Today, the topic of omega-3 fatty acids is hot among people trying to improve their health. In fact, right behind multivitamins, essential fatty acid products are one of the leaders in the dietary supplement industry. When thinking about taking omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, it is important to consider the type, amount, and its ratio to other fatty acids, i.e., omega-6 and omega-9. Science continues to demonstrate that omega-3 fatty acids (particularly in relationship to omega-6 fatty acids) are important for cardiovascular health and the circulatory system (Russo, 2009). Moreover, the average person typically consumes too much omega-6 fatty acids in relation to omega-3 fatty acids, contributing to the rise in the incidence of non-communicable chronic diseases (Simopoulos, 2008). As more research is conducted, these findings will eventually translate into more people understanding the importance of these nutrients and their impact on health.
With such an emphasis placed on omega-3 fatty acids in the diet for health, you may be wondering where you can get this important nutrient. Traditionally, marine-derived (fish and more recently krill) omega-3 fatty acids have been the first choice of consumers because of convenience, price, and their content of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are thought to be superior to plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, marine-derived sources are not a panacea, and multiple concerns have been expressed about them by scientists and consumers alike, including: (1) contamination with such chemicals as mercury, cadmium, aluminum, lead, arsenic, and dioxin; (2) shelf-life, i.e., they may turn rancid in production, shipping, at the warehouse, and/or in the store; (3) stability, i.e., the fatty acids may degrade when subjected to temperature changes in the production and transportation processes; (4) content analysis suggests that some products may have very little or even no omega content; and (5) sustainability, i.e., worldwide fisheries may be overfished due to consumer demand and growth in the omega niche of the dietary supplement industry.
Fortunately, the popularity of a whole-food, plant-based diet is gaining traction in society, which is now rapidly moving into the dietary supplement industry as well. Consumers are becoming more conscious about value-based transactions regarding the source of a food or dietary supplement and whether something comes from an animal or plant. With all of these issues becoming more obvious by the day, flax seed is a prime solution for the consumer looking for the highest-quality omega-based dietary supplement. Flax is a flowering plant that has been used by humans for millennia for many purposes. Besides its uses in textiles and fabrics, the dietary flax seed benefits affect the whole body. It is a nutritional powerhouse.
Flax seed is good for the highest amount of omega-3 (called alpha-linolenic acid [ALA], which is the parent omega-3 fatty acid) content compared to any other plant source. Flaxseed also has a favorable omega-6:omega-3 fatty acid ratio of about 0.3:1 (Nowak & Jeziorek, 2023), which will help to counteract the excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids in the average person’s diet. Flax seed meal is a high-quality source of omega-3 fatty acids without chemical contamination, is environmentally sustainable, and does not affect declining planetary fish stocks.
As mentioned, the omega-3 in flax seed is in the form of highly concentrated ALA. ALA is a deterrent to carcinogenesis through its anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative properties, which assist in stopping the growth of tumors and their metastases. ALA also has been found to have beneficial effects on total, LDL, and VLDL cholesterol levels (Dzuvor et al., 2018). In addition to ALA, flax seed meal is high in soluble (gums, pectin, and β-glucan) and insoluble (cellulose, hemi-cellulose, and lignin) fibers. The soluble fibers improve glucose levels, help to absorb cholesterol and triglycerides, and positively impact our gut microbiome (Guan et al., 2021). Insoluble fibers help the overall digestion process and aid in the prevention of constipation (Guan et al., 2021). Other flax seed ground benefits include significant sources of vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin E (the tocopherol form), both acting as antioxidants, among other key roles (Nowak & Jeziorek, 2023). Finally, flax seed meal is high in a type of polyphenol called lignan that possesses many health-promoting benefits, none the least of which is its ability to reduce the risk of and protect against cancer (De Silva & Alcorn, 2019).
Many people are sensitive to gluten today, so you may be wondering if flax seed contains gluten. Thankfully, flax seed is gluten-free (Radoš et al., 2022) and should not cause any typical food allergies or sensitivities that are common with other foods and dietary supplements. Others may be wondering about the nutrition facts for flax seed, given that it is a nutritional powerhouse. The best source of nutrition facts for any food is the US Department of Agriculture FoodData Central database. The information for flax includes (per 100 g or 3.5 oz): 28.88 g carbohydrates, 27.3 g dietary fiber, 42.16 g fat, including 28.73 g polyunsaturated, 22.8 g omega‑3, and 5.9 g omega‑6, 18.29 g protein, 1.644 mg (143% daily value) thiamine, 0.161 mg (13% daily value) riboflavin, 3.08 mg (21% daily value) niacin, 0.985 mg (20% daily value) pantothenic acid, 0.473 mg (36% daily value) vitamin B6, 87 μg (22% daily value) folate, 0.6 mg (1% daily value) vitamin C, 255 mg (26% daily value) calcium, 5.73 mg (44% daily value) iron, 392 mg (110% daily value) magnesium, 642 mg (92% daily value) phosphorus, 813 mg (17% daily value) potassium, and 4.34 mg (46% daily value) zinc.
The combined evidence from multiple research studies indicates that flax seed benefits are significant and impact many of our organ systems, if not every cell in the human body. In particular, the ALA in flax seed can help boost the immune system, support metabolism, and greatly benefit cardiovascular and central nervous system function. Among other flax seed benefits are its ability to reduce inflammation and neutralize free radicals in the body. Flax seeds’ abundant polyunsaturated fats are important for cellular health and help to prevent cholesterol buildup and plaque formation. Flax seed is a phenomenal component of Daily Brain Care and also helps to support brain function and cognitive health.
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Dzuvor CKO, Taylor JT, Acquah C, Pan S, Agyei D. Bioprocessing of Functional Ingredients from Flaxseed. Molecules. 2018 Sep 24;23(10):2444. doi: 10.3390/molecules23102444. PMID: 30250012; PMCID: PMC6222892.
Guan ZW, Yu EZ, Feng Q. Soluble Dietary Fiber, One of the Most Important Nutrients for the Gut Microbiota. Molecules. 2021 Nov 11;26(22):6802. doi: 10.3390/molecules26226802. PMID: 34833893; PMCID: PMC8624670.
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Simopoulos AP. The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2008 Jun;233(6):674-88. doi: 10.3181/0711-MR-311. Epub 2008 Apr 11. PMID: 18408140.
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