The health benefits flax seed offers are numerous. Linum usitatissimum, better known as flax seed, comes in two color varieties, which are brown and yellow. The yellow variety contains less omega-3 fatty acids compared to the brown variety. Both varieties produce a vegetable oil called linseed oil or flax seed oil. The health benefits of flax seed range from alleviating menopausal symptoms to fighting cancer.
Research studies have found flax seeds reduce the chances of developing colon, breast and prostate cancer. Along with omega-3 fatty acids, flax seeds contain lignans. Lignans are plant estrogens better known as phytoestrogens that help to block cancer-promoting hormone enzymes. Lignans are also shown to hinder cancerous cells from growing and spreading.
Flax seeds contain one of the essential omega-3 fatty acids known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which in turn is converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) by the body. In conjunction with diet and exercise, omega-3 fatty acids fight cardiovascular disease by decreasing cholesterol levels, reducing arterial atherosclerotic plaque build-up and inhibiting pro-inflammatory agents. According to several studies, the omega-3 fatty acid in flax seeds may assist in maintaining a healthy heart rhythm in healthy individuals. Those who suffer from arrhythmias and heart failure may also benefit from flax seeds.
Menopausal women who do not want to take synthetic hormones that are found in traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may find success consuming flax seeds. In a preliminary flax seed study, women reported the reduction of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms by 57 percent. The reduction is due to the phytoestrogens found in flax seeds. Phytoestrogens are structurally similar to the estrogen the human body produces. During menopause, the levels of estrogen and progesterone dramatically decrease, resulting in unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes. Supplementation of estrogen and progesterone will relieve most menopausal symptoms.
Those who have certain autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren syndrome may benefit from a daily dose of 1 to 2 g of flax seed. Flax seed reduces a common Sjogren syndrome symptom called "dry eye." Dry eye is due to the body's immune system attacking moisture producing glands, including salivary and tear glands.
Incorporating Flax Seeds in Your Diet
According to the Flax Council of Canada, a dose of 1 to 2 tbsp. of ground flax seeds daily is needed to receive the benefits of flax seed. One way of incorporating flax seeds in your diet is by grinding them up or buying flaxmeal from your local supermarket, and sprinkling flax seeds onto your favorite foods. Flax seeds can also be used as a flour substitute. Using flax seeds as a flour substitute, you can create a variety of tasty muffins, bread and bagels with the recommended flax seed amount.
You can also use flax seed oil as a way to experience the benefits these seeds offer. A good example of using flax seed oil would be putting the oil on your vegetables instead of butter. The recommended daily dose of flax seed oil is 1000 mg per 100 lbs. of body weight.