Let's start with the basics. Flaxseeds come from the flax plant, which is known for its fibers that are used in the fabric. The word "linen" comes from flax's scientific name: linum usitatissimum. If you're hesitant to eat food that could be woven into your favorite pair of summertime pants, however, don't worry! Flax plants that are grown for their fibers and flax plants that are grown for their seeds are generally two different cultivars. Thanks to selective breeding, the latter has become shorter with more branches, producing a much higher yield of seeds.
The flaxseed plant is grown across the world and blooms annually with small blue flowers. The fruit is a hard-shelled capsule less than a centimeter across, each of which contains several seeds. Despite their small size, however, flaxseeds punch well above their weight when it comes to nutrition.
Flaxseed offers health benefits of all shapes and sizes, but the majority are due to the super food's high amounts of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and compounds called lignans. Together, these three components contribute to everything from disease prevention to a healthier gut.
Flaxseed has been shown to help lower bad cholesterol, a common culprit in various heart diseases. It can also reduce blood pressure, further improving overall heart health.
Research has suggested that the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed can help prevent various types of cancer cells from growing in your body. Flaxseed has also been shown to reduce the growth of tumors in men with prostate cancer. In addition to the omega-3s, lignans—another nutrient that flaxseeds have in abundance—have been linked to cancer prevention and treatment, too.
Thanks to its high fiber content, flaxseed is commonly used to improve digestion and prevent gut issues like constipation and diarrhea.
Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s, flaxseed can ease some symptoms of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus by reducing the inflammation that often causes stiffness and soreness.
In addition to its benefits for our insides, flaxseed helps with our external health as well.
Flaxseed contains vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that prevents cell damage from free radicals. This improves your scalp health and promotes healthy hair growth. Also, the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed help to keep hair from drying out and may reduce thinning and hair loss.
When it comes to flaxseed benefits for skin, it's all about the omega-3s. These compounds help to boost your skin's moisture barrier, keeping it healthy and hydrated and reducing its sensitivity to irritation.
With all these health benefits to gain, it's time to learn how to eat flaxseed and take advantage of its superpowers for yourself. Fortunately, there are a variety of simple and convenient ways to add this little seed to your dietary routine.
Eating ground flaxseed is the best way to take advantage of all the food's nutritional benefits, as the whole seeds are more likely to go undigested in your body. Whether it's called ground flaxseed, milled flaxseed, flax meal, or flaxseed flour, it offers the same variety of uses and the same supercharged health boosts.
Use a flaxseed meal substitute in place of regular flour when baking breads, bagels, muffins, and more. You can also add a couple teaspoons of flaxseed to your morning oatmeal or an afternoon smoothie, or incorporate it in sauces and meat dishes. While the flavor will likely go unnoticed, the nutrients will be there in full force.
While you can easily find flaxseed meal in stores and online, it isn't hard to learn how to grind flaxseed for yourself, and it will help to preserve the nutrients and flavor. Simply use an electric coffee grinder, a blender, or a more traditional mortar and pestle, and you'll have your own freshly ground flaxseed whenever you need it.
If you prefer whole flaxseeds, it's best to roast them before eating. This breaks the hard seed covering and makes it easier for your body to digest the nutrients. Fortunately, roasting flaxseeds is an easy process: all it takes is about five to seven minutes in a skillet at medium heat.
Once roasted, flaxseeds provide a great anytime snack with a satisfying crunch and a mild, nutty flavor.
The third way to get your flaxseed fix is with flaxseed oil. This product is made by cold pressing ripened flaxseeds to extract the oil. While flaxseed oil doesn't have all the same nutrients as the seeds themselves—it doesn't contain fiber, for example—it still has the all-important omega-3s and, for some people, may be a more convenient way of including the super food in their diet.
Flaxseed oil can be used in cooking in place of other oils or butter. It has a lower smoke point than many other cooking oils, which means it is best used raw in sauces and salad dressings, though it can also be used for low-heat cooking. If you just want the health boost without the cooking, however, you can also take flaxseed oil in capsule form.
From a sweet breakfast to a savory dinner, check out two of our favorite flaxseed recipes and start taking advantage of this nutritional powerhouse today.
This bowl provides an easy, nutrient-packed start to your day. Swap out the berries and banana for your favorite in-season fruits for even more variety.
Mix the jam, almond butter, and flaxseed into the yogurt. Top with fruit and granola. Enjoy!
With only two ingredients, these chicken tenders are as easy as it gets and offer a taste the whole family will love. Serve them with an array of your favorite dipping sauces for extra flavor.
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