Flax seeds

Flax seeds

Flax seedsFlax seeds are known for being some of the most powerful seeds which come from plants. Various studies have shown that flax seeds have positive effects on the human body. For example, they can help to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and strokes. This article will address some of the health benefits which flax seeds provide, such as protection against cancer and the benefits on the cardiovascular system.

Description

The official and scientific name of flax seeds is linum usitatissimum. The first part of the name is close to the term “linen”. It might therefore not be surprising that linen is actually made of flax. This technique has been used for more than 3000 years in various regions in the world. Another interesting fact about flax is that it had not only been used for the production of linen, but it also used for other purposes. For example, it was used for creating bowstrings, body armour and even for building sails for sailing ships. Thus, besides the fact that flax seeds are now used for consumption, its use is not only limited to consumption but is also used for different means. Flax comes in two different forms. The two varieties of flax are golden and brown flax. The golden variety of flax is sometimes also referred to as yellow flax. The two different types of flax are very similar to each other. Their composition of nutrients is almost identical. However, these is one slight difference between the two. The yellow variety of flax has one strain which is developed by agricultural scientists. This strain is called solin. The scientists developed this strain in order for to extract its oil and use it as cooking oil. The aim of this development was to replace sunflower seed oil. Solin, however, only contains about 10 percent of the alpha-linolenic content of the brown flax. Thus, this variety is not as nutritious as the brown flax. Furthermore, flax seeds can be found in different colours. You can find the seeds in the colours gold, amber, brown and red. Flax seeds which have a green or white colour are usually harvested before full maturity. Darker flax seeds, especially those which are dark brown or black, have been harvested for a long time after maturity. It is generally not recommended to eat those flax seeds which are black, green or white.

History

The cultivation of flax has been a common practice for many years. It is not agreed when the cultivation of flax exactly started. Some evidence suggests that the cultivation of flax began during the Neolithic Era around 10,000 BC. The cultivation of flax in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern region took place between 4,000 and 2,000 BC. During this time flax was already used for multiple purposes. It had both a domestic and culinary purpose. It was often used in cooking and also used to spin linen. This linen again was used in order to make clothes, carpets and other products. While flax is still used in both domestic and culinary spheres, flax seeds are now widely used to make oil. Especially in countries such as Canada and the United States, flax production is mainly used to produce different types of oil. In order to make oil, flax seeds are dried and crushed. Canada is currently the largest producer of flax which is eventually used for flax oil seed. Canada is then followed by France, Argentina and Russia. Flax oil seed can also be used for a different purpose than cooking. For example, a common practice is to use flax seed oil to paint or coat wood. It is also widely used in livestock feed. Another use of flax which is becoming more popular is the use of fiber flax. Belgium and France are large producers of fiber flax which is used in the textile market. The increased production of linen products in China has led to new ways of creating fibers. Silk, wool and cotton still remain the main fibers used in the production of linen products, but flax fiber is becoming more popular.

Cancer protection

One of the health benefits provided by flax seeds is that is can have a protective effect against different types of cancer. Scientists, who are part of the Flax Council in Canada, have indicated that flax seeds have two specific components which contribute to the protective effect against cancer. Flax seeds are said to protect the body from colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer. A study was conducted which analysed the relation between flax seeds and the protection it provides against different types of cancer. It was found that the component called alpha-linolenic inhibits tumour incidence and growth. Another component which is said to have a positive effect on the prevention of cancer is called lignans. Another study concluded that lignans may provide protection against cancer cells which are sensitive to hormones. One of the scientists who conducted the study stated that the exposure to lignans during adolescence can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Furthermore, exposure to lignans can also help to increase the survival of patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Moreover, lignans work by blocking certain enzymes in the body which are involved in the growth and the spread of tumour cancer cells. While these specific components are said to have a potential direct relation with the protection against cancer, flax seeds also contain components which have antioxidant properties. These antioxidant properties can also contribute to the protection against various forms of cancer.


