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Flaxseed: Health Benefits And Concerns

Linseed, Flaxseed, Semi Di Lino, Food

Flax seeds, also called linseeds, are derived from the flax plant, which is a highly nutritious and fibrous crop. The growth of the flax plant starts from its seeds. These seeds can be powdered to make flaxseed powder, pressed to extract oil, and transformed into linen fibers.

Loaded with nutrients and connected to numerous nutritional advantages, flax seeds are small seeds that possess a delicate, nutty taste along with a crispy, crunchy texture. Being a versatile ingredient, they have the ability to enhance the texture and flavor of nearly any dish.

Continue reading to find out the optimal time to consume this superfood in order to fully reap its remarkable health advantages.

The Best Time To Eat Flax Seeds

There have been no scientific studies conducted thus far concerning the optimal timing for consuming flax seeds. However, it is important to be aware of certain facts when incorporating these seeds into your morning or nighttime routine.

One thing is certain: for you to reap the health benefits, flaxseed cannot be consumed as whole seeds; instead, it needs to be ground.

What is the recommended daily amount of flax seeds? Many scientific studies have shown that consuming just 7 grams (equivalent to 1 tablespoon) of ground flax seed per day can provide various health benefits.

In a single tablespoon of ground flaxseed, you will obtain essential vitamins and minerals.

  • Calories: 37
  • Fat: 3 grams
  • Carbs: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Protein: 1.3 grams
  • Iron: 2% of the DV
  • Folate: 2% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 2% of the DV
  • Zinc: 3% of the DV
  • Selenium: 3% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 4% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 7% of the DV
  • Manganese: 8% of the DV
  • Copper: 9% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 10% of the Daily Value (DV)

It is advisable to consume approximately 28 to 35 grams (4 to 5 tablespoons) of flaxseed per day as a recommended limit. Adhering to this amount ensures that you do not exceed your fiber intake while maintaining a well-rounded and nutritious diet.

Excessive consumption of fiber can lead to:

  • Flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Temporary weight gain
  • Diarrhea or loose stools

Flaxseed In The Morning

Flaxseed oil, referred to as heart-friendly oil and good oil, is believed to have cardiovascular health benefits due to its alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a plant-derived omega-3 fatty acid. Even consuming flaxseed water or a “flaxseeds drink” can provide these benefits.

Flaxseed Powder

In order to make a “flaxseeds drink”, you need to grind the unprocessed flax seeds and incorporate them into a glass of water. This delightful and nutritious concoction, made from freshly ground flax seeds or flax seed powder mixed with water, is best consumed on an empty stomach, preferably in the morning.

Flaxseed Before Bedtime

Flaxseed is available in either a soft capsule or liquid form, and it has been highly praised by the University of Maryland Medical Center website for its numerous health benefits.

There are three beneficial components found in flax, which are:

  • Dietary fiber
  • Omega-3 fatty acids and
  • Protein

Although flaxseed provides numerous health benefits, consumption of flax seeds does not ensure the treatment or cure of specific ailments.

Consuming flax seeds before going to bed offers several health advantages.


Regular consumption of flaxseed, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, can potentially reduce inflammation in the body. Incorporating flaxseed into your diet may aid in alleviating symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases, as well as providing relief for inflammatory conditions like lupus and arthritis.

Despite fish oils having higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, these beneficial compounds can also be found in flax seeds, which offer potential relief for ulcerative colitis. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate inflammation resulting from auto-immune disorders.

Bowel Cleansing and Constipation

The healing qualities and characteristics of the fiber found in flax seeds are transferred to the expressed oil supplements, offering potential relief from constipation by regulating bowel movements and cleansing the colon.

Consuming flax seeds before going to bed can result in a gentle and natural bowel movement during the day. Moreover, it can provide relief to individuals experiencing colon inflammation (diverticulitis).

Circulatory Health

Consuming flax seeds at bedtime can enhance your fatty acid levels, thanks to the presence of omega-6 and omega-3 acids, which can aid in combating heart diseases by maintaining blood cholesterol levels and reducing blood pressure.

Muscle Maintenance

Flaxseed offers musculoskeletal advantages, particularly when taken before bedtime, for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

When flaxseed is added to a protein shake, it can extend the process of digestion and protein breakdown. This extension enables the muscle-building amino acids to stay in the digestive system overnight.

Reduces Risk of Cancer

According to recent studies, the consumption of flaxseed has been found to offer protection against breast and colon cancer. In a study involving more than 6,000 women, it was observed that those who incorporated flaxseed into their daily diet had a reduced likelihood of developing breast cancer.

Interestingly, flax seeds have 800 times more lignans than other plants.

Lignans, known for their estrogenic and antioxidant properties, have been found to effectively reduce the risk of cancer. Similarly, flax seeds, which contain the omega-3 fatty acid ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), are believed to have the potential to prevent the development and proliferation of tumors.

Lowers Blood Pressure Levels

Those who consume flax seeds daily were found to have lower blood pressure levels compared to those who do not, according to a study. Moreover, individuals who are already on medication may benefit from regular flaxseed intake.

According to a comprehensive analysis of pertinent research, consuming flaxseed on a daily basis for a period exceeding 3 months has the potential to reduce blood pressure by 2 mmHg. Although this may appear to be a relatively small reduction, it can effectively decrease the chances of mortality caused by:

  • Heart disease by 7%
  • Stroke by 10%  

Lowers Risk of Heart Attack 

According to a study, consuming flaxseed is correlated with a decreased likelihood of experiencing a stroke. An extensive examination revealed that including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in one’s diet can lower the chances of developing heart disease by 14%.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is not produced by your body, meaning you need to attain this important fatty acid from a nutritious diet. Flax seeds, rich in ALA, combat cardiovascular diseases by preventing the buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessels.

Great Source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The primary form of fat found in flaxseed is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that must be obtained through dietary sources as your body is incapable of producing it internally.

Furthermore, the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids provided by flaxseed are more than four times greater than the omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, thus potentially enhancing your overall omega-3:omega-6 ratio.

Omega-3 fats are recognized for their anti-inflammatory properties, while omega-6 fats have the potential to cause inflammation. The majority of individuals consume excessive amounts of omega-6 PUFAs, but they tend to lack sufficient omega-3 PUFAs.

It is essential to note that the conversion of some ALA into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are the long-chain PUFAs present in fatty fish, is usually inadequate in the majority of individuals, particularly in older adults.

The omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, are crucial for maintaining the health and functionality of vital organs such as the heart and brain.

Great Source of Antioxidants

When it comes to lignans, a type of antioxidant found in plants, flaxseed is without a doubt the superior source.

The lignans in your colon are transformed by bacteria into phytoestrogens, which possess gentle estrogenic and anti-estrogenic properties. Similar to the estrogen naturally produced in your body, phytoestrogens can interact with estrogen receptors, although their estrogenic potency is considerably lower.

Research on Flax and Breast Cancer

According to studies, it has been indicated that flax has the potential to inhibit the growth of irregular cells and enhance the programmed death (apoptosis) of cancer cells specifically in breast tissue.

Furthermore, it appears to alter the process of estrogen metabolism in a manner that promotes the less biologically potent variant called 2-hydroxyestrone, linked with a decreased likelihood of breast cancer.

The safety of flaxseed in breast cancer patients as well as in healthy women for preventing breast cancer is supported by an increasing amount of evidence.

The “gold standard” in evidence, two randomized controlled trials (RCTs), were included in a systematic review conducted by researchers in 2014. This review encompassed 10 studies that focused on both healthy women and those diagnosed with breast cancer.

It was discovered that consuming around 25 grams of ground flaxseed daily resulted in an 18% decrease in the risk of breast cancer. Additionally, it was determined that flax may lower the risk of mortality in women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer.

In another review conducted in 2014, multiple studies found the following:

  • Rodents that were fed diets containing 2.5-10% of calories from flax showed reduced tumor growth. In addition, flax was found to enhance rather than interfere with the effectiveness of tamoxifen and other cancer drugs.
  • Results from 5 large observational studies have shown an association between flax consumption and reduced breast cancer risk, especially in older women.
  • Clinical trials lasting from one month to one year reported that consuming 25 grams of ground flaxseed daily reduced tumor growth in women with breast cancer and decreased breast cancer risk in younger women.

Research on Flaxseed and Prostate Cancer

Worries have also emerged regarding the possibility of flaxseed elevating the risk of prostate cancer.

The concern mainly arises from a 2004 review that examined multiple observational studies. It discovered that men with higher intakes of ALA had a greater chance of developing prostate cancer, but a lower risk of heart disease.

Besides flaxseed, ALA can be found in various other foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, soy, and canola oil. Furthermore, the authors of the study emphasized the need for further research to fully understand the connection between elevated levels of ALA in the blood and prostate cancer.

