If you have worked with me or seen any of my posts on social media, then you know I always end up talking about flax.
Flax is a small but mighty seed that provides a variety of health benefits from supporting healthy hormones, to a healthy gut, lowering inflammation and much more. The more I dive into the reseach on the benefits of flax, they more I seem to uncover. So let's dive in.
Health Benefits of Flax
Gut health is extremely important because it relates to your immune system, mood and brain health, hormone health, and even blood sugar balance and weight. And of course, a healthy gut is critical to your body's natural detoxification process.
Flax is a rich source of both insoluble and soluble fiber. Both are needed for a healthy gut and regular bowel movements. While insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, soluble fiber helps to draw water into the colon for easier elimination of stool. If you find yourself dealing with constipation, adding daily flax and increasing your water intake are a gentle, safe and natural way to find relief.
Research also shows that nutrients found in flaxseed help to improve heart health and associated risk factors. While the exact mechanism has not been determined, it is thought that the anti-inflammatory compounds, fiber and omega fats found in flaxseed help to lower blood pressure, protect lipids from oxidation and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.
If you are interested in healthy hormones, fertility and weight loss, then you will want to learn more about how to balance blood sugar as it is a major component of all these. Thankfully, adding flax to your daily diet provides a simple step toward better blood sugar balance. If you are especially concerned about Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), Pre-diabetes or insulin resistance, this study founds that adding 2 or more table spoons of flaxseed supplementation daily helped to lower hemoglobin A1C, improved fasting blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
Flax has phytoestrogenic effects and is also the most significant source of lignans. This means that compounds in flax can help support the metabolism and break down of estrogen. Along with anti-inflammatory benefits of flax, research is now finding that it can also potentially help to lower risk of estrogen related breast cancer.
In women with hormone disruptions, PCOS or estrogen excess, compounds in flaxseeds can support anti-estrogenic activity to restore balance between sex hormones. In short, phytoestrogenic effects of flax support healthier sex hormone balance that supports improved health and fertility.
Flaxseed is a significant source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which can be converted into active Omega3 fats EPA and DHA. Though this conversion is not completely efficient depending on a variety of factors, flaxseed is still a good source of healthy Omega3 fats which support improved brain health and mood, fight inflammation, and support heart health. Omega3's are also crucial to a healthy pregnancy, but flaxseed is not a good reliable source of omegas during this time. Because of the significantly increased need during fatal development and the inefficient conversion of ALA to active EPA and DHA, you will need to find other food sources, like fatty fish, algea or supplements, to ensure adequate intake of Omega3 fats.
How to use Flax
Flax is easy to use and requires no special preparation. It also has little to no flavor so it can easily be added to many foods and meals you already eat. But, in order to best absorb the nutrients from flax and benefit from it, you will want to buy ground flax or flax meal. Another option is to buy whole seeds and grind them in a coffee grinder at home.
Be sure to store your ground flax in a air tight container and keep it somewhere cool and dry away from direct sun or heat exposure. This will help to preserve the delivate fats in flax and keep it from spoiling.
If you are not accustomed to regular fiber intake, you may want to start by slowly adding and increasing the amount of flaxseed you use in your diet. If you go too much too fast, you may experience either some constipation and bloating or diarrhea. If you notice any of these symptoms, you may need to lower the amount of fiber you are adding until your body can adjust to handle it.
Smoothies are a super easy way to add in the foods that you should be eating but don't know how to add to your diet elsewhere. Plus a fruity smoothie is always a refreshing option for a breakfast on the go or a quick afternoon pick me up.
Here's my go-to recipe:
1 cup of mixed frozen berries
1 heaping tablespoon of ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons of cashew nuts
1/4 cup of rolled or old-fashioned oats
1 scoop of collagen powder
1 scoop of protein powder
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
Add all the ingredients into your blender and mix. To have a more liquid consistency, you may need to add additional almond milk or water. You can also reduce the amount of liquid to have a thicker mixture and serve in a bowl topped with more fruit and coconut flakes.