Written by Deepti Khatuja
While flax seeds are a known superfood, with multiple health benefits, many wonder about their recommended daily usage and how best to have them. As a nutritionist, I would say begin with 1 teaspoon or 5 g daily. Studies have shown beneficial effects of flaxseeds with 1 tablespoon (7 g) of ground flaxseed per day. But I would say go by your individual threshold for this fibrous food as there are contraindications for people with bowel and thyroid problems.
HOW TO USE THEM IN YOUR DIET
Never have flax seeds raw, always roast them to eliminate phytic acid. It is equally important to consider the form in which they are ingested. Roast whole seeds and have them with nuts during those in-between food cravings. One teaspoon of seeds mixed with a fistful of nuts is good in a day. Roast the seeds, grind them into a fine powder and add them to smoothies, home-made puddings and porridges, laddoos and curd. In fact, the powdered form doesn’t interfere with the flavours of foods that you have. Generally, we do not recommend flax oil because it has more essential acids per serving and may aggravate inflammatory bowel diseases and bleeding conditions. But for those who do not have these problems, flaxseed oil extracted from the seeds can be dribbled over salads. But it has to be used cold, not hot.
To get full benefits of flax seeds, you should grind them before consumption because your digestive tract won’t be able to digest their protective outer layer. So, if you eat them whole, you won’t be able to extract many nutrients. Drink a lot of water when adding flax seeds to your diet. For the fibre to do its job, it needs water to move it through your digestive system.
The simplest way to incorporate flax seeds into your diet is by adding a teaspoon of ground seeds to six and eight ounces of hot water. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to give the water some flavour and a little boost of vitamin C. It can be powdered and added to soups, smoothies, yogurts and cereals. It can also be consumed in the form of chutneys or as laddoos. It can be added in bakery products like cakes and cookies.
A note of caution here. Although flax seeds are helpful in weight loss along with various health benefits, one cannot just rely on one single special food as changing your body condition. It has to be backed up by a lifestyle which includes a balanced diet with at least half-an-hour to 45 minutes of physical activity.
WHY FLAX SEEDS ARE HEART HEALTHY
A study by the American Society for Nutrition in 2015 showed that dietary flax seed independently lowers circulating cholesterol and lowers it beyond the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications alone in patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD). Dietary flax seed in PAD patients, in fact, resulted in a 15 per cent reduction in circulating LDL cholesterol as early as one month into the trial. Milled flax seed lowers total and LDL cholesterol in patients with PAD and has additional LDL-cholesterol-lowering capabilities when used in conjunction with cholesterol lowering medication. Yet another research shows how dietary flax seed, which contains the phytoestrogen lignan, lowers plasma cholesterol and glucose concentrations in hypercholesterolemic subjects. In fact, several studies show that taking flax seed daily can reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels and even help you control blood pressure. In fact, many micro studies have shown that flax seed reduces LDL and lowers total serum cholesterol while not affecting HDL or good cholesterol.
Flax seeds are rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, soluble fibres, lignum and protein, all of which can bust cholesterol. They are the richest plant source of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), which is thought to decrease the risk of heart disease by helping it maintain normal rhythms, pumping and reducing blood clots. It is also rich in Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Research has proven that all three are good at fighting cholesterol, so flax seed is that magic pill. A cupful or 100 gm of flax seeds has 20 per cent protein, 28 per cent dietary fibre, 18 per cent of monounsaturated (MUFA) and 73 per cent of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA). It has 57 per cent of ALA and 60 per cent of linoleic acid. The human body cannot produce Omega 3 fatty acids, which have to be had from dietary sources. The soluble gum of the flax seed is most effective in preventing cardiac episodes by pulling out the cholesterol from the bloodstream.
THE WEIGHT MANAGEMENT TOOL
Flax seeds aid in weight loss as they are rich in fibre and, therefore, lend satiety besides spacing out your hunger pangs. This helps suppress one’s desire to eat, thus cutting calories for weight loss. Additionally, the digestive tract is stimulated by foods rich in fibre and helps take care of medical issues like constipation. Eating fibres is essential to moving food through your intestines and keeping your colon free of obstructions. It’s also instrumental in stabilising blood sugar and, cumulatively, helps you reach a healthy weight.
Flax seeds are a good source of protein, which takes a long time to digest, and are full of amino acids that are essential in cell repair and muscle growth. By consuming more protein, you will feel fuller longer, have fewer cravings and develop muscle strength as an Indian diet is low in protein components.