Flax seed is a topic near and dear to me because 1) I turn to flax daily for a plant source of omega-3’s but more importantly 2) I dedicated my major research project to flax seed in grad school.
Why Flax Seed?
Flax seed has gained recent attention as a potential functional food due its unique nutrient profile, comprised of dietary fibre, lignans, and alpha linolenic acid (ALA – which is the plant source of omega 3’s).
Per tbsp of ground flax:
- Dietary Fibre – 3 grams
- Lignans – 0.3 grams*
- Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) – 2.5 grams
Previous research suggests that lignans show antimitotic, antiangiogenic, antioxidant, antiestrogenic and hypoglycemic effects. It is therefore thought that flaxseed has implications for conditions such as diabetes mellitus, menopause and prostate cancer, although there has been a limited amount of human randomized control trials (RCT’s) research conducted to date. What does the latest research say?
Summary of Findings
I’m going to spare you the less exciting details of each study I collected and skip to what my conclusions were.
Diabetes – “How does flax seed affect glycemic control in adults with well-controlled Type 2 diabetes?”
- The addition of 10-60 g of supplemental flax may improve glycemic indices amoung individuals with well-controlled TII diabetes.
Flax seed supplementation doesn’t appear to improve mild and moderate menopausal symptoms, but may help more severe symptoms.
Prostate Cancer – “What is the effect of dietary flaxseed on risk of recurrence of prostate cancer in humans?”
Preliminary studies suggest that flax seed, in combination with a low fat diet may reduce the risk of recurrence of prostate cancer in humans
How to Eat Flax
Whole flax seeds:These are often added to breads and muffins to add texture and make them more visually appealing. That’s because flax seeds are very hard, making them difficult to crack, even with careful chewing. whole flax seeds remain unbroken, they may pass undigested through the body, reducing the nutritional advantage of eating flax seed in the first place.
Ground flax seeds: These are added to foods for flavour and their nutrients. Grinding the seeds makes them easier to digest and helps release their nutrients. Your best bet is to enjoy ground flax seeds to get the most this seed has to offer. Grinding flax seeds breaks them up, making them easier to digest when eaten.
Flaxseed oil: This oil is made from flax seeds and is often sold on its own in grocery stores or used in items like salad dressings. Provides the highest amount of alpha-linoleic acid, an omega-3 fat. However, there is little fibre or protein in flax oil.
The Bottom Line
- Flax seed is a good source of omega-3’s for vegetarians who do not consume fish.
- A moderate intake (10-60 g) of flax seed daily may be helpful in managing/preventing diabetes and prostate cancer
- The form the flax seed is in matters – the nutrients in ground flax seed are more readily available