An ancient crop, flaxseed is one of the most useful and beneficial “superfoods” on this earth. It’s also plentiful and affordable, which means that making it a part of your healthy routine is easy!
What Is Flaxseed?
A small brown or golden seed that comes from a crop grown in cooler climates, flax, also known as linseed, is both a food and textile crop. Linen (both clothing and table linen) is actually made from flax, and linseed oil (which can be eaten as well) is often used in things like linoleum and as a wood finisher. Evidence of the cultivation of flax by humans dates all the way back to the Upper Paleolithic era, around 30,000 years ago. Around 5,000 years ago, flax crops began to appear in Switzerland, Germany, China and India.
One of the biggest benefits to eating flax is the amount of lignans available per serving. Lignans are “fiber-related polyphenols” (antioxidants) that can actually help balance hormones, and may help fight against hormone-related cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer.
According to a study published in Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, “Experimental evidence in animals has shown clear anticarcinogenic effects of flaxseed or pure lignans in many types of cancer.” And even though animals are quite different from humans, another small study found that “a control group of postmenopausal women with newly diagnosed breast cancer … who consumed 25 g ground flaxseed per day for approximately 32 days showed decreased tumor cell proliferation.”
The American Institute for Cancer Research officially claims that “flaxseed may contribute to lower cancer risk, but research is too limited to recommend it for cancer protection.” In other words, there haven’t been enough scientific studies to prove that flaxseed can protect us against cancer, there is certainly enough evidence to show that it’s helpful.
Digestive Health And Weight Loss
Because of its high soluble and insoluble fiber content, as well as its ALA fat content (otherwise known as Omega-3 fatty acids), flaxseed not only fights inflammation, but will keep you satisfied for much longer than simple carbs or saturated fats found in pre-packaged foods. Most Americans don’t get enough fiber, and if you’re one of them, you’ll be amazed at how your cravings and hunger fades when you get the recommended daily dose.
Lowered Cholesterol And Blood Pressure
A 2010 study done by Iowa State University found that men who consumed 150 milligrams of flaxseed per day “decreased cholesterol by just under 10 percent” over the course of three months (oddly enough, it didn’t work on women). Another study, done in 2012, took 110 people with high blood pressure, and gave half “30 grams of milled flaxseed,” and half a placebo, daily diet for six months. After those six months, patients on the flaxseed showed a “measurable decrease” in their blood pressure.
Flaxseeds are full of Omega-3 fatty acids, essential fats that our bodies can’t make on their own. Important for hormone production as well as genetic function, Omega-3s are also great at helping to reduce heart disease and stroke, and inflammation.
Most people take fish oil for Omega-3s, but if you’re following a vegan or plant-based diet (or just don’t enjoy the taste of fish oil), flaxseed is a great alternative.
Smoothies That Incorporate Flaxseed
We’re big on this high fiber, super nutritious superfood, and we routinely put it into our smoothies (it’s virtually tasteless when blended). Here are a few of our favorite flax recipes.
Honeydew Lavender Lift
You may be familiar with lavender-scented soaps and creams, but this herb has also been shown to reduce anxiety and symptoms of PMS when ingested. Honeydew is full of Vitamin C, giving you 34 percent of your recommended daily dose, as well as a good serving of potassium. Kale has Vitamin C as well, but also gives you a few grams of protein. Flaxseed has those important Omega-3s, and pecans have a nice amount of fiber. If your stomach or your emotions need a recharge, see if this smoothie can’t do the trick.
Carrot Cantaloup Mango
Hemp is one of the purest plant proteins out there, and is especially good for people who have a hard time digesting soy or whey. In addition to being one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world (dating back ancient Egypt and China), flaxseed is full of healthy Omega-3s, and has been shown to improve blood sugar and glycemic control. The brightness and vitamins from the carrots and mango (vitamins A and C) are great for your skin and eyes, and cantaloup is full of fiber. This is the perfect summer smoothie: bright, colorful, satisfying and slimming!
Ginger Cantaloupe Cleanse
Flaxseed is a great vegan source of Omega-3s, helps to reduce cholesterol levels, and is a good way to keep your digestion regular. Ginger is another digestion aid and stomach soother, and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Combine these two superfoods with the delicate flavors of both pear and cantaloupe, and you have the perfect remedy for a tummy that’s seen one too many early Halloween treats.
Spirulina is an algae that grows in the salty waters of subtropical climates and has significant amounts of calcium, iron and magnesium per serving. It’s also been shown to help lower cholesterol. Flaxseed is a great vegan source of Omega-3s and fiber, which is a great combination for athletes. Mix those two superfoods with nature’s VIP, avocado, and the cancer-fighting polyphenols from grapes, and you’ve got a drink that does everything from light detoxing to helping you glow from the inside out. Drinking one of these before heading into the mall for an early shopping trip is like putting a force field around your immune system (something we could all use right about now).
Honey Grape Cordial
Traditionally, a cordial is a sweet, after-dinner drink, but you can have this smoothie any time of day and feel amazing. Zucchini and honeydew melon are extremely hydrating, and moringa powder is high in antioxidants. Both of these things combined make this another great smoothie for your skin! Additionally, moringa (which is native to India) may also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Flaxseeds round out this low calorie, low fat treat, providing a healthy dose of Omega-3s and absolutely no guilt.
An incredibly sweet summer fruit, peaches are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene and fiber. A natural sweetener that’s high in fiber but low in actual sugar, lucuma is a great addition to any smoothie, and flaxseed contains omega-3, fiber and protein. Add in a bit more fiber from swiss chard (plus vitamins K, A and C), and make things sweet with an orange and some coconut cream, and you’ve got a smoothie that tastes like dessert, and is fantastic for your digestion.
Part of the stone fruit family, apricots are full of fiber and vitamins A, E, K and C, and have even been used as a holistic treatment for earaches. Rosehips, carrots and pineapple contain even more vitamin C, which means sipping on this sweet treat will make your face smooth and supple (and your immune system happy). Add in some coconut flakes for a bit of protein, fiber and iron, and you have a bright orange treat that will help you glow from the inside out.
Watermelon Strawberry Lime Cooler
This fresh, light, and hydrating drink embodies the taste of summer. Few foods symbolize summer more than sweet strawberries and hydrating watermelon. Add some tart lime to bring out the flavors and add a bit of tropical zest. (And ward off scurvy, in case you’re concerned about that.) Coconut water adds electrolyte-rich hydration, and baobab powder provides calcium, B vitamins, and more vitamin C than a serving of oranges! Combine the fat-burning potential of high doses of vitamin C (from the strawberries, lime and baobab), with the high fiber and omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed, and you’ve got a light smoothie that can make a big dent in your daily weight loss journey.