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What Makes Flaxseed Heart-Healthy?

September is National Cholesterol Education Month, so what better time to highlight the heart-health benefits and cholesterol-lowering properties of whole-milled flaxseed?

Below you will learn more about three beneficial components of flaxseed, along with the mechanism behind each and ideas for incorporating more flax into your favorite meals and snacks.

Fiber

Fiber, a favorite topic of nutrition experts, is a carbohydrate that your body can’t break down, so it passes through the body undigested.

There are two types: soluble, which attracts water and turns into a gel during digestion and insoluble, which adds bulk and helps food pass through the system more quickly. Both types are beneficial to health, and flaxseed contains them both. Soluble fiber in particular is known for decreasing total and LDL cholesterol and improving insulin resistance. It can also improve blood pressure and decrease inflammation.

Manitoba Milling Smooth Whole Milled Flaxseed contains 4 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Find out how much fiber you should be eating, here.

Related: 5 Tips for Increasing Fiber Intake

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Fish usually gets all the attention when it comes to omega-3s, but there are plant-based sources too.

Omega 3 consumption has been shown to lower triglycerides and other inflammatory markers in the body, making them a staple in any heart-healthy diet.

Did you know that flaxseed contains the most ALA Omega-3 of any whole-food source?

See also: Omega 3s: Are You Getting Enough?

Lignans

Lignans are bioactive phenolic plant compounds and phytoestrogens with anti-inflammatory effects. Flaxseed is the best food source of lignans. There is promising research to suggest that these have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Outcomes do seem to differ based on the population studied and dosage so more research is needed in this area.

For more information on lignans, check out: What Are Phytoestrogens?

Nutrient Synergy and Flaxseed

Clearly there are several beneficial components of whole-milled flaxseed. Scientists often question which component is most responsible for flaxseed’s beneficial effects on heart health. However, it might be the combination of all three that packs so much power in one single food.

Including whole-milled flaxseed into your diet on a regular basis is simple, healthy, and delicious. For ideas that are also kid-friendly and perfect for back-to-school, check out 10 ways to incorporate smooth whole-milled flaxseed or Kid Friendly Recipes.


Sources


Harvard Medical School. Eat More Fiber-Rich Foods to Foster Heart Health. Published April 2014. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/eat-more-fiber-rich-foods-to-foster-heart-healthErkkilä AT, Lichtenstein AH.

Fiber and cardiovascular disease risk: how strong is the evidence? J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2006. Jan-Feb;21(1):3-8. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16407729.

Chaddha A and Eagle KA. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Heart Health. Circulation. December 1, 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.114.015176

Peterson J, Dwyer J, Adlercreutz H, Scalbert A, Jacques P and McCullough ML. Dietary lignans: physiology and potential for cardiovascular disease risk reduction. Nutr Rev. 2010 Oct; 68(10): 571–603. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951311/.

Pan A, Yu D, Demark-Wahnefried W, Franco OH, Lin X. Meta-analysis of the effects of flaxseed interventions on blood lipids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009. Aug;90(2):288-97. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19515737/.

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