Scientific name: Linum usitatissimum
Flax is an annual fiber crop that grows to a height of more than 3 ft tall and thrives in moist soils rich in silt, clay and sand. It is cultivated in ancient Egypt, India and China. It has slender stems and slender lanceolate green leaves.Flax is an annual plant that thrives in deep moist soils rich in sand, silt, and clay.
The flower has five pale blue petals while in other varieties the petals can be bright red. The fruit is round with glossy brown seeds like that of an apple. These small, oval-shaped seeds contain oil called flaxseed oil or linseed oil.
Health Benefits of Flaxseed:
In ancient times, flaxseeds also known as linseeds are both used as food and medicine.
Flaxseeds are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA). These are "good" fats that have been shown to be beneficial to have a healthy hearts.
It is also a rich source of dietary fiber and the fiber-related polyphenols called lignans as well as a good source of mucilaginous gums like arabinoxylans and galactoxylans. Thus making flaxseed an effective laxative.
The lignans are estrogen-like chemical compounds with antioxidant qualities that fight free radicals.
Linseed or Flaxseed is a rich souce of vitamin B1 and other minerals like magnesium, copper, phosphorus, calcium, folate, selenium and other micronutrients.
To get the most benefits out of flaxseeds, it should be consumed in ground form(grounded) otherwise the seeds will just past through the digestive tract undigested. One can add grounded flaxseed or linseed in coffee, cooked cereal, homemade muffin, cookie, bread recipe. or grain dish. Or you may add a tablespoon of flaxseed oil to smoothies and fruit shakes.
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The lignan contents are said to block enzymes that prevent tumor cells from growing. Flaxseed is said to prevent breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. It also has antiangiogenic properties that stops tumor cells from forming new blood vessels.
Linseed oil or flaxseed oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids as well as some other antioxidants thus providing valuable cardiovascular benefits. It also lowers cholesterol levels and protects the blood vessels from inflammatory damage.
The high fiber content helps delay gastric emptying and improve intestinal absorption of nutrients.
It is believed that taking flaxseed oil reduce the symptoms of menopause like hot flashes.
Side effects and Precautions:
Pregnant women should avoid taking flaxseed because of its estrogen-like properties.
Bowel obstruction - those people suffering from bowel obstruction should also avoid flaxseed/linseed because of its high fiber content.
Side effects include:
Flaxseed should be used within 24 hours after grinding and the flaxseed oil should be refrigerated.
Do not eat unripe flaxseeds as they may be poisonous.