Meanwhile, it has been discovered through further research that flaxseed and other sources of lignan have the potential to decrease the risk of prostate cancer and enhance the outcomes of men undergoing treatment for the condition.

During a randomized controlled trial conducted in 2008, it was observed that prostate cancer patients who consumed 30 grams of ground flaxseed per day for a month experienced considerably reduced cancer growth compared to the group that adhered to a low-fat diet with no flaxseed.

While further research is required to verify the potential role of flax in preventing prostate cancer, recent studies suggest that it does not pose a risk, in contrast to earlier observational studies.

Research on Flaxseed and Pregnancy

While flax is generally considered safe and advantageous for most individuals, including those with cancer, animal studies present conflicting findings about its safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

During one study, flaxseed was incorporated into the diets of pregnant rats, with 5% or 10% of their calorie intake derived from flaxseed.

The pregnant rats were found to tolerate these doses without any adverse effects, but their offspring exhibited lower birth weights and later onset of puberty, as well as reproductive issues, which were absent in the control rats.

The researchers advised being cautious when consuming flaxseed in high doses during pregnancy and lactation, especially during hormone-sensitive periods.

Moreover, although the majority of studies conducted on rats have demonstrated a decrease in the likelihood of breast cancer in offspring exposed to flaxseed during pregnancy, a small number of studies have indicated an elevated risk when administered at high doses.

However, recent studies conducted on flax-treated rats during pregnancy indicate that it could enhance the well-being of their offspring by potentially lowering the chances of obesity, reducing blood pressure, and improving arterial health and brain functionality.

Given the varying outcomes in animal studies and the absence of research in pregnant women presently, it is advisable to restrict the consumption of flax to sporadic and minimal amounts during pregnancy.

Flax and Thyroid Function

Thyroid health is at risk when consuming flaxseed, which has been criticized due to its content of cyanogenic glycosides that react with sulfur to generate thiocyanates.

Interfering with the crucial role played by iodine in thyroid function, excessive amounts of thiocyanates can have a detrimental impact on thyroid health.

Nevertheless, there is no evidence to suggest that consuming excessive quantities of flax can raise the levels of thiocyanates within the body.

During the course of a randomized controlled trial (RCT), 80 adults were involved and they followed a diet that included 20% of calories from ground flaxseed for 4 weeks, as well as a control diet. Upon completion of each diet, the participants’ thiocyanate levels remained within the normal range and were comparable.

While there is limited formal research on the direct impact of flaxseed on thyroid health, individuals with thyroid disease have reported no side effects and potential enhancement of thyroid function through moderate consumption of flaxseed, based on anecdotal evidence.

After the birth of her fifth child, a 38-year-old woman developed Grave’s disease. However, her condition achieved complete remission when flaxseed was incorporated into her regular medical treatment.

Indicating a worsening of the disease, her reduction in flax dosage resulted in a decrease in thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.

Nevertheless, a second period of improvement took place when she recommenced taking flaxseed supplements after giving birth to her sixth child. Although flaxseed may not be solely accountable for her recovery, its anti-inflammatory properties could have contributed to her progress.

Flax and Uterine Fibroids

A further matter of concern relating to flaxseed is the impact of lignans on fibroids, which are benign growths located in the uterus and driven by the hormones estradiol and progesterone.

Though research is not extensive, findings from case-control studies indicate that the consumption of foods rich in lignans does not impact the growth of fibroids and might potentially reduce the risk of developing fibroids.

Among 170 women diagnosed with fibroids and 173 healthy individuals, it was discovered that those who consumed the most lignan had a notably lower likelihood of developing fibroid growths.

Precautions of Taking Flaxseed for Weight Loss

There are certain factors to take into consideration before incorporating flaxseeds into one’s weight loss regimen, although they are generally safe for the majority of individuals when consumed moderately.

  • Don’t try to take raw or unripe flax seeds as they often cause indigestion. Besides, raw flax seeds contain toxic compounds.
  • Since flaxseed supplements can trigger hormonal side effects, pregnant women should not be allowed to take them. So far, there have been no studies that confirm if flaxseeds are safe to use while you’re nursing.
  • If you’re taking flaxseeds in any form, whether it’s a flaxseed powder or oil, make sure you are drinking plenty of water. You need to continually rehydrate yourself while taking flaxseed supplements. Dehydration will make it hard for you to properly digest excess fiber in your body, which could lead to constipation and stomach cramps.  

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