A little bit goes a long way with this wonderful oil that dates back thousands of years
Have you ever baked with flaxseed?
Then you already know that it’s a great substitution for vegetable oil, shortening, and even eggs in many recipes. Bakers everywhere have been using flaxseed to improve the texture and taste of their goods while doing away with the unhealthy fats in their recipes.
It’s one thing to use flaxseed in place of a saturated fat, but did you know that flaxseed itself has fantastic healing properties? It’s full of rich omega-3 fatty acids that boost your heart health, fights inflammation, and helps you lose weight.
And now it’s available in an already-pressed oil form, so you can supplement your diet right away with the awesome power of flaxseed oil.
Think about it. All of the benefits of the flaxseed, without having to find ways to sneak it into your baked goods or other foods. Flaxseed oil is gaining a ton of momentum, and it’s easy to see why.
But what is flaxseed? Where did it come from, and how did our civilization come to realize its amazing healing properties?
What Is Flaxseed, Anyways?
Flaxseed (also known as linseed) is grown in milder climates around the world and has been used for a fantastic range of products. (Even clothes! Linen is made from linseed.)
We have evidence that flaxseed was used by prehistoric populations as far back as 25,000 years ago. Almost 10,000 years ago, cultures near modern-day Egypt were cultivating and domesticating the flaxseed plant, thereby increasing its crop yield.
In fact, ancient paintings show that Egyptians buried their dead in linens spun from the flaxseed. It continued to spread east all the way to China.
But once ground it’s ground and milled (or pressed into an oil), you get an edible product chock full of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is great for reducing inflammation and helping prevent or cure a number of ailments.
We need more of these healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids in our diet, which is why flaxseed oil is already in homes everywhere.
Here’s Why Flaxseed Oil Rocks (Fats Can Be Healthy!)
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the omega-3 fatty acid contained in flaxseed. It’s one of three primary omega-3 fatty acids that are wonderful for our health:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
You’ll find ALAs in plant-based foods like flaxseed, soybeans, tofu and walnuts. It’s a great fatty acid and, what’s more, your body can convert it into the other two (EPA and DHA).
Even though your body converts ALA to EPA and DHA, note that your body needs to be in great balance to do this effectively. It’s also easier for your body to convert ALA to EPA than to DHA.
The other fatty acids, ELA and DHA, are found in fish oil. (link to fish oil article) Unfortunately some people cannot take fish oil due to their own dietary restrictions, but the good news is that the body already converts ALA to these two fatty acids.
So if you want to fight inflammation, control your weight, and prevent a host of diseases…flaxseed oil is a great investment.
Three Powerful Benefits of Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil will help you stave off diseases and prevent issues caused by inflammation. And if you can’t take fish oil for any reason, flaxseed makes an excellent substitute.
For a healthier heart, clearer mind, and a better body…check out the things flaxseed oil will do for your life.
Healthy Hearts are Happy Hearts
Take a look at the studies to see what flaxseed oil has been shown to do for cardiovascular health.
Flaxseed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (in particular, alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA), and studies show this increase in ALA lowers the risk of myocardial infarctions (i.e. heart attacks).
It also has other benefits that protect the heart from disease like atherosclerosis.
Why does it happen?
For one, research shows that more ALA in the diet lowers QT interval levels in the heart. Since QT intervals are associated with arrhythmias, it’s found that flaxseed oil goes a long way in protecting the heart by shorting the interval.
Research is still new in the area of flaxseed oil and heart health, but it’s very promising at the start. It protects the heart against disease and decreases the risk for heart attack, but there are some other things it can’t do. For example, tests were inconclusive on the impact of flaxseed oil on high blood cholesterol.
Lower That Blood Pressure with Flaxseed Oil
High blood pressure (hypertension) is no laughing matter. It may seem like something you only hear about once a year when your doctor nags you about your numbers, but it can have a terrible impact on your health.
High blood pressure is caused by a poor diet with excessive salt, abnormally high stress, too much alcohol or tobacco, or many other things.
If you leave high blood pressure unchecked, you’re at high risk for catastrophic events like stroke, blood clots, and coronary heart disease.
Flaxseed oil has been shown to improve diastolic blood pressure in several studies. It’s thought that the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in flaxseed oil (along with its natural fiber) lowers blood pressure.
