From cereals and porridges to muffins and breads, flaxseed is a featured supplement that occupies the health section of all grocery stores and, probably, your home. Is it a newly invented miracle food or a money-making fad? Research reveals the many healthful benefits of flaxseed oil which has shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood cholesterol, minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, preventing the clotting of blood platelets, fight depression, reduce muscle and joint pain, protect your eyes from age-related diseases, improve complexity of skin, hair and nails, increase palatability of foods and facilitate digestion.
The flax plant is an ancient crop originating in Mesopotamia more than 4000 years ago. Also known as Linseed, the plant Linum usitatissimum (meaning “most useful”) has truly blue flowers. Flaxseed is used throughout the world in more ways than you can imagine. The oil from flaxseed is used in paints, linoleum and varnishes, the fiber is a valuable source for weaving linen for clothing. But the most valuable properties are found in the flaxseed’s nutritional value as it contains fiber and lignans, essential fatty acids and amino acids, abundance of vitamins and minerals. Today, flaxseed is best known for its therapeutic oil, which has earned a reputation for treating a range of conditions.
Healing Flax Oil
Three quarters of the lipids found in the flaxseed are healthy polyunsaturated fats. The flaxseed’s most unique feature is the high ratio of alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 lipid) to linoleic acid (an omega-6 lipid). Both these lipids are referred to as Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) as humans can only obtain them by ingesting them. Because the typical Western diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids, nutrition experts recommend people replace some omega-6 fatty acids with omega-3 fatty acids to improve the dietary omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. It is the richest known source of omega-3 fatty acids, also known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) making it an excellent replacement.
The only way we can get enough of Omega-3 is by eating plenty of fish or flaxseeds. While other foods supply small amounts of Omega-3, these come naturally mixed together with Omega-6 fatty acids, particularly linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. The unique composition of flaxseed’s oil due to the abundance of Omega-3 fats is something no other plant food can offer.
Reduced Inflammation – Eating too little fat has never been a problem for most people. But eating too little of the essential Omega-3 fat has certainly contributed to many health problems. Most of us eat a lot of Omega-6 fats, primarily from various vegetable oils, such as corn, sesame, safflower, cottonseed, and sunflower. Omega-3s from seafood and flaxseed are eaten in small amounts and without consistency. This imbalance makes the body vulnerable to different irritants causing inflammation and slowing blood flow in the body. On the other hand, eating slightly more Omega-3 fats helps to reduce and prevent inflammation and improve circulation.
This is because Omega-3 fats are used in production of Series 1 and 3 prostaglandins, which are anti-inflammatory hormone-like molecules, while other fats produce pro-inflammatory Series-2 prostaglandins. Like aspirin, omega-3s have power to help reduce blood clotting, lessen the risk of heart disease, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and migraine headaches. The Omega-3 fatty acids also have the ability to construct healthy cell walls, transport oxygen to all the cells in the body, and serve as the number one energy source for the heart muscle.
Lowered Cholesterol – Eating flaxseed on a regular basis have shown to lower cholesterol. After just four weeks of daily supplementation with 50 grams of flaxseed, women’s levels of dangerous LDL-cholesterol dropped 18 percent while total cholesterol levels were reduced by nine percent. Similar study have confirmed the cholesterol-lowering power of flax by showing an eight percent drop LDL cholesterol with just three weeks of eating the flax. Such changes in cholesterol are more than enough to significantly lower the risk of heart disease.
Beautiful Skin – The complexion and the color of your skin reveals the health of your body which requires proper care. Dry skin, oily skin, acne, skin rash, blackheads, whiteheads and light scarring are issues that are all revealed with both undernutrition and also overnutrition. Several nutrients, all found in flaxseed, have shown to protect and repair your skin. Carotene, Vitamins A, E and C, selenium, zinc, and sulphur lessen the skin damage from free radicals of UV sun rays, help repair tissue and promote the growth of new skin cells. Additionally, flaxseed’s oil rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) will moisturize the skin from within creating a smooth velvety complexion. With aging and sun exposure, the skin becomes dry and prone to wrinkles. While creams and lotions may help preserve the superficial skin layer, nutritious diet with plenty of EFAs will stimulate the production of natural moisture protective coating, make the skin more resistant to the environmental damage and help construct new healthy-looking skin.
Sharpened Vision – Loaded with essential Omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed can reduce the risk of macular degeneration — an eye disease that destroys vision by damaging nerve cells in the eye. While people with a high intake of other fats from various vegetable oils were more likely to develop macular degeneration, those who eat more Omega-3 were less likely to have the disease. Flaxseed is also good for combating dry eyes due to an insufficient oil layer making the eyes prone to water evaporation. Omega-3 fatty acids help the oil glands in lubricating and coating of the surface of the eyes thus keeping them moist.
Using Flax Oil
Note that Flax oil cannot stand up to high temperatures, therefore it is not suitable for cooking, baking or frying. However, it can be added to a dish after cooking, used in salad dressings or as a dip for breads. Keep the oil in the dark bottle in the refrigerator as it spoils quickly when exposed to light and heat.