Flaxseed Myths Ambleside
Bowness on Windermere
Busted: While flaxseed has some benefits, further study needs to be done to back up some of the health claims.
What makes flaxseed special?
Flaxseed is assumed to be good for us because of two compounds in the seed called lignans (phytoestrogens with antioxidant capabilities) and omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed, according to “The Health Professional’s Guide to Popular Dietary Supplements,” contains 100 to 800 times more lignans than any other seeds.
How many calories does it have?
For individuals on weight-controlled diets and taking flaxseed oil, a good rule of thumb to estimate calories is that flaxseed contains 140 calories and 14g of fat per tablespoon.
What are the health claims?
Flaxseed has been grown for more than 5,000 years in Central Asia, and multiple marketing and media claims are associated with it. Some of the claims are that it can help relieve constipation, reduce risk of heart disease, improve symptoms of lupus and eczema, and reduce inflammation from arthritis.
What are the facts?
-- Flaxseed may increase triglyceride levels (cholesterol) in people who already have high triglycerides.
-- As of now, there is not enough evidence to support that flaxseed reduces stroke or a heart attack.
-- Ground flaxseed may help with constipation (since it increases dietary fibre) if sufficient liquids have been consumed.
What food sources contain flaxseed?
Food sources of flaxseed include whole flaxseed, flaxseed oil, margarine made from flaxseed oil, flax breakfast cereals, and flax bread that has been made with flaxseed flour.
Flaxseed must be refrigerated, and can be taken by itself, added to hot foods after cooking, or even added directly to food during cooking (not suggested for frying at high temperatures).
How much should a person take?
Manufacturers recommend 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil be taken daily (contains 7 grams of alpha-linoleic acid and 2 grams of linoleic acid). The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends 1.6 grams of alpha-linoleic acid daily for men and 1.1 grams per day for women.
Should people add flaxseed to their diets?
People can add flaxseed or flaxseed oil to their diets, although many of the benefits need more study before we know the true benefits. Studies are ongoing on many of the health claims.
Whitney Bundy is a registered dietitian and director of the Food & Nutrition Department at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician.