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What's new and beneficial about flaxseeds?
What's New and Beneficial About Flaxseeds
Finding creative ways to add flaxseeds to your meals can be a challenge. One popular technique is to incorporate ground flaxseeds into your muffin, cookie, or bread recipes. Recent research studies have shown that ground flax can be added to baked foods without sacrificing large amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), their showcase omega-3 fatty acid that accounts for over half of their total fat content. Oven temperatures of 300F (150C) - even over several hours of baking time - do not appear to substantially reduce the amount of ALA in baked products. This outcome has been demonstrated for breads, muffins and cookies. Even when flaxseeds are ground prior to incorporatation into breads and pastas, these preparation methods - involving grinding prior to heating - only appear to lower ALA levels by about 4-8%. Interestingly, bread enriched with ground flaxseed has also been shown to have a greater antioxidant capacity and a much lower glycemic index value (of approximately 51) than the same bread without the ground flaxseed addition. These research findings are great news for anyone who wants to include flaxseeds in baked dishes, in either whole or ground form.
Most plant foods contain at least small amounts of phytonutrients called lignans. Lignans are unique fiber-related polyphenols that provide us with antioxidant benefits, fiber-like benefits, and also act as phytoestrogens. Among all commonly eaten foods, researchers now rank flaxseeds as the #1 source of lignans in human diets. Flaxseeds contain about 7 times as many lignans as the closest runner-up food (sesame seeds). They contain about 338 times as many lignans as sunflower seeds, 475 times as many as cashew nuts, and 3,200 times as many lignans as peanuts.
When we think about antioxidant-rich foods, the first foods that come to mind are typically vegetables and fruits. Of course, foods in both of these food groups can be outstanding sources of antioxidants! Yet according to recent research, flaxseeds also belong high up on our list of antioxidant-rich foods. When flaxseeds are compared with other commonly eaten foods in terms of their total polyphenol content (polyphenols are one very important group of antioxidants), flaxseeds rank 9th among 100 commonly eaten foods. Flaxseeds turn out to be significantly higher in polyphenol antioxidants than fruits like blueberries or vegetables like olives. The antioxidant benefits of flaxseeds have long been associated with prevention of cardiovascular diseases and have recently also been tied to decreased insulin resistance.
Given the strong track record of flaxseeds as foods providing cardiovascular benefits, it's not surprising to see recent research studies showing benefits of flaxseeds for improvement of metabolic syndrome (MetS). One recent study showed a 20% decrease in the prevalence of MetS after 12 weeks on a diet plan that included 30 grams (1 ounce) of ground flaxseed per day in the form of flaxseed-enriched baked bread. Interestingly, in addition to improving blood pressure and lowering fasting glucose level, flaxseed intake also helped decrease central obesity (as measured by waist circumference). The addition of flaxseed provided all of these health benefits without causing weight gain. That's quite an accomplishment for a food that is over 70% fat in terms of total calories and contains about 10 times as many calories per cup as a fruit like blueberries.
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