For centuries, flax seeds have been prized for their health-protective properties. So, it’s no wonder they acquired the name Linum usitatissimum, meaning “the most useful.”
Flax seeds are emerging as a “super food” as more scientific research points to their health benefits.
If you haven’t tried flax seeds yet, it’s high time you do. These tiny gems have been around for thousands of years, and today they’re prized more than ever for their powerful health benefits, nutty flavor and versatility.
Here’s why flax seeds—whole or ground, brown or golden—are so good for you:
1. Aid digestion
Most of us don’t eat nearly enough fiber—the average adult gets only about 15 grams a day, a far cry from the recommended 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams a day for men.
Flax seeds to the rescue: just 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed provides 16% of the daily fiber needs for women and about 11% DV for men. Their insoluble fiber aids digestion, helps keep you regular, and prevents constipation.
2. Help with weight loss
Flax seeds are also high in soluble fiber, which helps you feel full so you’re less likely to overeat. A study found that eating whole flax seeds may help with weight loss, especially in very overweight people.
In the studies, the people who lost the most were those who stayed on a flax seed-supplemented diet for 12 weeks or longer and ate more than 30 grams (not quite 4 tablespoons) of flax seeds a day.
3. Boost heart health
One of flax seeds’ biggest benefits is their high ALA (plant-based omega-3) content. The body doesn’t produce omega-3s on its own, so you have to get them from foods like fish and—you guessed it—flax seeds. In fact, flax seeds are second only to chia seeds as the plant foods highest in ALA.
Research shows that people who eat more foods with ALA have a lower risk of heart disease—by up to 14%, according to one large review of more than two dozen studies.
4. Reduce cholesterol
Of course, eating flax seeds can’t replace cholesterol-lowering meds for people who need them. But several small studies show that eating flax seeds may help in the fight against high cholesterol. During digestion, the soluble fiber in flax seed helps bind cholesterol and pushes it out of the body, lowering cholesterol levels in the blood.
In one small study of people with high cholesterol, eating 30 grams a day of flax seed powder for three months helped lower total cholesterol by 17% and “bad” LDL cholesterol by nearly 20%. In another very small study of postmenopausal women, eating 30 grams of flax seeds every day for three months lowered their LDL and total cholesterol by 7% and 10%, respectively.
5. Potentially help fight cancer
Flax seeds are powerful cancer fighters, according to several studies—including one of more than 6,000 women in Canada that found that those who regularly ate flax seeds were up to 18% less likely to develop breast cancer. Post-menopausal women seemed to benefit the most.
Other small studies suggest that flax seeds may help lower the risk of prostate cancer in men. Evidence is conflicting, though, and more research is needed.