Cardiovascular benefits

Flax seeds also contain various components which have a positive influence on the cardiovascular system. Flax seeds contain omega-3 properties. These properties support the cardiovascular system through different mechanisms. For example, these properties help to normalize heartbeat as well as provide anti-inflammatory actions during inflammation. A new area which is being studied at the moment is the influence of flax seeds on blood pressure. It is said that omega-3 properties can lower blood pressure significantly. Till this moment it is not clear which exact properties contribute to the lowering of blood pressure. It can either be the amino acid groups which are present in flax seed or the fatty acids of the omega-3 properties. Furthermore, various other studies have shown the effects of flax seeds on arteries. Omega-3 properties prevent arteries from hardening. Also, these properties also prevent plaque from being deposited in the arteries which prevents the arteries from being blocked. Research suggests that plaque build-up is reduced by 75% when consuming flax seeds on a regular basis. Moreover, since flax seeds also contribute to normalizing the heartbeat, flax seeds could play an important role in treating arrhythmia. They could also help to prevent heart failure among patients who have a weakened cardiovascular system. In order for these assumptions to be verified, more research needs to be conducted on this topic. Another effect of flax seeds is that it can contribute to lowering cholesterol levels. Increased levels of cholesterol can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. A study concluded that omega-3, lignans and fiber all contribute to lowering cholesterol-levels.

Ground or whole seeds

Many people are not sure whether to consume flax seeds as whole seeds or whether they should be ground. Flax seeds can be consumed both as whole seeds or you can use a grinder to have ground flax seed. However, many people do not have the time to grind flax seeds and therefore decide to consume them as ground seeds. All the nutrients of the products are to be found on the inside of the flax seeds. The seeds are a source of amino acids, healthy vitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids. If you want to obtain all the healthy nutrients from the seeds, make sure that you chew the seeds well when consuming them. By chewing them well you will be able to obtain the maximum amount of the fibers, lignans and other beneficial nutrient. When flax seeds are soaked in water, the flax seeds produce a mucilaginous gel. If you are dealing with constipation, this mucilaginous gel may help to overcome this problem. In this case it is recommended to soak a spoon of flax seeds in a glass of water. Leave the flax seeds in the glass of water for the entire night. Drink it the next day and you should start to notice a difference within a couple of days. Flax seeds do, however, soak up a lot of water. It is therefore important to drink a lot of water when consuming flax seeds. If you do not drink a lot of water, problems of constipation might actually occur.

How to select and store

Flax seeds can be purchased in different forms. They can either be bought as whole seeds or you can buy them already ground. While both types of flax seeds are beneficial, one might be easier to consume than the other. You can base your decision on how you want to use the seeds. For example, if you want to add them to your yoghurt in the morning it might be better to buy whole flax seeds. It should be noted that ground flax seeds have a shorter shelf life compared to whole flax seeds. For example, ground flax seeds usually only last between six to sixteen weeks. Even if they are packed carefully, the ground flax seeds will only last for a maximum period of sixteen weeks. Whole flax seeds, on the other hand, usually last between six to twelve months. They can last even longer when they are packed carefully. When they are stored in an airtight container and stored in a dry place they can last for about 18 months. If flax seeds are stored in the refrigerator they can last up to two years. Whole flax seeds are usually sold in pre-packaged containers, or in bulk. As with many other products, make sure that the store had a good turnover so the flax seeds retain their freshness. Also, make sure the package is not damaged and does not show any sign of moisture. When buying flax seed oil, make sure you but those bottles of oil which have been refrigerated. Additionally, flax seed oil should have a nutty flavour. This flavour usually goes paired with a slight sweet taste as well. The oil of flax seeds is actually not recommended for cooking. This is due to the fact that it is easily oxidized. The oil can, however, be added to food once it has been cooked.





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 1283x
Added: 27-10-2016 16:27
Last modified: 17-11-2016 22:10

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