3 Benefits of Flax

This tiny seed provides 3 incredible benefits for your diet.

Posted on | Victoria Maizes, MD | Comments ()

This tiny seed provides 3 incredible benefits for your diet. 

First, flax is a great source of fiber. Most Americans do not get enough fiber in their diet. Each tablespoon of flax contains about 8 grams of fiber. This helps keep the bowels regular. Because of all the fiber, be sure to start slow (say, with a half-teaspoon) and build up. Otherwise, you may experience bloating.

Second, flax is a plant source of omega-3. Once again, most Americans are short on their omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids ("essential" meaning they must be consumed because our bodies don’t make them) play an important role in the anti-inflammatory system of our body. Flax contains the shorter chain omega-3 called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Thus, it is not a replacement for fish or fish oil supplements that contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (ecosapentaenoic acid.)

Third, flax contains lignans which reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. The lignans alter the way your body metabolizes estrogens into safer forms.

As if this wasn’t enough, flax  has been shown to reduce hot flashes in menopausal women. To reap the benefits, this requires a daily dose of 2 tablespoons. And flax can normalize the menstrual cycle by supporting the second phase (the luteal phase).

Safety: Other than the bloating that may occur in a new user, flax is very safe. It’s a food that has been with us for thousands of years.

How to: Start slow and build up. Remember to grind it. (It is useful to get a coffee grinder for this purpose. Preground flax spoils, or oxidizes, quickly. Unground, the impermeable coating may make it pass right through you, and you won't absorb any of the benefits.) Add it to cooked oatmeal, to pancake batter, or to yogurt. It has a nice nutty flavor. Don’t buy the oil as that eliminates the fiber and most of the lignans.

Blog written by Victoria Maizes, MD
Dr. Victoria Maizes is Executive Director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and a Professor of...