Benefits of Using Flaxseed

Tiny flaxseed–packed with essential fatty acid, fiber, protein and lignan–offers a tremendous nutritional bang for your supplement buck. Ground flaxseed provides benefits over flaxseed oil and is easy to incorporate into any diet plan. A tablespoon or two a day adds a mild nutty flavor to cereals or yogurt, and if you grind your own seeds, it’s one of the least expensive dietary supplements available. Grind the flaxseed rather than eat the seeds whole. Once ground, flaxseed stored at room temperature stays fresh for about a week. For longer storage, refrigerate or freeze the ground flaxseed. Buy whole seeds in bulk (which last for more than a year stored at room temperature) and grind them as needed. This is easily accomplished with a coffee or spice grinder.

Restores Fatty Acid Balance

Maintaining the proper dietary balance between omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids is crucial to immune health, with omega-6 fatty acids stimulating the immune response and omega-3 fatty acids exhibiting an anti-inflammatory effect. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the typical American diet skews the omega-6:omega-3 ratio from an optimal 4:1 to between 15:1 and 30:1; this imbalance is thought to contribute to the increase in inflammatory disorders seen in the U.S. Flaxseed is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid, and helps restore the ideal omega-6:omega-3 dietary balance. It’s one of the highest non-fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids, whether consumed as ground flaxseed or as flax oil.

Great Source of Fiber

Ground flaxseed is an excellent source of dietary fiber–both soluble and insoluble fiber as well as mucilage. When taken daily with plenty of water, flaxseed helps relieve symptoms of constipation and regulate the bowels. Ground flaxseed shouldn’t be taken within an hour or two of any prescription or over-the-counter medications, however, as it may interfere with the medication’s absorption.

Good Source of Protein

Not only is flaxseed a good source of protein–18 percent by weight–the specific type of protein found in flaxseed may have beneficial effects on human health. In the March 10, 2010, volume of “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,” Udenigwe and Aluko found that flaxseed-derived proteins showed potential antihypertensive properties by inhibiting angiotensin-1 converting enzyme.

Strong Lignan Content

Plant lignans are a type of phytoestrogen, a plant-based compound that mimics the effect of estrogen in the human body. Flaxseed contains the most lignan of any plant source. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, lignan from flaxseed is the focus of research in several disease prevention models: cardiovascular disease, hormone-associated cancers and osteoporosis.

Better Than Flax Oil

Although a flax oil supplement provides the important omega-3 essential fatty acid, the oil alone lacks the fiber, protein and lignan that ground flaxseed offers. For pennies a day, you can have all of the benefits that flaxseed provides, and a flavor boost to your diet.

About this Author

A longtime Seattle resident, Jenny Mulligan holds an undergraduate degree from Purdue University and certificates in both sports medicine and editing from the University of Washington. She has been a pharmacology bench scientist for nearly 20 years, and is a contributing author to various peer-reviewed scientific research papers and posters.