Flax seed, also known as linseed, is high in fiber and rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid in a nutritious diet. ALA falls under the category of omega-3 fatty acids that promote body and brain development.
Flax seed comes from the flax plant, which was used by ancient Egyptians for medicinal purposes, including treating constipation. They also used the fiber in the plant to make clothes and fishnets. Flax seed also grows in Canada and the northwestern United States.
The ALA in flax seed can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol, especially within an overall diet of whole grains, green vegetables, fruit and fish. Consumption of flax seed may ease mild menopausal symptoms, lower blood-sugar levels and prevent osteoporosis. Flax seed supplementation may prevent or reduce tumor growth in breast, colon, prostate and skin cancers. Flax seed may be effective in treating arthritis, ulcers, migraines, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders, emphysema, psoriasis and glaucoma. More research is needed to substantiate preliminary studies.
There are few side effects for a healthy person consuming flax seed. Flax seed can cause constipation if it is taken without water. The fiber in flax seed can reduce the body's ability to absorb oral medications.
Eating Flax Seed
Sprinkle a tablespoon of ground flax seed on a salad, bowl of cereal or oatmeal. Mix ground flax seed into pancake batter. Mix ground flax seed into condiments for a sandwich. Mix ground flax seed into different dips, like potato chip dip or guacamole. Substitute flax seed oil for other oils in recipes.
Ask the Doctor
Ask a health care provider before consuming flax seed. Flax seed supplements may interact with oral contraceptives, hormonal replacement therapy, blood-thinning medications, diabetes medications.