Flax Seed Oil

Fight Cancer and Heart Disease with this Wonder Grain!

Heart-healthy and loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants, flax and flax seed oil promise to follow soy to the supermarket shelves as the next powerhouse food.

The main reason is that flax seed is a super source of Lignans, Fiber and Omega-3 fats

The concentration of lignins in flaxseed is more than 100 times greater than found in any other lignin containing foods such as grains, fruits and vegetables!

Our familiar place to buy flax seed and flax seed oil is in our favourite health food store (it must be kept in the fridge) but more and more it is becoming available in the supermarket.

'In the U.S., there are more acres in soybeans but flax does have that same status as far as health benefits.' said Kaye Effertz, executive director of Ameriflax, a North Dakota-based organization representing flax producers. 'As we continue research on flaxseed oil, you'll see more and more of it out there.'

The key is good research.' One of the world's oldest cultivated plants, flax's botanical name, Linum usitatissimum, means 'most useful plant.' Not only was flaxseed a staple in the diets of both humans and livestock for thousands of years, the blue-flowering plant also served as a source of clothing and flax seed oil makes good lamp oil.

Today, the bulk of the U.S. flax crop goes toward industrial uses, including paper products, paints and linoleum. But its reputation as a potent tool against disease has led to a culinary resurgence in health circles.

According to the Flax Council of Canada, flax has long been touted for its medicinal properties. Hippocrates described it as a cure for abdominal ailments. Charlemagne was so convinced of the plant's health benefits that he required his subjects to consume certain quantities.

Breaking it down...

Science is now testing the folk wisdom. Researchers are examining the links between flax and such diseases as breast cancer and diabetes. The potency is traced to three components: fiber, lignans and alpha-linolenic acid.

FIBER: Fiber keeps the digestive tract clean and regular and lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, which is important in preventing heart disease.

Studies also have found that fiber affects blood glucose levels, helping to prevent or control type 2 diabetes. The American Dietetic Association recommends between 20 and 35 grams of fiber a day. Flaxseed provides 2 to 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon, according to Jane Reinhardt-Martin, an Illinois-based registered dietitian and author of Flax Your Way to Better Health.

LIGNANS: These plant compounds found in the hull act as as weak form of estrogen (phytoestrogen) and appear to protect the body from hormonal cancers - including breast cancer. Lilian Thompson, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, has been testing whether flaxseed plays more than a preventive role. Research on animals has been promising, showing a reduction in existing tumors, she said. Flax seed oil and ground flax seed are a great source of phytohormones and have been shown to cause significant hormonal changes similar to those seen with soy isoflavones. This make flax seed a good choice for women who can't use soy or who want another source of pytohormones.

Lignans are good antioxidants. They have antibacterial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties and help prevent free-radical damage associated with aging and disease.

Lignans help protect the cardiovascular system by significantly lowering LDL cholestoerol (the 'bad' cholesterol) and raising HDL cholesterol (the 'good' cholesterol).

ALPHA-LINOLENIC ACID: ALA is part of the omega-3 fatty acid pantheon known as the 'good' kind of fat. Flax seed oil is full of it. Two other forms of omega-3, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are found primarily in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna.

A deficiency of omega-3 fats, which is quite common, can result in fatigue, dry skin, cracked nails, thin and breakable hair, constipation, immune system malfunction, aching joints, depression, arthritis and hormonal imbalances.

Wow!...What a list!

After taking a tablespoon a day for about 3 weeks I noticed much improvement in the thickness, strength and durablility of my fingernails and toenails. So, ladies, if you want those long, strong fingernails without paying for the fake ones, take your flax!... and feel good knowing you'll be doing more good for yourself than just strengthening your nails.

Consuming foods with ALA reduces the risk of heart disease, eases inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and might help prevent cancer. One tablespoon of ground flax contains about 1,800 milligrams of omega-3, according to Reinhardt-Martin. Flax seed oil contains even more.

'Flax seed and flax seed oil are one of the cornerstones of my treatments,' said Udani, director of the Integrative Health Program at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. 'All of my patients take some form of omega-3, whether it's fish oil or flaxseed.' The omega-3 properties of flax have been promoted as a panacea for a range of other ailments, including menopause and psoriasis.

'Flax and flax seed oil is one component of so many things people should be doing,' Reinhardt-Martin said. 'It's not the magic bullet. It's not a cure-all.' Not only should Americans consume more omega-3, they also should reduce their intake of omega-6 fatty acids found in meat, canola oil, safflower oil and soybean oil, said Bruce Watkins, director of the Enhancing Foods to Protect Health program at Purdue University.

For the typical American, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is too high, ranging from 10-to-1 to 25-to-1. In Asian countries, where the incidence of cancer is much lower, the ratio is 2-to-1 or better, he said.

'We're finding the health benefits of omega-3, and we need to get them into the food supply,' Watkins said. 'The whole area of omega-3 is starting to blossom.'

Daily grind

To receive the full health benefits of flax seed, the hull must be broken. Slightly larger than a sesame seed, whole flax seed comes in either a reddish brown or golden color. Reinhardt-Martin says a coffee grinder does a better job than a food processor or blender.

Flax can also be bought ground. Ground flax keeps for up to four months and even longer if refrigerated in an airtight container.

'It shouldn't smell funky,' Reinhardt-Martin said. 'Flax has a nutty flavor and smell. It should smell good.' Reinhardt-Martin also warns that flaxseed oil, which must be refrigerated, has a relatively short shelf life of a few weeks. If the oil smells rancid, toss it. Flax seed oil should only be used cold - it can't be heated like olive oil. Be sure to check the label closely in the store and buy the organic variety where possible. Some flax seed oils are marketed for pets to keep their coats shiny.

It's not hard to add one to three tablespoons of flax seed or flax seed oil to the daily diet. Use a tablespoon of ground flax seed when blending a breakfast smoothie. Sprinkle it on cereal. Bake it into muffins and breads.

We like to blend ground flax seed into oatmeal for breakfast blended with whole blueberries for a great flavour and more antioxidants. We also take up to 3 tablespoons of flax seed oil daily. More in the winter heating season to prevent the skin on my hands from drying and cracking which used to be a chronic problem for me.

Remember though, that flax products alone won't meet all your needs for essential fatty acids.

Flax contains EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), but not DHA (docosahexaenioc acid) which is a brain tissue building-block that your body can't manufacture. Cold water, fatty kinds of fish are a good source of DHA. Studies have shown that people who consume fish have a lower incidence of depression. If you don't want to eat fish, DHA (100-400 mg/day) is a highly recommended supplement.

Some foods, taken as supplements can also have beneficial health effects...Read our pages on:

Flax Seed Oil

Benefits of Soy

Benefits of Whey Protein

Benefits of Vitamin C

Benefits of Co Enzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Arabinogalactan for your immune system

Colostrum for your immune system

Importance of Potassium

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