Coming in golden and brown varieties, shiny and mighty. Flaxseeds are nutrient-packed superfoods with fibre, healthy fats, protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals. They are by far the richest plant-based source of omega-3. We’ll be explaining the top three benefits of flaxseeds and how you can incorporate them into your health and beauty lifestyle!
Flax seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Our body converts this into EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids which are also found in fish oil. In turn this could help reduce inflammation and the risk of cardiovascular disease and arthritis. In one table spoon of flaxseed oil there is around 700 milligrams of EPA and DHA, so it can serve as a great omega-3 boost to your diet.
Flaxseeds are also incredibly rich in phytochemicals such as lignans, in particular SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglycoside) - a plant lignan that is converted by bacteria in the colon. Lignans are phytoestrogens packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants slow the ageing process by reducing the activity of free radicals which cause cell-damage.
Phytoestrogens mimic the estrogen hormone in our bodies. There are numerous clinical studies that hormone dependent cancers including breast and prostate cancer can be prevented with lignans by balancing hormonal mechanisms. Women especially may benefit as lignans are said to treat menopausal symptoms too.
Due to its phytoestrogen properties, lignans are also anti-inflammatory which can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 1 and 2 diabetes.
3. Fibre + Protein
Flaxseeds contain 35% fibre. This strong fibre content can help to improve the absorption of nutrients, as well as help to ease the passage of food through our intestines. Flaxseeds also include 28-30% of protein and a range of essential amino acids which our bodies cannot produce. This makes it an excellent source of plant protein which you can easily add to meals.
Make sure to drink enough water to compensate for the high fibre content!
With its nutty and wholesome flavour, there are 100s of ways you can consume flaxseeds. The simplest being eating them raw, though due to its tough outer shell, whole flaxseeds can be difficult to chew…and isn’t the most fun way to have them.
Instead you can:
- Sprinkle them over your morning porridge or breakfast for an extra boost of omega-
- Add a layer on top of a granola and yogurt mix
- Mix into smoothies and juices
Whole flaxseeds should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark and dry place for up to 12 months.
The other way is by grinding flaxseeds at home using a coffee grinder. Grounded flaxseeds can be:
- Added to muffins and cake for more a subtle inclusion of nutrients.
- Used to make flax eggs (see below for recipe) – a vegan alternative to eggs and perfect for pancakes, muffins and cakes for that spongey texture.
Note that grounded flaxseeds and flaxseed oil should always be stored in a dark glass bottle, in the fridge for up to 4 months max to preserve its healthy fats.
To make one flax egg:
- 1 tablespoon of grounded flax seeds
- 3 tablespoons of water
Boil water and add 3 tablespoons of this to bowl of grounded flax seeds. Let it sit for about 1-2 minutes. Typically, 1 flax seed egg = 1 egg.
Another way I like to use flaxseeds is as a hair mask.
- Simply boil 1 cup of water on a stove and add preferably 2 tablespoons of whole flax seeds to it.
- With a wooden spoon, keep stirring the mix and you should begin to see a jelly like texture begin to form.
- At this point switch the heat off and leave it to cool for a bit.
- Then strain the mix into a pair of (clean!) tights or cheese cloth and squeeze out the mixture into a bowl or mason jar.
- You should be left with just the seeds in the cloth which you can discard or reuse however you like.
Due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids, the hair mask is particularly beneficial for hair growth as well as nourishing the hair shafts and preventing damage. When the hair mask dries, the gel hardens and stiffens the hair, but this does not cause damage or breakage. I’ve seen many people use this for their curly hair to tame and nourish their natural curls and even for slick-back hairstyles!
If you’re not a fan of the leave-in gel, you could instead use it as a pre-conditioning treatment before shampooing your hair.
This powerful plant food ticks the boxes for high protein, omega-3 and fibre and is super easy to add to meals. Feel free to share some tips and ways on how you use flax seeds with us and others! We’d love to hear them!