Teeny tiny, shiny brown flax seeds are good for your blood sugar as well as your heart, so if you haven’t tried them yet, it’s time for a trip to the store. Buy ground flax seed and grind it yourself in a food processor or coffee grinder. If you don’t see it in your supermarket, look for it in a natural food store. Using flax seed may be unusual now but once you start using it its easy to incorporate into your diet. You may enjoy it’s pleasant, nutty flavour.
Flax seed is rich in both protein and fiber (more than 2 g per tablespoon of ground seeds). It is also a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps blood sugar control, because it helps cells use insulin. Several large studies have found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases when magnesium intake is low. Even if you already have diabetes, getting plenty of magnesium can help.
Don’t eat enough fish? Load up on flax seed. It is also rich in alpha linolenic acid, which the body uses to make the same type of Omega 3 fatty acids you get from fish. Like fish, flax seed helps keep your heart healthy. It lowers cholesterol, which keeps your heart pumping normally and prevents dangerous blood clots from forming. Also like fish, it guards against inflammation in the body, which is linked to many age related disorders, including insulin resistance in diabetes.
Health Bonus of Eating Flax Seed
Because flax seed protects against inflammation, it also helps guard against inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, eczema, and psoriasis.
The Omega 3 fats in flaxseed have been linked to helping to prevent breast cancer, thanks to a hormone like plant compounds called lignans. In the body, lignans convert to compounds that are similar to the body’s own estrogen but have much weaker activity. By occupying estrogen receptors on cells, they block the effects of natural estrogen and thus may provide protection against a hormone fuelled cancers such as breast cancer. Flaxseed has several hundred times more lignans than any other plant food.
Like fish, flax seed may also offer protection from Alzheimer’s and depression. Constipated? Flaxseed should do the trick. But if you eat too much, you’ll soon discover the laxative of facts.
What about flaxseed oil?
Flaxseed oil provides the same Omega 3 fatty acids that flaxseed does, but not the fiber or lignans. If heart health is your main concern, you may want to consider taking either flaxseed oil or fish oil daily to get more "good fats" into your diet. Because flaxseeds thin the blood, talk to your doctor before taking it. Especially, if you are on aspirin therapy or are taking blood thinning medication. Note: the oil does go rancid easily, so keep it refrigerated. You can use it in salad dressings, add it to steamed vegetables after cooking, or sprinkle it over grain dishes, but don’t cook with it, since the heat from cooking destroys its nutrients.