Flax is one of the original health foods, providing nutritious fats, protein and fiber along with several vitamins such as B-1, B-2, C, E and carotene. Flaxseeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower cholesterol, promote cardiovascular health and boost immunity. According to the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute, flaxseed is about 40 percent oil by weight, with 55 percent of this oil being heart-healthy omega-3s.
Flaxseed oil is also referred to as linseed oil, which gets its name from the original source, the Linum usitatissimum plant. Flaxseed oil is used to refer to products produced for human consumption. The alternate term linseed is primarily used to describe the oil when it has been processed for industrial use.
Benefits of Flaxseed Oil
There are many reasons to incorporate flaxseed oil into your current diet. According to the Flax Council of Canada, flax is the richest source of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, in the North American diet. Omega-3s are present in most cell membranes making them an important component for optimal health. According to the American Cancer Society, flaxseed oil may lower cholesterol levels, boost the immune system and prevent cancer due to the presence of these omega-3 fats. It may also support the growth of healthy hair, nails and skin, reduce dry eyes and play a role in fat burning.
Flaxseed oil is available in both liquid and soft-gel capsule form and can be found in many health food stores. The oil is extremely sensitive to heat, light and air, which requires that it be kept tightly sealed and refrigerated to keep from spoiling. Although there is no recommended dose, adults may take 1 to 2 tablespoons or capsules daily. Flax seed oil can be drizzled over pancakes and breads in place of butter or mixed into cottage cheese or oatmeal after it has been cooked.
Although there are no serious dangers associated with flaxseed oil consumption, you should always consult with your health care provider before making significant changes to your current diet. Omega-3 fatty acids may increase the effects of blood-thinning medications including aspirin. They may also interact with blood sugar-lowering medications, cholesterol-lowering medications, cyclosporine, topical steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
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