What Is Flax and Flaxseed Oil?
Flaxseed oil comes from the seeds of the flax plant. According to the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute, a flax seed is about 40% oil by weight. Of this oil, 55% of it is omega-3 fatty acid.
Flax is unique because, traditionally, the oil hasn’t been used much. The seed, however, has been used whole, cracked, or ground into flour then used in baked products. Flax has attracted nutritionists and those seeking a healthier diet because it has a high fiber content and it is rich in potassium. Flax is often sprinkled on breakfast cereals and salads and is found in some fruit juice drinks.
Importance of Omega-3
The “3” in Omega-3 refers to the major types of fatty acids that are ingested in foods and used by our body: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Once eaten, the human body converts ALA to EPA and DHA which are more readily used by the body. Omega-3 is an important component of almost all cell membranes; therefore, sufficient amounts of these fatty acids are necessary and need to be balanced to maintain good health.
Flaxseed Oil Benefits
According to the Flax Council of Canada, there are numerous benefits of which omega-3 is at the top of the list. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) constitutes 57% of the total fatty acids in flax, making flax the richest source of ALA in the North American diet. Every tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains 8 grams of ALA, and this is a polyunsaturated fatty acid.
Flaxseed oil has been found to be beneficial for those who suffer from Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. Several studies have found that this oil seems to be able to calm the inner lining of the inflamed intestines. Another benefit exists as there is a high content of mucilage in flax and this is an effective natural laxative.
Flaxseed oil is beneficial in helping to reduce high cholesterol. It’s important to keep in mind however, that this alone cannot be totally effective in reducing cholesterol levels, an overhaul of overall diet must work in conjunction with flaxseed oil.
The risk of heart disease is lower in individuals who take flaxseed oil. Evidence indicates that those who eat a lot of ALA are less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack and it reduces high blood pressure.
Some people are afflicted with Sjogren’s syndrome, which is a dryness of the eyes. Flaxseed oil helps to improve this condition.