Fibre? Check. Omega-3s? Check. Antioxidants? Check. Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is the health-boosting, cancer-fighting, cholesterol-lowering seed that might just be natures best-kept secret.
While flaxseed has only popped up on the health scene in recent years, it’s actually old news. Cultivated centuries ago by the ancient Egyptians, flax is one of the oldest crops known to mankind.
Golden linseed (aka flax) just so happens to be one of Purition’s core ingredients, so it’s fair to say that we’ve got the facts on all-things-flax! Here’s everything you need to know about these tiny bundles of goodness; from flaxseed health benefits to the nutritional profile (hint: it’s pretty damn impressive), as well as how to eat flax as part of your everyday diet…
What is flaxseed?
Flaxseed is an amber, brown or golden seed similar in size to a sesame seed, with a pleasant, nutty taste. It comes from a plant family called ‘Linaceae’, which is cultivated for its fibre—which is used to make linen—alongside its nutrient-dense seeds. Flax is often known as linseed, but they’re the same thing.
It seems apt then, that the Latin name for flax—Linum usitatissimum—means ‘very useful’ (source). Described by some as the ‘most powerful plant food on the plant’, evidence suggests that regularly consuming flax can reduce the risk of several chronic diseases; namely cancer and diabetes.
Flaxseed nutritional profile
By weight, flaxseed is 22% carbs (the majority of which are fibre), 66% fats and 12% protein. Per 2 generous tablespoons (around 20g), it contains:
- Calories: 102kcal
- Protein: 5g
- Carbs: 0.6g
- Sugars: 0.4g
- Fibre: 5g
- Total fat: 8g
- Saturated fat: 0.9g
- Monounsaturated fat: 1.7g
- Polyunsaturated fat: 5g
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 4g
- Magnesium: 20% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 13% of the RDI
- Iron: 10% of the RDI
- Zinc: 11% of the RDI
- Potassium: 7% of the RDI
- Calcium: 4% of the RDI
That’s a pretty impressive nutritional profile for a mere 2 tablespoons and 102 calories. But if flaxseed’s nutritional profile isn’t enough to get you sprinkling the stuff on anything and everything, the health benefits of flaxseed might just convince you!
Health benefits of flaxseed
Let’s take a closer look at the three key health-promoting components of flaxseed, as well as their individual health benefits, which are sure to persuade you to start sprinkling!
Flaxseeds are high in fibre
Fibre is a type of plant carbohydrate that cannot be digested by the human body and therefore passes through the digestive system. It plays an essential role in the day-to-day functioning of the digestive system.
Dietary fibre is a term that is used for plant-based carbohydrates that, unlike other carbohydrates (such as sugars and starch), are not digested in the small intestine and so reaches the large intestine or colon.
Just 20g of flax contains around 5g of fibre, which is around 17% of the recommended dietary intake for fibre in the UK. Flax contains both soluble and insoluble fibre in generous quantities, which is an incredible duo for digestive health and makes flax somewhat of a fibre-powerhouse!
The key benefits of including more fibre—in this case, flax—into your diet include:
- Feel fuller for longer: Insoluble fibre is bulky and takes up space within the stomach, while soluble fibre turns into a gel during digestion, slows the emptying of your stomach and further contributes to a prolonged feeling of fullness.
- Keep bowel movements regular: Soluble fibre softens stools and keeps them moving slowly through the digestive tract, while insoluble fibre adds bulk to stools and has a slight laxative effect to ‘keep things moving’.
- Promote healthy weight-loss: Research shows that a high dietary fibre intake typically promotes weight loss and dietary adherence. This is because fibre is naturally low in calories yet very filling, takes up space within the stomach and is able to block some fats from being digested.
Flaxseeds are packed with lignans
Lignans are polyphenols found in plants which have strong antioxidant properties and are believed to contribute to a lowered risk of:
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Menopausal symptoms
- Various cancers
And when it comes to lignans, no other plant-based food can beat flax. According to Elaine Magee in her book ‘The Flax Cookbook’, flaxseed contains over 120x more lignan than most beans, over 180x more than most whole grains and over 260x more than most fruits and vegetables.
Flaxseeds are full of essential fatty acids
The essential fatty acids omega-3 and 6 cannot be made by the body and so must be obtained through the diet—hence their name, ‘essential’ fatty acids. They’re vital for good health, but can be hard to find in vegan diets; which is where flax comes to save the day!
Just like chia seeds, linseeds are quite literally packed with essential fatty acid. Their total fat content is made up of 73% polyunsaturated fat; the majority of which comes in the form of essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. A small percentage of ALA is converted by the body into the other unsaturated fatty acids, EPA and DHA.
