Cultivated by humans since Paleolithic times, this highly versatile plant is grown for its fibre, nutrition and medicinal properties.
Flax, or linseed, provides the raw material from which linen is made, and the seeds are a highly nutritious functional food when ground or refined as an oil. The botanical name, Linum usitatissimum, carries the specific epithet usitatissimum, meaning “most useful,” and it’s true! Almost all parts of the flax plant are utilized for various purposes.
- Heart Healthy: Rich in fat, flaxseeds are one of the most abundant sources of alphalinolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid with promising anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic and anti-arrhythmic properties. Like other fatty acids, ALA is a necessary part of the human diet because it is not produced by our bodies. This fatty acid may contribute to a moderately lower risk of cardiovascular disease by helping prevent cholesterol from being deposited in the heart’s blood vessels and reducing inflammation in the arteries. Ground flaxseed is preferable to whole seeds because the oil is locked inside the fibrous structure; plus, it's easier to digest so you reap more of the benefits. Flaxseed oil contains the highest amount of ALA, but does not contain any of the fibre or lignans.
- Estrogen Equalizer: Flax contains polyphenols that are well-known for their anticancer and antioxidative properties. It’s the richest dietary source of lignans, which function as phytoestrogens— plant compounds that are similar to the female sex hormone estrogen. Studies indicate that a diet rich in phytoestrogens may reduce the risk of some hormone-dependent cancers, heart disease and osteoporosis. Flax may even provide some relief from menopausal symptoms, like hot flashes and mood swings, by helping rebalance estrogen levels. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s recommended to limit your intake of phytoestrogens (like flax or soy). Talk to your doctor before making any significant dietary changes, as certain plant compounds may adversely affect some people.
- Nourishing Nutrients: A nutritional powerhouse, flaxseed contains significant amounts of fibre and protein. These small brown seeds contain two types of dietary fibre, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre slows digestion, which can help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol. Insoluble fibre attracts water to increase bulk, resulting in softer stools, useful for treatment of constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. With 20 grams of protein in every 100 grams of flaxseed, this superfood makes a great alternative protein source for people who don’t eat meat. Enrich your diet by adding flaxseeds or flaxseed oil to water or other drinks, drizzle the oil on salads or add ground flaxseeds to batters, smoothies and even meat patties.
Try this superfood in our Spiced Carrot & Flax Muffins.