Whenever your body converts sugar into energy, it leaves behind a waste called free radicals. Alpha-linolenic acid is an antioxidant that fights free radicals, keeping your cells in their best health. Research shows that ALA reduces metabolic stress in your system, which has a direct benefit on your blood pressure.
Stubborn Tummy Fat? Say “Bye-Bye” With Flaxseed Oil
One of the markers of high blood pressure is your weight. If you’ve struggled to maintain a healthy weight, you open up a host of risks to your body.
Flaxseed oil contains ALA, which can help in weight loss. The exact interaction is still being studied, but several blind studies have shown that diets with enough ALA lead to better weight loss results than control groups.
What’s more, adding flaxseed oil to your existing weight loss regimen can help to reduce inflammation markers. As we know, inflammation leads to many chronic illnesses, so anything we can add in our fight against inflammation will protect ourselves in the long term.
Also note that the group in the above study realized a decrease in cholesterol levels, another added benefit that needs further research.
How to Use Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil is extremely easy to use in your everyday life.
Whether you have milled flaxseed or cold-pressed flaxseed oil, you’ve got a great addition to your arsenal.
But it’s important to distinguish the two.
In its solid form, milled flaxseed can make a great substitution for vegetable oil or butter in your baking. It brings life to your pancakes, and delivers healthier, tastier cookies and breads.
But flaxseed oil shouldn’t be used in direct heat cooking. The heat will kill the nutritional benefits of the oil. It can, however, be sprinkled in a dressing on a salad, or added to soups and stews after they’ve finished cooking.
Flaxseed oil has a pleasant taste, so you could consider taking a bit in a spoon if you need a quick and easy way to get it into your system.
Don’t overdo it, though! One tablespoon (5 ml) is 120 calories, so it can add up quick. Remember – one of the easiest ways to control your weight is to make sure you’re not eating more calories than you need.
Flaxseed oil goes rancid quick. You can prevent this by storing it in cool, dark places. Often times you’ll see it in opaque, dark jars to keep the light out. Store it in the refrigerator to slow down the process and keep it fresh.
The good news is that rancid flaxseed oil won’t have any negative effects on your health. However, it won’t taste as good, and its nutritional benefit will be lost. When in doubt, throw it out.
Should I Buy Flaxseed Oil or Fish Oil?
We’ve already covered some similarities between flaxseed oil and fish oil. You may be wondering which one is right for you.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, the choice is clear. Fish oil is made from fish, so you’ll want to stick directly with flaxseed oil.
But what if you’re not restricted by diet? What should you choose?
Both flaxseed oil and fish oil contain essential omega-3 fatty acids, though they come in different kinds.
Flaxseed oil has alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body can convert into other essential omega-3 fatty acids. Specifically, the body has an easier time converting ALA into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) than it does docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). And you need to eat a lot of ALA to get the EPA you need.
Therefore, we can’t say that flaxseed oil is a direct substitute for fish oil (which contains EPA and DHA). But because of the fantastic balance of omega-3 and omega-6 acids in flaxseed oil, it will be a terrific addition to your diet.
Another reason you’d consider flaxseed oil is fish oil’s unwanted “burp” side effect. In some cases, users of fish oil reported an unpleasant burp after ingesting fish oil. We’ve covered this in our fish oil article and mentioned that the way to minimize the effect is by taking fish oil with a full meal.
However, if you’re still a little wary of fish oil because of this, then flaxseed is the right choice for you.
Does Flaxseed Oil Have Any Nasty Side Effects?
We mentioned earlier that you should take flaxseed oil in small amounts – about a tablespoon a day is enough to realize its full benefits. Extreme doses can lead to minor complications, like diarrhea.
There’s also a minor risk of blood thinning if you take too much flaxseed oil. Fish oil also runs this risk when taken in excessive amounts. For that reason, if you’re at risk for bleeding or have a surgery planned, it’s a good idea to lay off the flaxseed oil for a bit.
Researchers have also tried and failed to connect flaxseed oil with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Like anything, reasonable doses don’t appear to elevate your risk for the disease.
Where to Get Flaxseed Oil
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of the wonderful things flaxseed oil can do for you, we’re sure you’re just itching to get your hands on some of this amazing oil. We’ve got you covered!
Flaxseed oil is available in many health and nutrition stores, both brick-and-mortar and online. We’ve tried a few flaxseed oils, and we will soon list our favorite product (so watch for updates!)