Flax - is Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are a key force against inflammation in our bodies. Mounting evidence shows that inflammation plays a part in many chronic diseases including heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and even some cancers. This inflammation is enhanced by having too little Omega-3 intake (such as in fish, flax, and walnuts), especially in relation to Omega-6 fatty acid intake (in oils such as soy and corn oil). In the quest to equalize the ratio of these two kinds of oils, flax seed can be a real help.
Most of the oil in flax seeds is alpha linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is an Omega-3 that is a precursor to the fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty cold-water fish (called EPA and DHA). Because not everyone is able to easily convert ALA into EPA and (especially) DHA, it is best not to rely solely on flax for your Omega-3 intake. However, ALA also has good effects of its own, and definitely helps in the Omega 3/6 balance.
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.