Flaxseed has many health benefits, including improved digestive health, lowered inflammation, and reduced cancer risk.
Learn about the top 10 health benefits of eating flaxseed.
What Happens When You Eat Flaxseed Daily?
Flaxseed is incredibly nutritious, even in small amounts. One serving of whole flaxseed has:
- 1 gram of protein
- 3 grams of fiber
- Several B vitamins
- About 10% of the daily recommended amounts of magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus
- High amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid)
Flaxseed contains the richest source of lignan precursors, which are a powerful source of lignans, a polyphenolic substance found in plants. Lignans may help:
- Fight cancer
- Regulate blood sugar
- Prevent atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
When you consume flaxseeds regularly, these lignan precursors are transformed into the lignans enterolignan, enterodiol, and enterolactone. The conversion rate will vary depending on each person's unique metabolism and intestinal health. Compared to other human dietary sources, flaxseeds produce 75 to 800 times more lignans.
10 Health Benefits of Flaxseed
1. Improves Digestive Health
Flaxseed is high in fiber and mucilage, which is a sticky component that expands when it absorbs water. They expand the size of stools and speed up the movement of waste through the intestines. This can improve digestive health and help prevent constipation.
2. Reduces Inflammation
A 2016 review article in Nutrients examined how flaxseed consumption affected levels of the inflammatory biomarker C-reactive protein (CRP). Although flaxseed consumption did not affect CRP levels in the general population, the meta-analysis suggested that people with obesity who consumed flaxseeds appeared to benefit from the intervention.
3. Fights Cancer
Flaxseeds are a significant source of compounds that may have cancer-fighting properties, particularly omega-3 fatty acids and lignan precursors. Lignans are structurally related to estrogen and have antiestrogenic properties. They can bind to cell receptors to inhibit cell proliferation.
According to research studies, lignans and omega-3 fats may be beneficial for breast cancer. Furthermore, animal studies have reported that alpha lipoic acid may increase cancer cell death and inhibit breast cancer cell growth, division, and spread. A 2018 lab study suggested that flaxseed lignans enhanced the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs in killing breast cancer cells.
Similarly, a 2019 study looked at the effects of flaxseed oil on cancer cells in vitro and reported that its addition to a mixture of fatty acids decreased cancer cell development and caused death in some of the cancer cells.
4. Combats Depression
Numerous studies have been conducted on the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on mental health, specifically in alleviating symptoms of depression.
The International Journal of Food Properties released a 2020 study with 60 adult women participants with depression that examined the efficacy of flaxseed oil in treating depression. One group had a 1,000 mg flaxseed oil capsule two times daily for 10 weeks, while the control group received a placebo. Results of the study revealed that the intervention group had significantly higher concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and lower depression symptoms. Higher levels of BDNF in the brain are linked to improved learning, memory, and mood, as well as a decreased risk of depression.
5. Lowers Blood Sugar
Due to their lignan and omega-3 fatty acid content, flaxseeds have antioxidant, hypolipidemic, and hypoglycemic properties. According to studies, consuming flaxseed helps regulate blood sugar and may even slow or stop the progression of type II diabetes.
In a 2018 study, people with type II diabetes and constipation had premixed cookies with 10 grams of flaxseeds twice daily for 12 weeks, while others received placebo cookies. The people who consumed flaxseed cookies reported a substantial decrease in constipation, weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.
6. Promotes Heart Health
High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis are some of the most prevalent risk factors for heart disease, such as heart attack and stroke. When ingested frequently, the omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and lignans in flaxseeds may have a preventive impact against these risk factors.
A 2015 randomized controlled experiment reported that using cholesterol-reducing drugs, principally statins, along with 30 grams of flaxseed per day for 12 months was much more effective than taking drugs alone to lower total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels.
A 2019 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 80 adults with hyperlipidemia and hypertension reported that taking 36 grams of flaxseed daily for 8 weeks was superior to the placebo in terms of lowering waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol.
Consuming flaxseed may help manage high blood pressure. According to a 2015 meta-analysis of 11 trials, whole flaxseeds were most effective at decreasing blood pressure when ingested daily for at least 3 months.
7. Alleviates Menopausal Symptoms
In one study, menopausal women on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) were compared to those taking flaxseed.
For moderate menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, mood disturbances, and vaginal dryness), it was reported that a 40-gram serving of flaxseed was just as effective as HRT. However, the study was poorly designed. Later, a more extensive investigation reported that flaxseed neither prevented bone loss nor alleviated symptoms, such as hot flashes.
8. Helps With Dry Eyes Syndrome
According to experts, a high-fat diet is partially to blame for dry eyes syndrome. A high-fat diet inhibits the oil from the eye glands from evaporating and causes it to become thick. The omega-3 fat in flaxseed oils softens the glandular secretions, allowing them to flow better and moisten the eyes.
9. May Aid in Weight Loss
Because they are high in fiber and healthy fats, flaxseeds can help with weight management. Studies report that omega-3 fatty acids may increase satiety and inhibit appetite, helping with weight loss. Flaxseed lignans are thought to increase metabolism, which could also help with weight loss. Studies have reported that flaxseeds could boost fat excretion, reducing overall fat and encouraging weight loss.
10. Boosts Skin and Hair Health
Omega-3 fatty acids can improve the health and appearance of the skin by moisturizing the skin. Studies report that flaxseeds help balance pro- and anti-inflammatory chemicals and support healthy aging.
Omega-3 fatty acids can also strengthen hair and prevent dry, brittle hair. Animal studies report that flaxseeds' high omega-3 content may help prevent cicatricial alopecia, a disorder that results in permanent hair loss and is brought on by inflammation.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating Resources
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Flaxseed Lignans Enhance the Cytotoxicity of Chemotherapeutic Agents against Breast Cancer Cell Lines MDA-MB-231 and SKBR3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29303360/
Treatment with flaxseed oil induces apoptosis in cultured malignant cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6699425/
Efficacy of omega-3 PUFAs in depression: A meta-analysis. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-019-0515-5
Flaxseed oil supplementation on severity of depression and brain-derived neurotrophic factor: a randomized, double blind placebo controlled clinical trial. https://doi.org/10.1080/10942912.2020.1812639
Effect of Flaxseed Intervention on Inflammatory Marker C-Reactive Protein: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808865/
Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Flaxseed. http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/health-benefits-flaxseed-anti-inflammatory/
Dietary flaxseed independently lowers circulating cholesterol and lowers it beyond the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications alone in patients with peripheral artery disease. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25694068/
Effect of Flaxseed Powder on Cardiovascular Risk Factor in Dyslipidemic and Hypertensive Patients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6941378/
Flaxseed consumption may reduce blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25740909/
Flaxseed dietary fibers lower cholesterol and increase fecal fat excretion, but magnitude of effect depends on food type. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3307491/
Dietary supplementation with long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and weight loss in obese adults. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23697585/
Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567199/
Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation associated with reduced skin test lesional area in horses with Culicoides hypersensitivity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC227015/