Doctor’s Tip: Flax seeds have many health benefits
Flaxseeds are a another one of Dr. Greger’s daily dozen. Last week’s column about nuts and seeds pointed out that nuts are actually seeds. As famous physician-researcher Dr. Dean Ornish puts it in his book “Undo It,” seeds (and nuts) “contain concentrated energy that when planted can turn into a tree or plant.”
Although other seeds such as chia and hemp have health benefits, flaxseeds have the most. Over 2,000 years ago, famous Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about using flaxseeds to treat his patients. Following are some of their health benefits:
Fiber: Flaxseeds contain fiber, which feeds the trillions of bacteria in the gut microbiome.
Breast cancer: Lignans are weak estrogen-like substances found in many plant foods, that dampen the effect of the body’s own estrogen, and flaxseeds have 100 times more lignans than other plants. In the lab, lignans suppress proliferation of breast cancer cells. Human studies have shown regular intake of flaxseeds helps prevent breast cancer. And regular flaxseed consumption in women who already have breast cancer increases survival.
Hypertension: Regular intake of ground flaxseed reduces systolic (the upper number) blood pressure by 10-15 points and diastolic (the lower number) by 7 points — reductions that are greater than commonly prescribed blood pressure pills.
Prostate cancer: Higher levels of lignans are found in prostate fluid of populations with low rates of prostate cancer. Several studies have shown that regular intake of flaxseeds can reduce risk of early precancerous prostate changes as well as prostate cancer.
Omega-3 is a fatty acid important for brain health, among other things. A tablespoon of ground flaxseed a day gives you the amount of omega-3 recommended daily by the World Health Organization.
Benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH): Many men develop enlarged prostates as they age, resulting in a weak urinary stream, dribbling and trips to the bathroom at night. Regular intake of ground flaxseed has been shown to be as effective as commonly prescribed pills for this condition.
Anti-inflammatory effect: Inflammation plays a major role in aging and in most of the chronic diseases that sicken and kill people on a typical Western diet. Flaxseeds have a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
Dr. Greger recommends 1 tablespoon of flaxseed a day, and it’s best that it’s ground, because the whole seeds tend to pass through you without being absorbed. They are available in whole and ground form at most grocery stores. You can grind your own in a coffee grinder, but if you want to simplify your life, buy the already-ground flax meal. A good way to get your daily dose in is to put it on your oatmeal in the morning — or add to a green smoothy (the healthy fat in the flaxseeds helps you absorb the fat soluble vitamins in the greens). Avoid flax oil, because it’s processed.
If some flaxseed is good, is more better? As is so often the case, the answer is no. Too much flaxseed can cause, rather than prevent, health problems.
Dr. Feinsinger is a retired family physician with special interest in disease prevention and reversal through nutrition. Free services through Center For Prevention and The People’s Clinic include: one-hour consultations, shop-with-a-doc at Carbondale City Market and cooking classes. Call 970-379-5718 for appointment or email email@example.com.
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