The benefits of plant based omega-3 fatty acids found in flax include:
- Reduced risk of heart disease: Omega-3’s have positive effects on numerous heart disease risk factors, as outlined below.
- Decreased inflammation: A study on the cardiovascular effects of ALA in flax found that that the seed can reduce inflammation, which can help to reverse clogged arteries.
- Lowered blood pressure: A large review concluded that consuming flaxseeds consistently lowered blood pressure by 2 mmHg on average.
- Reduced cholesterol: A study concluded that consuming 30g of flax daily can reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, in those with high cholesterol.
One thing’s for sure, the health benefits of flaxseed are pretty damn impressive. But before you start scooping and sprinkling, it’s important to learn how to use flax to its full potential.
How to eat flaxseed
To truly reap the long-term benefits of flaxseed, it’s best to incorporate a tablespoon or two into your daily routine. Thankfully, these tiny seeds are incredibly versatile and can be added to an endless list of foods and recipes!
Here are some of our favourite ways to eat flaxseed:
- Add flax to smoothies and shakes: Blending flax into smoothies is a convenient way to boost your daily dose. Need some inspo? Try ½ cup berries, ½ cup greek or coconut yoghurt, 2 tsp flax, 30g Purition and 200ml of milk or milk alternative.
- Sprinkle flax on salads and veg: Sprinkle a generous serving of ground flaxseed over your salads for added flavour, crunch and of course, nutrition! A light sprinkle on cooked or roasted veggies tastes amazing, too.
- Add flax to yoghurt bowls: A serving of Greek yoghurt mixed with Purition, fruit and an added tsp of flax makes for a nutritious and balanced way to start your day. Following a dairy-free diet? Try coconut yoghurt instead!
- Mix flaxseed into hummus: Love a good dip? Mix in a tablespoon of flax into one serving of hummus and dunk in your carrots, cucumber and celery sticks.
- Use as a vegan egg substitute: Need a plant-based egg alternative? Flax makes for the perfect sub! Use 2 tbsp ground flax mixed with 2 tbsp water and let sit for around 20 minutes, to replace one egg.
How much flaxseed per day?
To reap the health benefits of flaxseed, aim to consume around 2 tbsps of flax per day, consistently.
However, suddenly increasing your fibre intake in a very short period of time can lead to digestive upset. Therefore, it’s best to ease in slowly—start with a tsp per day and gradually increase the amount of flax in your diet every day.
Make sure to drink plenty of water, too. Fibre pulls water into the bowel, so there’s a risk of becoming dehydrated if you don’t drink enough whilst eating high-fibre foods.
Is flaxseed better ground or whole?
Avoid eating flaxseed whole, and instead, opt for pre-ground flaxseed or grind them yourself at home.
Whole flaxseed can be hard for the body to digest and often ends up passing through completely undigested. What does that mean for you? Well, you’d potentially be eating flax for nothing. If they’re not digested, you wouldn’t benefit from all of flax’s impressive nutritional qualities and health benefits.
The only downside here is that ground flaxseed tends to go stale quicker than in their whole form. You’ll need to get through a pack within a few weeks. Storing ground flax in an airtight container in the fridge can help to keep them fresher for longer. You can also freeze ground flaxseed for up to a year. Make sure it’s thoroughly thawed before use.
Alternatively, just buy them whole and grind them as and when you need them at home.
Enjoy flax in Purition
Feeling inspired to improve the quality of your diet with healthy wholefoods like flax? You’ll love Purition.
Purition is a real food shake you can have for breakfast, lunch or as a post-workout protein powder, which instantly takes the stress out of healthy eating. An instant serving of healthy fats (packed with those heart-healthy omega-3s we were talking about), protein, fibre and nourishing vitamins and minerals.
All of our blends are made up of our 7 core ingredients, which amount to around 70% of the total mix. This includes whole ground golden linseed (flax), sunflower kernels, almonds, coconut and pumpkin seeds with whole chia seeds and sesame seeds. We then add whey protein isolate from British milk to our original blends, or a European pea, pumpkin, sunflower & hemp protein blend to our vegan flavours.
So what’s in it for you?
- You’ll love it. It’s quick, easy and there’s no faff involved. Just blend into a shake or mix into yoghurt for an instant, nutritious meal.
- Your body will love it. It’s packed with healthy, whole food goodness to nourish your body from the inside out.
- You’ll feel the difference. The low-carb, low-sugar, high-fibre and high-protein wholefood blend will give you sustained energy throughout the day and minimise hunger pangs, to help you to make healthier food choices later on.