Why bother with flaxseed? It’s an ancient grain that is much-touted in the health and wellness world, but why should I add this nutty seed into my already hectic daily routine?
When the laundry is piling up and the garbage can is overflowing, when there are kids to chauffer and playdates to coordinate and a million-and-one other mom-tasks to complete, taking time to eat a nutty little grain can seem…well, nutty. Let’s slow down, take a full breath, and see whether that’s true. (In fact, before you keep on reading, grab a glass of water or a cup of tea or your other favourite healthful beverage, and rehydrate while you read. Your body will thank you.)
Why flaxseed might be a good idea
The standard American diet (SAD) has a lot of problems. Two big deficits are fiber and omega 3’s. Digestion improves with adequate fiber. That means less constipation and bloating, more regular bowel movements and overall better health. Fiber is also important for the health of your microbiome, the complex bacterial community that lives in your gut and has a huge impact on every aspect of health. Since the gut produces a large percentage of neurotransmitters (even more than your brain does) gut health has a huge impact on mental health. A healthy gut biome is linked to a decrease in depression, fewer mood swings, and improved mental health.
I am not at all claiming that flaxseed is a miracle-worker in the department of gut health, but it certainly can be part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
Getting enough fiber in your diet is a great way to jumpstart appetite control and even weight loss. A high fiber diet will help you feel full sooner and stay full longer so that you eat less. Flaxseed is a great addition to a weight loss plan when used as part of a diet that is otherwise fiber-full, which basically means choosing foods like unprocessed vegetables and real meat instead of highly processed “fake foods”.
Not only is flax a good source of fiber, it is also a nutritional powerhouse containing omega-3 essential fatty acids. The nutritional content of flaxseed is similar to the more expensive chia seeds, and flaxseed has a higher omega-3 content. Most of the health benefits of flaxseed are thought to be from the omega-3’s.
The powerful anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3’s in flaxseed can help a variety of conditions, from heart disease to carpal tunnel syndrome to sore muscles and inflammatory bowel syndrome. This is primarily due to the omega-3’s, although some research suggests that fiber also helps decrease inflammation.
When you should and shouldn’t use flax
Flaxseed meal is a great addition to almost everybody’s diet. You can lower your risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel syndrome, obesity and high cholesterol.
This is not to say that flaxseed is some magical cure-all. Rather, this is to say that flaxseed can be a great addition to an overall healthy lifestyle.
A few people shouldn’t use flax, such as those who are experiencing a flare-up of IBS, Crohn’s disease, or other inflammatory bowel syndromes. This is because the fiber can get stuck in the inflamed pouches that characterize these diseases, and therefore actually increase the inflammation. So, talk to your physician if this is your situation, and discover what works for you. Once the flareup has subsided, flax meal may be a great non-irritating way to increase fiber.
How to use flaxseeds
The recommended “dosage” is one to two tablespoons of flax meal (ground flaxseed) per day. And there are so many ways to do that, you may actually need to watch that you aren’t getting too much more than that until your digestive system gets used to the additional fiber.
The roasted and ground seeds can be added to lots of traditional breakfast foods. Stir them into your cereal, add them to your oatmeal, toss into a smoothie, or slip them into the muffins as you’re mixing them up. Or top your yoghurt or breakfast bowl with the nutty goodness of flaxseed. For lunch and supper, toss some into the soup, add to the salad dressing, or stir into the sauce. Ice cream and coffee drinks are also great places to hide some fiber. Be creative, and experiment to find what works for you. You may discover that you (or your kids, or hubby) may not like flaxseed in some foods, but be okay with others.