Let's look a little deeper at some of the health benefits associated with one of my favourite seeds - flaxseeds - as well as ways you can add these to your diet.
Flaxseeds (aka linseeds) - 2 tbslp provide approx 5gm protein, a whopping 7.5gm fibre (soluble and insoluble forms), rich in lignans, plant based omega 3 (ALA) and important minerals including manganese, molybdenum, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and selenium. Minerals important for bones, thyroid, skin, hair, muscle relaxation and so much more!!!
They have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in glucose intolerance (after 12 weeks of dietary inclusion) and one 12-month study found that flax seeds caused an additional 8.5% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol, compared to a control group. The ALA omega 3 has been found in studies to help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension and reduce inflammation. In one study, adding flaxseeds to the diet helped to reduce cholesterol levels, by increasing the amount of fat excreted through the bowel. In another 2013 study, it was concluded that “flaxseed induced one of the most potent antihypertensive effects achieved by a dietary intervention" - good news for those with high blood pressure.
The lignans - which are phytoestrogens, can affect estrogen metabolism, causing either an increase or decrease in estrogen activity depending on someone’s hormonal status. These lignans in flaxseeds can be converted by intestinal bacteria into types of estrogens, that are believed to be the way, in which flaxseed naturally helps to balance hormones.
They really are best kept in the fridge and ground up (I use a coffee grinder) before consumed, so you actually absorb the benefits. I follow seed cycling protocol which includes 1 tblsp ground flaxseed day 1 to day 14 of your cycle, along with ground pumpkin seeds to help support the first part of the cycle when estrogen is higher. Day 15 to day 28 is a tbslp each of ground sesame and sunflower seeds to naturally support healthy progesterone levels. I simply add them to my porridge, granola or smoothie, but they can also be added to greek yoghurt or made into little cookies.
Note, flaxseeds also contain compounds called cyanogenic glycosides which may bind to other compounds and form thiocyanates which may impair thyroid function, hence if you do have a thyroid condition, consume only small amounts in your diet. Also if you are not used to eating much fibre, adding more to your diet can temporarily cause bloating, gas and abdominal pain. I'd also be cautious consuming during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to the plant estrogens and lack of studies as to whether they do cause harm or not during pregnancy.