Benefits of Whole Ground Flaxseed Meal
Flaxseed’s health benefits come from the fact that it’s high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as phytochemicals called lignans. One tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed contains 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids (includes the omega 3s), 2 grams of dietary fiber and 37 calories.
The seeds of the flax plant are a rich source of carbohydrates, oils and phytochemicals that can benefit your health. Flaxseed meal, made from ground-up whole seeds, is more readily digested than the intact seed. It also offers advantages over consuming only the oil extracted from the seed, because the seed solids carry a significant proportion of flax’s dietary benefits. Including ground flax in your daily nutrition plan supplies you with fiber, essential fatty acids and lignans.
Fiber is a type of plant-based carbohydrate your body is unable to digest yet contributes to your gastrointestinal health. Ground flaxseed meal contains fiber that can act as a laxative and help reduce your risk of constipation and hemorrhoids. Adding fiber to your diet might lower your chances of developing heart disease or digestive cancers, and, because its bulk gives you a feeling of fullness after you eat, it may help you manage your weight. When incorporating ground flax into your diet, you may want to begin with a small amount – one-half teaspoon or so – and slowly work your way up to a tablespoon each day. This progression, along with drinking plenty of fresh water, can avoid the digestive upset or intestinal blockages associated with an abrupt increase in dietary fiber.
Essential Fatty Acids
Fat is critical to your diet because it provides essential fatty acids, fat molecules your body cannot synthesize on its own. These omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids incorporate into cell membranes, eye tissue, nerves and chemical messengers, and keeping an optimal balance of essential fatty acids in your diet is important to good health. Most Americans consume far more omega-6 than omega-3 fats, and the oils in ground flaxseed meal contain alpha-linolenic acid, a precursor to omega-3 fatty acids. Ground flax can therefore help restore the balance of these nutrients in your body. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation and may lower your risk of chronic inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases.
Phytochemicals are plant-based compounds that can bolster your health or help ward off disease. Ground flaxseed meal is rich in phytochemicals called lignans. They demonstrate antioxidant activity that may help protect your cells from environmental damage and potentially defend against cancer. Similar to fiber, lignans are found in the solids of flaxseed, so consuming the ground meal is preferable to flax oil alone.
You can purchase flaxseed preground, or you can grind your own flax meal by pulverizing whole seeds in a coffee or spice grinder. The rich oil content of flax causes it to become rancid fairly quickly, but refrigerating or freezing flaxseed meal can help avoid this problem. One tablespoon supplies you with the recommended daily dose of 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, states registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky of the Mayo Clinic. Mixing it into your morning cereal, sprinkling it on yogurt or incorporating it into baked goods are easy ways to add it to your diet, or you can simply consume a spoonful of it each day.