Flax seed nutrition facts
Delicious, crunchy with pleasant taste flax seed or linseeds are packed with full of nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals and essential vitamins. Off late, nutritional and health benefits of flax have widely drawn the attention of nutrition researchers as well as health conscious enthusiasts alike across the globe.
Flax belongs to the family of liniaceae, of the genus of Linum, and botanically named as L. usitatissimum. It is one of the ancient cultivated crops since Mesopotamian times, grown for its oil seeds, and fiber.
Flax is one of the easily cultivated crops, flourish well both in tropical and subtropical climates, with its higher production as a field crop noted in fertile river valleys. It is an erect annual plant growing about 1 to 1.5 meters tall and bears light-blue colored attractive flowers.
The fruit pod is a round, dry capsule 6–9 mm diameter, containing several brown or golden yellow seeds (depending on cultivar type). The seeds feature smooth, glossy surface and flat shape that is somewhat appear like sesame seeds, but quite larger, measuring about 5–7 mm in length.
In general, there exist two common cultivars of flax; one is predominantly grown for its oil seeds and the other variety for fiber. Seed flax generally features brown, and yellow or golden-yellow color seeds, with most types having similar nutritional values and equal amounts of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
Health benefits of Flax seed
- As in other oil seeds, flax is one of the very high calorie foods. 100 g of seeds contain 534 calories or 27% of daily-required levels. Further, the seeds are excellent source of numerous health-benefiting nutrients, dietary fiber, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
- Fleax seed is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid. It is also one of the top vegetable sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids; linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and arachidonic acids. Regular intake of small portions of flax seeds in the diet help to lower total as well as LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol” levels in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet that is rich in dietary fibers, monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids help to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
- Flax are perhaps the most widely available botanical source of n−3 or ω (omega)-3 fatty acids. Flax seed oil consists of approximately 55% ALA (α-linolenic acid). One spoonful of flax seed oil provides about 8 g of omega-3 fatty acids. Research studies have suggested that n-3 fatty acids by their virtue of anti-inflammatory action helps to lower the risk of blood pressure, coronary artery disease, strokes and breast, colon and prostate cancers. Adequate quantities of n-3 oils are required for normal infant development and maturation of nervous system.
- The seeds contain lignans, a class of phytoestrogens considered to have antioxidant and cancer preventing properties.
- Flax are an excellent source of vitamin E, especially rich in gamma-tocopherol; containing about 20 g (133% of daily-recommended values) per 100 g. vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen free radicals.
- The seeds are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. Thiamin is an important co-factor for carbohydrates metabolism; helps prevent beri-beri disease. Folates help prevent neural tube defects in the fetus when consumed during pre-conception period and pregnancy.
- Furthermore, flax seed is rich source of minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
- Flax or Linseed oil has flavorful nutty aroma and has been used in cooking, and as “carrier or base oil” in traditional medicines and in pharmaceutical uses.
Selection and storage
Flax seeds are available in the markets year around. In the store, different forms of flax are available like whole seeds or grounded. Try to buy whole golden yellow flax instead of ground form as this makes sure that the seeds are intact in nutrients, unadulterated and to ensure longer shelf life.
There are two varieties of flax seeds; brown and yellow or golden, with most types having similar nutritional values and equal amounts of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids. The seeds should feature bright brown or golden yellow (depending on the variety) color, smooth, compact, and uniform in size and feel heavy in hand. They are generally available in the airtight packs as well as in bulk bins.
Whole seeds may be placed in cool dry place for many months, while ground form should be placed inside airtight container and kept in the refrigerator to avoid them turn rancid.
Flax seeds are rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acids. Exposing the ground seeds for longer time in the powder form oxidizes their fatty acids and deprives them of their nutritional value. Therefore, generally, the flaxseeds are ground in a coffee or seed grinder just before their use in order to preserve their nutritional value.
They can also be enjoyed by roasting, salted or sweetened.
- Flax seeds are nutty yet pleasantly sweet in taste. Ground seeds are a great addition as toppings in yogurt, desserts, shakes, cereal based dishes etc.
- Ground seeds often sprinkled over salads, desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream based preparations.
- Flax is widely used in confectionery, as an addition to biscuits, sweets, muffins and cakes.
When used in moderation flax seed have no harmful effects on health. Flax contain lots of mucilage fiber in their coat which when eaten in large amounts may cause stomach pain, bloating, and laxative diarrhea. Eating raw flax seed is not advised for its risk of cyanogenic-glycosides toxicity.
In addition, lignans in flax contain lots of estrogen and consumption of flax and its products during pregnancy may not be advised for its possible hormone interactions.
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