seed as well as flax seed meal nutritional value, let us take a look at flax seed benefits.


Flax Seed Benefits

Flax seeds are available throughout the year. A health conscious consumer prefers to include flax seeds in his diet because of the abundance of omega 3 essential fatty acids in them, offering numerous benefits. Nutrients in ground seeds can be easily absorbed by the body. Diet conscious people are now aware of the flax seeds benefits.


  • Reduction of prostate problems, impotence and male infertility are the main flax seed oil benefits for men. Consumption of flax seeds can prevent the swelling and inflammation of the prostate and reduce the urgency to urinate. Similarly, healthy sperms and improved blood flow to penis, reducing impotency are the other important benefits of flax seed for men.

  • Numerous flaxseed oil benefits for women are known. The oil helps regulate menstruation, balance the progesterone levels, reduce menopause symptoms, balance hormonal levels promoting natural ovulation, minimize the risk of breast cancer, etc.

  • The flax seeds can reduce the risk of colon cancer, skin cancer and endometrial cancer, as Omega 3 from flax seeds kill certain cancer cells without any effect on the normal cells and this can be therefore called the most important flax seed benefit.

  • Omega-3 fats are used by the body to produce prostaglandins, which are anti-inflammatory hormones. Inflammation is noticed in conditions such as asthma, migraine headaches, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. Omega-3 fats can help reduce this inflammation and reduce the pain.

  • The topic 'flax seeds and weight loss' has not been yet researched thoroughly or proved scientifically. But use of flax seed oil in weight loss diets has exhibited significant results.

  • The important flax seeds benefit is that it is a good alternative for the vegetarians, who do not eat fish or do not want to consume fish oil supplements.

  • Flax seeds and flax seed oil, both can offer hyperglycemic effect, a positive effect on blood glucose levels. They help reduce the risk of diabetes.

  • Flax seeds health benefits include their use in treating and fighting lyme disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, arrhythmia, multiple sclerosis, preterm labor, ulcers, etc.

  • Flax seed health benefits also include nourishing dry skin, reducing acne, psoriasis, sunburn, rosacea and for eczema treatment.

  • Flax seed oil helps reduce the inflammation due to lupus, gout and kidney dysfunction. Flax seed oil offers an anti aging effect and it helps in healing sprains and bruises too.

  • Alpha linolenic acid, the omega-3 fat found in flax seed helps improve bone health. They help reduce bone loss.

  • Flax seeds minimize the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

  • Flax seeds strengthen the immune system by reducing nerve damage and by triggering nerve impulses.

  • Lowering of high blood pressure can be achieved with the regular consumption of flax seeds.

  • Flax seeds promote healthy skin, healthy hair and healthy nail growth.

  • Flax seeds enhance the liver function.

  • Flax seed benefits include boosting of circulatory system, nervous system and reproductive system too.

  • Increased rate of calcium absorption in the body is noticed after regular use of flax seeds in the diet.

  • They help strengthen the joints, increase energy level and stamina.

  • Flax seeds enhance the release of endorphins making you more happy, and thus helping you fight depression.

  • Dietary fibers present, make flax seeds great laxative, which help to prevent constipation.


It is always best to have ground flaxseed instead of whole flaxseed because whole flaxseed are sometimes not digested by the intestine and it just passes through. Therefore it gives your body no nutritional benefits. Moreover, ground flaxseed is easy to digest and contains enough fiber to meet your dietary requirements. You can also purchase flaxseed oil and there are many benefits of flaxseed oil for men. Whenever you purchase ground flaxseed make sure that it is organic. Organic ground flaxseed benefits is much higher than the normal variety.

This was all about ground flaxseed benefits. As we have seen there are many benefits of ground flaxseed and it is best to add them to your diet. Since ground flaxseed gets more easily absorbed by our body than the whole variety, you can grind them in a grinder before consuming them. Just add a tablespoon or two to your breakfast cereal or add it to regular flour. To store ground flaxseed place it in an air tight container and put it inside the refrigerator. Ground flaxseed goes rancid quickly, so make sure that you use it quickly or grind up a smaller batch.


Flax Seed Side Effects

They say too much of anything isn't good. When it comes to flax seed, some people may experience some health concerns instead of benefits. This is why experts say that it is better to consume flax seed in small quantities rather than consuming it in large quantities. Have a look at some of the most commonly observed side effects of flax seed mentioned below.

Indigestion
Consuming too much of flax seed can cause indigestion and lead to symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence and cramps. In fact, people who start consuming flax seed, and introduce it for the first time in their diet, mostly suffer from indigestion.

Obstruction in Digestive Tract
Another side effect of flax seed is that it can cause significant obstruction in the digestive tract and even the throat of a person. This happens specially in cases wherein people consume it in the powdered form. Flax seed tends to swell up when consumed and tends to get stuck in the digestive tract creating an obstruction, therefore you should consume a lot of water while consuming it to avoid this side effect.

Laxative Effects on the Body
Flax seed is known to have a laxative effect on the body as it tends to increase the bowel movements of a person which can result in diarrhea. Therefore, if you are suffering from certain intestinal problems like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), stomach ulcers, Crohn's disease, then it is advisable not to consume flax seed.


