The flax plant has been grown and harvested since the time of ancient civilizations. This plant consists of blue flowers that contain flat, round seeds with pointed ends called flaxseeds. Initially, when the flax plant was introduced to the US, it was primarily used to make clothes. Now the flax plant is more widely known for its nutritionally and medicinally powerful flaxseeds.
Flax is primarily grown in Egypt, India, Holland, Russia, and Britannica, but can also be seen in various other countries. Flaxseeds that are grown in different areas have different compositions. The flaxseeds grown in India have a higher protein makeup, while flaxseeds grown in Canada have a higher fat content compared to other areas. Despite their makeup varying by location, they remain nutritionally valuable no matter where they are grown. Flaxseeds have high fat, protein, and fiber content. The high insoluble and soluble fiber content help with the gradual release of glucose, or sugar, into the bloodstream. The high fat (specifically Omega-3 fatty acid) content bolsters heart health by addressing distressed arteries and reducing inflammation in the body. The protein content allows for a host of positive health benefits in the body like building muscle and bone tissue and increasing oxygen efficiency in blood cells [1,3,4,].
This trifecta of beneficial properties has given the flaxseed the title of being a
‘Functional food.’ Functional foods are foods that are not only good for the body but foods that also help prevent diseases. Rat studies have found that flaxseed’s high omega-3 fatty acids makeup has helped reduce the presence of colon and breast cancer. Flaxseed is also known to be a powerful antioxidant, which reduces the presence of free radicals in the blood, and aids in fetal development. Additionally, flaxseeds magically transform into an estrogen-mimicking hormone in the body of people who are lacking in estrogen, typically people that are undergoing menopause. In fact, flaxseed has been found to significantly elevate negative symptoms of menopause, such as heat flashes [1,2,3].
Some other notable flaxseed facts are that flaxseeds are gluten-free; they are better utilized within the body if consumed crushed rather than whole; they have been found to reduce arthritis and aid with diabetes; most importantly flaxseeds should be consumed in moderation. The flax plant is known to contain trace amounts of cyanide. Although the level of cyanide in flax plants is considered non-toxic, a person should only consume one to two tablespoons of flaxseed a day [1,3,4].
It’s not surprising that the Latin name for flaxseed translates to “very useful” in English. It’s not every day that you come across a plant that can be used to make durable clothing and can be ingested to reduce the risk of disease.
1. Bernacchia, R., Preti, R., Vinci, G. (2014). Chemical composition and health benefits of
flaxseed. Austin journal of nutrition and food sciences. 2(8): 1-9. ISSN: 2381-8980.
2. Goyal, A., Sharma, V., Upadhyay, N., Gill, S., Sihag, M. (2014). Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient functional food. J Food Sci-Technol. 51(9): 1633-1653. Doi: 10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9.
3. Kajla, P., Sharma, A., Sood, D. (2015). Flaxseed-a potential functional food source. J Food Sci Technol. 52(4): 1857-1871. Doi: 10-1007/s13197-014-1293-y.
4. Soni, R., Katoch, M., Kumar, A., Verma, P. (2016). Flaxseed composition and its health
benefits. Research Gate. Doi: 10.13140/RG.2.2.35208.93448.
Author: Katrina Peavy
Editor: Kayjah Taylor
Health Scientist: Bhagya Arikala