The omega-3 fatty acids have a balancing role in the diet. They correct imbalances in modern diets, such as from eating foods high in saturated and trans-fatty acids that can lead to health problems. Nutritionists caution that the amount of omega-3 fatty acids eaten in North America no longer meets our bodies’ requirements. You can balance your consumption of fatty acids by adding flax to your diet. Current research shows eating flax seed provides health benefits.
A lower risk for heart disease
Nutritionists advise paying attention to the kinds of fats eaten. They suggest you eat less saturated and trans-fatty acids, and more polyunsaturated fatty acids – which flax provides. Studies show a diet high in ALA reduces the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol and by preventing the buildup of harmful deposits in arteries. In other studies, where scientists studied large groups of people to find disease trends, increasing the ALA content of the diet corresponded to a decrease in risk of stroke and heart disease.
In a St. Boniface Hospital/University of Manitoba joint research study on the impact of 30grams of flaxseed consumed daily by half of 110 study participants for a period of six months, blood pressure levels dropped sufficiently to decrease the risk of a stroke by 50% and the risk of a heart attack by 30%. Thirty grams is equal to about three heaping tablespoons of flax.
Prevention of some forms of cancer
The link between diet and cancer is well-known. As flax contains dietary fibre and the omega-3 fatty acid in the form of ALA, it can reduce the risk of cancer. Studies showed the ALA in flax slowed inflammation which led to cell growth in cancer. Another study on women newly diagnosed with breast cancer showed a slowing of tumour growth with the addition of flax to their diet.
Treatment of immune disorders
The lignans and ALA in flax help prevent inflammation that affects the body’s immune system. Flax in the diet may be useful in the treatment of such immune disorders as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and lupus.
Studies show flax lowers blood glucose levels in healthy, young adults. The effect of flax in the diets of people with Type 2 diabetes is currently being investigated.
Relief from constipation
Studies in older adults show flax consumption helps increase the frequency of bowel movements.
Antioxidants help to stabilize the polyunsaturated fatty acids in vegetable oils and limit the production of free fatty acids which are known to enhance cancer growth. Antioxidants like those in flaxseed are important to our immune system and may help us lower the risk of certain diseases including heart disease and cancer.
It is recommended to consume 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed a day to supplement your diet. To get the most value out of the flax seed it needs to be milled as whole raw flax seed tends to pass through the digestive system intact. Keep milled flax seed in a cool, dry place or your freezer. If kept cool it has an average shelf life of one year.