Bleeding in the Brain

In rare cases, the use of this seed may induce bleeding in the brain. This is known as hemorrhagic stroke, clinically. The classic symptoms include changes in vision, weakness, feeling of numbness in limbs, severe headache and changes in speech.


Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding may also be one of the severe side effects of flaxseed oil pills. This may be indicated by black or tarry stools. In some cases, there might be a small amount of bright red blood in the stool.

Other Blood Disorders
Consumption of flax seed also makes a person prone to suffer from blood related problems. This is why experts advice people with bleeding disorders, or people those who are consuming blood thinners, not to go for flax seed as it tends to increase blood clotting. It is also not advisable to include this in your diet if you are about to go for some dental or surgical procedure.


Allergic Reaction

Some people may suffer from hives, swelling, wheezing and trouble breathing after taking the flaxseed oil or the seed. These flaxseed side effects are a manifestation of an allergic reaction. Flaxseed is also known to slow down the process of blood clotting and hence, this increases the risk of heavy bleeding and easy bruising.


Toxicity

Don't eat raw or unripe flaxseed. Flaxseed in these forms is thought to be poisonous.


Don't use flaxseed oil to cook since the heat changes the healthy fat into toxic fat that causes harm. Instead, most people find that adding the oil to a dish that's already cooked can enhance the flavor and add many beneficial nutrients to the diet.


Pregnancy and Breast-feeding

Taking flaxseed by mouth during pregnancy is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Flaxseed can act like the hormone estrogen. Some healthcare providers worry that this might harm the pregnancy, although to date there is no reliable clinical evidence about the effects of flaxseed on pregnancy outcomes. The effect of flaxseed on breast-fed infants is unknown at this time. Stay on the safe side, and don't use flaxseed if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Other Health Conditions
Apart from the aforementioned side effects, other possible side effects of consuming flax seed include, allergic reactions, changes in the menstrual cycle in women, as flax seed also affects the estrogen levels in the body causing hormonal imbalance. Some say that flax seed also triggers thyroid problems in people. Therefore, you must consult with your doctor about your individual health condition and the doses are safe to consume, if you have to consume it at all!


Flax Seed Reviews

The following reviews have been selected:


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Reason for taking: Other


Reviewer: 55-64 Male, 9/21/2009 11:23:55 AM


Comment:

For the past 2years I take 2 TBS ground flax in water with 2 TBS apple cider vinegar & 1 TBS molasses most every day for diverticulitis. I have not been hospitalized or been to the ER as I had in the past.


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Reason for taking: General Health & Wellness


Reviewer: 45-54 Female, 11/24/2009 11:55:12 AM


Comment:

I started taking flaxseed oil to reduce cholesterol, after a period of time I switched to ground flaxseed for the added benefit of fibre and realized that it was a big help for night sweats. I mix 2 tbsps. in my oatmeal every morning, easy to take that way.


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Reason for taking: Constipation


Reviewer: blondie, 55-64 Female, 8/28/2010 11:19:44 PM


Comment:

i take pain medicin daily and would get constipatid a lot and tried stool softeners and other remedies that were not good for the body and did,nt work most of the time. flaxseed 1000mg. just 2 at night with dinner or after dinner works great and have never been constipated since i.ve been taking it for about 4 yrs. now. and its so good for you.


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Reason for taking: Other


Reviewer: pace, 55-64 Female, 2/13/2011 2:30:11 PM


Comment:

I use flaxseed for pain in my joints. And it works like a lubricate, making easier to go up and down the stairs with esae.


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Reason for taking: Constipation


Reviewer: Rex, 45-54 Male, 6/8/2010 6:15:38 PM


Comment:

Yes, Ready to eat Flax seed... flaxseed works excellent for people suffering from constipation. The fiber in flaxseed binds with water, swelling to form a gel which, like other forms of fiber, helps soften the stool and move it along in the intestines. Only flaxseed help not the flax seed oil.


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Reason for taking: High cholesterol


Reviewer: mutleysmom, 55-64 Female, 4/26/2010 4:36:51 PM


Comment:

My 84 year old mother has been taking 2T. of ground flaxseed on her cereal, as well as flax oil, for 4 years since open-heart surgery. Her cholesterol and triglycerides were extremely elevated prior to starting the flaxseed, but are now in the "low normal" range. She takes no medication other than 1 pill for hypertension. Her physician just shakes his head because he had insisted that she take statins and she refuses to do so. Pretty amazing!


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Reason for taking: Other


Reviewer: screen name whjat's that, 65-74 Male, 2/17/2011 8:10:01 PM


Comment:

My Trigly dropped from over 400 to 179 in one month


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Reason for taking: Cholesterol


Reviewer: alicebettyanna, 45-54 Female, 8/17/2009 9:37:03 AM


Comment:

Be careful when taking the seeds because some people are sensitive and may not know it. I was using a teaspon every day in my oatmeal and liked it. However, after about three weeks, I had intense abdominal pain/pressure and bloating. After researching, I learn that some people are senstitive and may even have bowel obstructions. If it works, great but beware. I feel so much better after stopping it!


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