Coach’s Corner: What’s So Great about Flax Seeds?
September 12, 2022
If you could take a pill that would help balance your hormones, make you more insulin sensitive, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease AND breast cancer by 25%, would you take it?
What if that pill tasted good, could be added to smoothies, yogurt, or even cookies, had no side effects, and didn’t require a prescription? Food IS medicine.
Why Flax Seeds are a Common Recommendation to RIFM Patients
Flax seeds are considered a functional food, meaning that they offer health benefits in addition to their basic nutritional value. While they are a rich source of fiber and healthy fats, these little seeds pack a powerful punch and have been studied for a wide variety of benefits.
No matter what your health goal, it seems like flax seeds could help you get there! A quick search on the RIFM blog alone results in many benefits of this tasty little seed:
Flax seeds can balance hormones naturally and reduce the risk of breast cancer.
You may have heard the shocking statistic that 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Or maybe this statistic does not surprise you as you probably know several women who have battled the disease.
In Dr. Hartman’s blog post on balancing estrogen, he talked about how fiber helps your body bind estrogen products in the gut and aids in detoxification. For this reason, I often see the RIFM physicians recommending flax seeds to women to help in hormone balance.
In Dr. Hartman’s words, “Taking two to four tablespoons of flax a day is my favorite fiber source to lower estrogen levels and reduce your risk for breast cancer. For women, flax seeds help modulate hormones and lower the risk for both heart disease and breast cancer by about 25%.”
This reason alone is enough to make the effort to include flax seeds into our daily diet.
Flax Seeds reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Flax seeds are anti-inflammatory, lower hs-CRP, reduce triglycerides, increase HDL (good cholesterol), and improve insulin sensitivity. Want to reduce your elevated LDL cholesterol naturally without taking a statin? Flax seeds can help with that too. They are an overall winner in the heart health department!
They’re a great source of omega-3s.
Flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically ALA (alpha linolenic acid). These important fats help your body create strong, stable cell membranes, which are vital to all aspects of our health. Omega-3s can even support your body’s immune system and improve its resistance to viral infections.
Flax seeds can improve digestion and relieve constipation.
In this interesting study, 53 patients with type 2 diabetes and constipation were assigned to eat either 20g of flax seeds (about 3 tablespoons) baked into 4 cookies per day or eat 4 placebo cookies with the same calorie content. The results showed significant improvement in constipation, as well as many other health improvements, in the people who ate the flax seeds. I’ve definitely seen flax seeds help improve digestion for my clients.
Flaxseeds may help with menopausal symptoms.
Flaxseeds are the best-known source of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen, which has a very similar chemical structure to estrogen. Lignans can relieve the symptoms of menopause as they balance the effects of estrogen in the body by connecting to their receptors.
Flaxseeds can help with weight loss.
In the study I mentioned above on constipation, as a bonus, the participants also lost 4 lbs more than the placebo arm AND lowered their BMI. By eating cookies. Where was I when they were looking for participants for that study?
Flax seeds can improve glycemic control.
Yet another result in that cookie study was lower blood glucose levels. As Dr. Hartman has talked about on this blog before, flax seeds help your body with insulin sensitivity. Since insulin resistance is so prevalent these days, flax seeds seem like an easy choice for a myriad of health wins.
Want to Add More Flax Seeds to Your Diet? Here are 10 Ideas.
When using flax seeds, it’s best to buy them whole and grind them at home, when possible. Once the seeds are ground, oxygen quickly breaks down some of the nutrients, including the omega-3’s. Ideally, buy whole seeds and grind them before eating, or at least store them in the freezer (ground or whole) to prevent oxidation.
Need some inspiration on how to add flax seeds to your daily diet? Give these a try…
Tossing some whole flax seeds into your smoothies might seem like an obvious choice, but did you know that you can freeze smoothies? Just put them in wide-mouth, pint-sized mason jars with an inch of headspace and put them in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge or stow it in your lunch box.
Check out Dr. Hartman’s Detox Smoothie recipe (in the Liver Detox section of this post).
Sprinkle ground flax seeds on yogurt or mix it in for a delicious, nutty texture and flavor.
3. Baked Goods
There are lots of muffin and cookie recipes online for incorporating flax seeds. I like recipes with simple, real food ingredients like this one.
You can sprinkle flax seeds into soups and stews. Ground flax seeds can also be used as a thickener.
5. Egg Substitute
Especially if you have an egg allergy or sensitivity, you can use flax seeds as a substitute.
6. Oatmeal or Granola
Flax seeds are a tasty addition to hot oatmeal, overnight oats, or granola. Have you checked out Dr. Hartman’s granola recipe? It features flax seeds!
7. Substitute ground flax seeds for bread crumbs in a recipe.
8. Sprinkle ground flax seeds on your salad.
9. Top your avocado or nut butter toast with ground flax seeds.
10. Make some easy flax seed energy bites.
This is my favorite no-bake, no-fuss way to ensure that I’m getting a regular does of flax seeds – in a tasty treat! Even my seventeen-year-old son likes them. Give them a try!
Fudgy Flax Energy Bites
1 c ground flax seeds (95g)
1/4 c nut butter (64 g)
2 T honey (42 g)
1/2 t vanilla
2 T cacao powder
1 T cacao nibs (optional, but they add a nice texture and flavor)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
Using a scale to weigh some of the ingredients makes this simple recipe even faster to put together. Mix all the ingredients well and scoop into one-inch balls. If you have a kitchen scale, you can weigh the dough and divide it by 14 to ensure that each ball has about 1 tablespoon of flax seeds. Keep in the fridge or freezer. I like to double the recipe.
To be honest, I often just eyeball it and don’t measure the ingredients exactly – and they still turn out tasty. You could substitute some chocolate protein powder for the cacao powder for a sweeter bite (or reduce a little of the honey). Enjoy your new “supplement” with a cup of tea or coffee!
How do you like to include flax seeds in your routine? Leave a comment on Facebook or Instagram to let us know!
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.
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