Why do we need flaxseed?

By Amanda Tesser
& Glauce Fleury

There’s a reason why flaxseed is becoming popular: its numerous health benefits. Besides, it’s a good vegetal source of protein, especially for vegans and vegetarians, who are not getting it from animal products.

As we explained in a post published last March, we all need proteins because they participate in several processes involving our cells — one of the most important is to produce antibodies. Flaxseed is a highly recommended option to vary your menu.

On their website, Flax Council of Canada says that flax comes from the blue-flowered plant crop grown mainly in the cool, northern climate of the western Canadian prairies. There are two kinds: brown and golden.

In Canada, almost all flaxseeds produced are reddish brown. In the United States, a golden-seed flax is more popular. Nutritionally speaking, they’re quite similar: both are rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals and fibres.

Flaxseed can positively affect our health by fighting heart diseases. Health Canada has acknowledged scientific evidence that supports a claim about ground whole flaxseed linked to blood cholesterol lowering.

LDL (bad) cholesterol can clog arteries and make them less flexible (atherosclerosis). If cholesterol blocks an artery, it can trigger a heart attack or stroke. HDL (good) cholesterol, on the other hand, helps remove the bad one from the arteries.

These benefits are related to omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in flax. These fatty-acids have antioxidant properties that slow down the aging process. The amount of omega 3 in flax is higher than the amount found in fish such as salmon.

Because of these properties, flax can lower the bad cholesterol and prevent heart diseases, besides many other benefits. Advantages include prevention of some types of cancer, weight control, regulation of initial diabetes and better digestion.

If you live in Canada, you have even more reasons to benefit from it. For more than 10 years, the North American country has been the world’s leader in the production of flax. In 2015-2016, for example, 940,000 tonnes were produced in Canada.

Flax can be found in three formats: whole, ground and oil. For better absorption of their fibres, you should grind the seeds in a blender and keep them in a dark container (in the fridge) to avoid direct light.

These recommendations will help you preserve the antioxidant properties — foods with these properties are sensitive to light and oxygen. Not only can the exposure to these elements cause flax to lose its benefits, but also the original taste, going rancid. Consume it within a week.

You can add whole or ground seeds to your baking recipes, fruits and cereal. Health Canada recommends up to five tablespoons a day split into the three main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner).

We’d go with no more than three tablespoons for two main reasons: flax is highly caloric (1 tsp = 60 Cal) and, in excess, can negatively impact the absorption of nutrients such as calcium and iron.

If you’re vegan, the levels of calcium and iron are probably something you pay more attention to (Glauce’s note: “I do”), so be cautious. To continue on this topic, we’ll have a future post about omega 3.

Is there anything you’d like to know more about? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Talk soon :).

Photo credit: Yvonne Larsson via Flickr

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