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Health Benefits of Flaxseed

Flaxseeds have a warm, deliciously nutty flavor that can compliment many foods ranging from baked goods and smoothies to roasted vegetables. Flaxseeds are slightly larger than sesame seeds and range in color from reddish brown to dark orange, depending on the variety.

Flaxseeds are available whole, crushed, or in the form of oil. These versatile seeds are considered and all-star food because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fiber and lignins, which all have beneficial health effects.

Eating two to five tablespoons of ground flaxseed per day, has been associated with reductions in total and LDL cholesterol, especially for people with high cholesterol.

Lignins are a group of plant chemicals called polyphenols. Flaxseed is the richest source of dietary lignins. Flaxseed is especially high in the lignin secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG), which is an antioxidant. Researchers believe that the SDG content of flaxseed plays a large part in its cardiovascular health benefits, such as lowering total and LDL cholesterol.
Soluble Fiber

Numerous studies have confirmed that soluble fiber is capable of reducing LDL cholesterol. Flaxseed is a rich source of soluble fiber. Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed has about 4 grams of soluble fiber.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Flaxseeds are especially high in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is considered an essential fatty acid because it cannot be synthesized in the body and must be obtained from the diet.

High intakes of ALA are associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease. It is recommended that men consume at least 1.6 grams/day and women consume at least 1.1 grams/day of ALA. Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed contains about 3 grams of ALA!
Ways to Enjoy Flaxseed

    Add ground flaxseeds to a breakfast smoothie.
    Sprinkle ground flaxseeds in yogurt or cereal.
    Add ground flaxseeds to home recipes of muffins and other baked goods.
    Mix in ground flaxseeds with oatmeal or cream-of-wheat.
    Sprinkle ground flaxseeds on cooked vegetables for a nutty flavor.
    Use flaxseed oil on salad to make your own salad dressing with a delicious nutty flavor.

Types of Flaxseed

Flaxseed is available as whole seeds, ground seeds or flaxseed oil. While flaxseed oil is a more concentrated source of ALA, it does not contain the lignins or soluble fiber of the seeds. Flaxseed oil does provide essential omega-3 fatty acids, but has not been associated with lowering cholesterol.

The nutrients in flaxseeds are more easily absorbed when the seeds are ground than whole, so it is best to eat ground flaxseeds to achieve the most health benefits.

You can purchase ground flaxseeds at most grocery stores, or can grind the whole seeds in a coffee grinder.

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