Flax Seeds - Health Benefits, Nutrition Info, Fun Facts

Flax seeds are possibly one of the oldest health foods on earth, with a history going back over 3 thousand years to the Egyptians.

Among their many health benefits flax seeds help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol, protect against type II diabetes, fight cancer, and prevent chronic kidney disease.

Most of these benefits come from the omega 3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acids) found in flax seeds. Flax also contains a lot of lignans which contribute to all its health benefits. In addition to these two nutrients, flax is also a good source of manganese, thiamin, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, protein, and selenium.

Read the article below for all the health benefits, nutrition info, and fun facts about flax seeds.

Flax Seeds Health Benefits

1. Flax Seeds Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Flax seeds are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids and lignans, both of which are theorized to have a protective effect on the heart and cardiovascular system (1,2). This is due to Omega 3s and lignans ability to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower blood glucose, and even combat the damaging effects of mental stress (3).

2. Flax Seeds Lower Cholesterol

Flax seeds are high in fiber and lignans, both of which help to lower cholesterol and keep blood healthy. On average flax seeds can lower cholesterol by 8-14% (4).

3. Protection against type II Diabetes

The Omega 3 fatty acids, lignans, and dietary fibers in flax seed can help lower blood sugar and reduce the risk of type II diabetes. In one study participants given 10 grams of flax seed powder a day over 1 month reduced fasting glucose by 19.7% and glycated hemoglobin by 15.6% (5).

4. Flax fights against tumors and cancer

Research, primarily on rats, has shown that flax seeds can prevent the growth of colon, breast, skin, and lung tumors (6). Similar to reducing the risk of diabetes, this might be in part to flax's ability to lower blood sugar, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor (IGF1). Flax further fights breast cancer since contains compounds which mimic estrogen, thus blocking estrogen absorption in the body (7).

5. Flax Seeds Help Prevent Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been shown to reduce renal inflamation and fibriosis in animal models (8). Flax seeds are a great source of PUFAs and is specifically a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of CKD (9).

Nutrient Info For Flax Seeds

Serving size: 1 oz (~3 tablespoons)

Top 10 Nutrients by %DV
  • Omega 3s399% AI
  • Manganese35% DV
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)31% DV
  • Fiber31% DV
  • Magnesium27% DV
  • Fat18% DV
  • Phosphorus18% DV
  • Copper17% DV
  • Protein10% DV
  • Selenium10% DV

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database - Release 28.
See the complete nutrition facts with over 150 nutrients, or the nutrition facts comparison of Flax Seeds vs other foods.

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Flax Seeds Fun Facts

  1. Flax plants are 25% seeds and about 75% leaves and stems.
  2. The fibers of the flax plant are soft and silken and can be made into cloth, though they do not stretch as much as cotton.
  3. The use of flax to make fabrics dates back as far as the Egyptians and may have been used even earlier.
  4. Flax seeds are a gluten free food.
  5. Flax seeds and flax seed oils were used in Ayurvedic medicine as far back as 1200BC, where it was thought to bring mental and physical endurance, as well as fight against aging. The benefits of flax seed were also known to early Western doctors like Hippocrates, Qantes, and Dioscorides.
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Data Sources and References

  1. The cardiovascular effects of flaxseed and its omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid
  2. Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food
  3. The effect of flax seed cultivars with differing content of alpha-linolenic acid and lignans on responses to mental stress.
  4. Cholesterol Lowering Foods
  5. An open-label study on the effect of flax seed powder (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation in the management of diabetes mellitus.
  6. Comparative effects of sesame seed lignan and flaxseed lignan in reducing the growth of human breast tumors (mcf-7) at high levels of circulating estrogen in athymic mice.
  7. Diet-derived polyphenol metabolite enterolactone is a tissue-specific estrogen receptor activator.
  8. Polyunsaturated fatty acids and renal fibrosis: pathophysiologic link and potential clinical implications.
  9. Consumption of long-chain n-3 PUFA, α-linolenic acid and fish is associated with the prevalence of chronic kidney disease.