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What Are the Benefits of Flaxseed Oil?
Flaxseed oil is a heart-healthy and fiber-rich vegetable product that contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids most commonly found in fish or fish oil. Flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Flaxseed oil comes from the seed of the flax plant and is also known as linseed oil. Flaxseed oil is a natural, healthy way to get the benefits of omega-3 fats in your diet, especially if you do not eat fish or meat.
There are many purported health benefits of consuming flaxseed oil; however, flaxseed oil is continually being researched for more scientific evidence. Speak to a doctor or health professional before consuming flaxseed oil to determine if it is appropriate for you and your diet.
How might flaxseed oil benefit my health?
Health benefits of flaxseed oil are numerous, many related to supplementing a healthy diet with the rich essential fatty acids contained in flaxseeds. Other specific health benefits of flaxseed oil may include the following:
People who maintain diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have lower blood pressure, according to data collected by the International Study of Macro- and Micro-nutrients and Blood Pressure. Some clinical trials show alpha-linoleic acid may also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease, while, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, others show little effect.
According to some but not all human studies, flaxseed oil intake may result in lower cholesterol, which protects against heart disease a. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that daily intake of ALA from flaxseed oil offered no benefit in cholesterol levels compared to a placebo. However, a 2010 study conducted by the Iowa State University's Nutrition and Wellness Research Center found that men who supplemented their diets with flaxseed lignans experienced a reduction in cholesterol levels.
A 1996 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that women who maintained diets supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids experienced reduced menstrual cramping.
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation in the body, such as the joints, skin and kidneys. Some studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fats have resulted in a reduction of psoriasis symptoms and relief of arthritic pain.
How will flaxseed support my health?
Natural Standard, authority on integrative and complementary medicine, suggests that although flaxseed oil contains ALA, the oil form does not include the high dietary fiber and lignans found in flaxseed. Thus, consuming whole, crushed or ground flaxseeds may have more health benefits than supplementing your diet with the oil alone.
Flaxseed may relieve constipation (used as a gentle laxative) and support healthy bowel movements, according to the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy.
Flaxseed is known to be hormone balancing, maintaining healthy progesterone levels in women because flaxseed oil contains plant estrogens. A study by the Mayo Clinic found flaxseeds reduce menopausal symptoms, specifically hot flashes by up to 60 percent.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lignans in flaxseed contain anti-cancer properties and may have the ability to slow and reduce tumor growth.
How do I use it?
Flaxseed and flaxseed oil may be consumed everyday after consulting with your doctor to confirm it is suitable for your personal health. It is important, however, that flaxseed oil not be used in cooking, as heat may damage the beneficial fatty acids.
Whole flaxseeds may be ingested crushed or ground, and added to smoothies or other recipes. Flaxseed is also available in capsules, as powder, flour and soluble fiber. Take 1-2 tablespoons or capsules daily of flaxseed oil or integrate ground flaxseeds into your meals. For best absorption, consume with food. Flaxseed oil has a short shelf life, so keep refrigerated.