Doctors often advocate Omega-3 essential fatty acids as beneficial “good” fats necessary for heart health. While a majority of these fatty acids are obtained from animal sources, especially fish, many following plant-based diets seek viable plant alternatives. In this regard, flaxseeds top the list. These powerhouses, also known as linseeds, are not only rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, but also boast ample dietary fiber and protein. Moreover, flaxseeds are home to several water and fat-soluble vitamins essential for overall body function, making them a powerful defense against heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Flaxseeds: Unpacking the Disease-Fighting Potential
Flaxseeds are composed of approximately 70% alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), otherwise recognized as Omega-3 fatty acids. A further 20% comprises the monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid, and the remaining 10% includes saturated fats. According to Vani Krishna, Chief Nutritionist at Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru, just a solitary tablespoon of ground flaxseeds offers around 1.8 grams of plant Omega-3s. These are celebrated for their anti-inflammatory properties and for normalizing heart rhythms, bringing immense health benefits for heart and brain alike.
Moreover, flaxseeds house phytoestrogens called lignans which are akin to the hormone estrogen. Consequently, they’re often dubbed plant estrogen and their antioxidant qualities aid in suppressing inflammation. Flaxseeds typically contain between 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
Apart from fatty acids, flaxseeds are also notable for their high content of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which advance gut health.
Flaxseeds: A Multitude of Benefits
Aiding in Heart Disease Prevention: Bhakti Samant, Chief Dietician at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, emphasizes that diets rich in flaxseed Omega-3s can forestall the hardening of arteries and inhibit plaque formation in blood vessels. This is due to their ability to keep white blood cells from sticking to the inner lining of blood vessels. Such biological mechanisms can thus significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes with regular consumption of flaxseeds.
Maintaining Blood Sugar and Combating Diabetes: Lignans and soluble fiber in flaxseeds have been discovered to enhance insulin sensitivity. By slowing down the digestive process, these nutrients aid in the gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream, thus preventing abrupt blood sugar spikes. This makes flaxseeds excellent dietary supplements in managing blood sugar levels in diabetes alongside prescribed medicines.
Boosting Gut Health: The blend of soluble and insoluble fiber in flaxseeds helps regulate blood sugar levels and promote regular bowel movements, thereby supporting a healthy microbiome and lowering the risk of gut-related diseases.
How to Incorporate Flaxseeds into Your Diet
Flaxseeds can be included in the daily diet in their whole seed, powdered, or oil form. Krishna suggests being creative with their consumption—sprinkle flaxseeds over salads, oats, and breakfast cereals, or experiment by adding flaxseed powder to soups for a novel, nutty flavor. You can do the same with buttermilk or porridge, with two tablespoons of flaxseeds providing 70 kcal, 3 g protein, 3 g fiber, and 4.5 g fats.
While flaxseeds provide numerous health benefits, moderation is key. A daily intake of one to two tablespoons of ground flaxseed is generally considered safe for adults. Consumption exceeding the recommended level may lead to side effects like diarrhea and bloating. So, as with any other food, it’s critical to consume it judiciously and as part of a balanced diet.