The A-Z of Indian Superfoods: Flaxseed

Packed with Omega-3, fibre and protein, flaxseed is the hero ingredient your kitchen needs. Read on for the benefits of flaxseed and the ways to use it besides sprinkling over food.

By Debashruti Banerjee
08 Aug 2021

A staple in cooking and medicine for thousands of years, flaxseed is derived from the common flax plant or Linum usitatissimum. True to its name where usitatissimum means very useful, flaxseed is considered a superfood due to its plethora of nutritional and medicinal benefits.

Flaxseed is nutritionally very dense, containing large amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, dietary fibre and minerals. Flaxseed oil is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acid, moderate in monounsaturated fat and has a low amount of saturated fat. It is rich in both the essential fatty acids—alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linolenic acid (LA) as well as vitamins A and E. Flax seeds also contain phytoestrogens that are similar to the hormone estrogen.

A malleable and accommodating ingredient, flaxseed can be enjoyed in both savoury and sweet dishes. However, like any good thing, it’s best enjoyed in moderation.




Health Benefits Of Flaxseed

  • Keeps heart disease in check: The alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) present in flaxseeds helps improve cardiovascular health and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduces high cholesterol: Eating flaxseeds may reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol in people with high cholesterol. However, it is not known to raise high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol levels.
  • Manages obesity: With its high fibre and protein content, flax seeds make you feel satiated quicker. This may aid in tackling health risks associated with obesity by managing body weight and body mass index (BMI) as well as increasing metabolism.
  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulating: With the sway of COVID cases all around the world, a common symptom has been inflammation and blood clots within the body. According to a 2015 paper published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, “ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is one of the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids and reported to exhibit anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic and anti-arrhythmic properties.”
  • Fights menopausal symptoms: It was revealed by Mihir Parikh et al in a 2019 review published by the journal Nutrients that “the estrogenic action of certain metabolites of flaxseed suggested a potentially positive effect on these post-menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, slowed metabolism, hair loss etc).” In a study of 140 postmenopausal women who consumed flaxseed, menopausal symptoms decreased and the quality of life increased.
    Since women have low bone density during menopause, flax seeds are recommended for good bone health as they contain phytoestrogens and the minerals calcium and phosphorus.

    In a 2018 paper, titled “The Effect of Flaxseed in Breast Cancer: A Literature Review”, it was concluded that flaxseed might even lower the risk of breast cancer after menopause.

  • Controls blood pressure: Parikh et al observed in their 2019 paper that when patients with peripheral arterial disease (PAD) were fed 30g of milled flaxseed for 6 months, they exhibited significant decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, thus improving overall physiological health.
  • Great for skin: In the same Nutrients paper, a 12 week study on female volunteers with sensitive skin reported positive effects upon ingesting flaxseed oil. Their skin was more hydrated and smoother by the end of the study due to the fatty acids present in flaxseed. Not only that, the antioxidant properties of flaxseed can also reduce the onset of wrinkles by adding moisture and glow to your face.

Easy Ways to Add Flaxseed To Your Diet

  • Add chopped fruits, a drizzle of honey to your yoghurt bowl and top it with some flaxseed to add more nutrients and texture. You can also incorporate flax seeds in your healthy raita bowl, along with salt and fried cumin powder.
  • A gluten-free option, ground flaxseed can be easily incorporated into a number of doughs and batters like cakes, pancakes, cookies, rotis etc.
  • Dry roast some flax seeds in a pan and grind them into powder. Refry with ghee and add jaggery. Take the mixture off the heat, mix in shredded almonds and roll into ladoos for a delicious post-workout snack or dessert.

  • For vegetarians and vegans, flaxseed is a godsend. A mixture of flaxseed and water can substitute eggs in several baking items. About a tablespoon of flax seeds and three tablespoons of water equal one egg.
  • Powdered flaxseed works well as a breading or crumb coat substitute for fried delicacies as well.
  • Just like the yoghurt bowls, you can also incorporate flaxseed into your breakfast smoothies and as a cereal bowl topping.

Other Uses Of Flaxseed

  • The popular textile linen is derived from flax, which is used to make a variety of garments, sheets etc.
  • Flax seeds are also processed into linseed meal, which is used as food for livestock animals.
  • Flaxseed soil can also be used as varnish for paintings and for wood finishing.
  • Fibre from flax is also used to make a variety of items like bags, paper, rope, canvas etc.

Why You Shouldn’t Eat Too Much Flaxseed

  • Consuming large amounts of raw flaxseed may be harmful due to the presence of anti-nutrients like cyanogenic glycosides and phytic acid that hamper the body’s ability to absorb essential minerals, concludes the 2015 research in the Journal of Food Science and Technology.
  • Unless accompanied by a lot of fluid, high amounts of raw flaxseed can cause a number of digestive issues like bloating, constipation and nausea.
  • Unlike whole flaxseed, flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed can spoil in a short time. Though it’s better to work in fresh, small batches, you can store them in an airtight container and refrigerate. This is also true for the oil, if it does not contain natural preservatives.
  • In case of allergies, you might have reactions like rashes, nausea or even anaphylactic shock, depending on the severity of your allergy and the amount consumed.
  • The phytoestrogen lignan present in flaxseed, which is similar to the female hormone estrogen, might cause hormonal changes, including changes in the menstrual cycle.

The above information has been verified by Dr Lakshmi K, Ph.D Food Science & Nutrition, University of Georgia (USA), Head Nutritionist, URlife


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