A simple seed, but so many benefits. If flaxseed is not part of your diet, you are missing out whether you have diabetes or not. For diabetics, there is an amazing connection between flaxseed and diabetes for those looking for a natural cure (type 2 diabetes) or a way to manage blood sugar levels naturally.
The many health benefits of flaxseed
Before cotton became affordable, flax (Linum usitatissimum) also known as linseed, has a fibrous stem which was woven into cloth and is still used in this way today despite the prevalence of cotton, but the oil which was produced from the flaxseed has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It wasn’t until about a thousand years ago that people started eating flaxseed for health and well being. The health benefits of flaxseed include but are not limited to;
Flaxseed contains the most amount of lignans when compared to other plants. The amount of lignans in flaxseed is about 7 times more than that in its closest competitor (sesame seeds) and as much as 3,200 more than peanuts.
Lignans contain very powerful antioxidants which are crucial for preventing the damaging effects of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that in order to stabilize or “heal” themselves, “steal” particles from healthy cells but this only ends up creating more free radicals. The effects of free radicals on the body are thought to increase the risk of developing various chronic diseases and conditions including cancer.
Lignans are particularly beneficial for reducing the risk of breast cancer. Estrogen which is the female hormone can stimulate the growth of cancer but lignans in addition to antioxidant benefits also contain phyto(plant)estrogens, which mimic the action of the estrogen produced by the body but are less potent.
These chemically weaker phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors in the body and this helps to stop the effects on the body of the much stronger estrogen produced by the body which allows excessive amounts of this much stronger estrogen to be eliminated from the body which helps to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Studies have shown that women who consumed lignan reduced their risk of developing breast cancer by about 62 percent when compared to women who did not consume lignan.
Lignans are also beneficial for fighting against prostate cancer as has been shown in various research studies.
Other cancer fighting properties of flaxseed emanate from the polyunsaturated fats including omega-3 fatty acids as well as fiber that it contains. These compounds in addition to lignans help to promote health and well-being and reduce the risk of developing various diseases including cancer. The anti-inflammatory properties of flaxseed also help to protect against cancer and many other chronic diseases.
2. Heart attack
Lignans not only provide antioxidant benefits but as mentioned previously are also a rich source omega-3 fatty acids of which alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the main type and ALA is able to lower the risk of suffering a fatal heart attack.
Flaxseed is also able to lower the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which is dangerous and can lead to heart disease. Flaxseed is rich in a type of soluble fiber that is beneficial for the body which is known as mucilage. This mucilage is tied to the cholesterol lowering properties of flaxseed.
4. Kidney disease
Research has shown that the lignans and omega-3 fatty acids contained in flaxseed are able to reverse the damage to the kidneys caused by lupus which is an autoimmune disease.
5. Hot flushes
The lignans or phytoestrogens contained in flaxseed can be beneficial for women dealing with the various symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. The estrogen levels of women going through menopause usually start to decrease and instead of going through hormone therapy, phytoestrogens are a natural alternative as they can be used to replace some of this estrogen that is no longer produced by the body because estrogen can help to reduce the severity of hot flashes and phytoestrogens can help with this.
Flaxseed and diabetes
Soluble fiber galore
The connection between flaxseed and diabetes is related to the mucilage that was discussed previously which is the soluble fiber that is available in high amounts in flaxseed. This soluble fiber has been shown by various studies to be able to reduce blood sugar levels which is important to not only manage diabetes but to also cure it naturally.
Diabetes results when the body does not produce any or enough of the hormone insulin or the insulin produced becomes inefficient and/or ineffective (insulin resistance) leading to the accumulation of glucose or sugar in the blood. Insulin is supposed to remove this glucose from the blood and transfer it to the various cells in the body where it is used for fuel or energy for day to day activities.
When insulin is unable to perform its duties, this glucose accumulation in the blood can increase the risk of developing diabetes or leading to diabetes related complications (heart and kidney disease, limb amputations, diabetic coma, etc).
One aspect of managing diabetes naturally is by following a customized diabetic diet to help control the amount of glucose deposited into the blood.
This is what is so amazing about flaxseed and why it is so important for diabetes natural treatment. The soluble fiber in flaxseed helps to slow down digestion which means that the digestion of the carbs and sugars in the food that we eat and conversion of this into glucose to be deposited into the bloodstream will be slowed down which helps to prevent blood sugar spikes. This shows the importance of flaxseed for diabetes natural treatment.
If you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, one of the ways of preventing you from developing type 2 diabetes is to increase your intake of this soluble fiber.
Another connection between flaxseed and diabetes is weight loss. Many people with diabetes especially those with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Getting your weight under control is an important aspect of natural diabetes treatment and this is another area that flaxseed can help.
In addition to soluble fiber, flaxseed also contains insoluble fiber (roughage). Both types of fiber are important for weight loss because they help you feel fuller faster and keep hunger pangs away for longer which can help you eat less and help with your weight loss goals. Overweight diabetics who are attempting to lose weight should always increase their fiber intake for the reasons discussed and flaxseed can help with this.
It is also important to remember that many people with type 2 diabetes also deal with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, etc, and as discussed previously, flaxseed can also help with these various health issues.
The connection shown above between flaxseed and diabetes makes this amazing seed crucial and an important part of any diabetic diet.
Getting the most
1. Flaxseed oil and diabetes
Flaxseed oil is produced from the seeds and many people skip out on the seeds and reach for the oil but you may want to think again. You may want to consider passing by the oil firstly because you will not get the all important fiber and secondly because while the oil may contain some health properties, most of the lignans, protein and minerals are found in the actual seeds and not the oil. Since you need fiber as a diabetic, pass on the oil and reach for the seeds instead.
Flaxseed oil is also easily perishable and must be stored in the refrigerator once opened.
2. Must be processed
Flaxseed is available in two varieties i.e. brown flax and golden flax (also known as yellow flax) which generally have similar nutritional compositions.
While some people love to sprinkle whole flaxseed on salads or fresh baked bread, the body cannot process whole flaxseeds. They will simply pass through the body undigested which means that you will not get the full benefits of flaxseed including soluble fiber.
Flaxseed must be processed but the ground flaxseed goes rancid very quickly so store it in the fridge but do not use after 30 days or so. While you can easily find ground flaxseed in grocery stores, it is not as fresh as freshly ground flaxseeds so think about getting a cheap spice or coffee grinder or other seed grinding tool so that you can grind two tablespoons or more of whole flaxseed and have it fresh to use each day to add to smoothies, oatmeal, sprinkled on hot or cold cereal, sprinkled on salads, etc.
While ground flaxseed (flaxseed meal) does not last more than 30 days or so when stored in the refrigerator, whole flaxseed can last 6 to 12 months or 1 to 2 years if stored in the refrigerator.
Flaxseed is generally safe but it does contain a minute amount of cyanide which is not enough to harm an adult but could possibly harm a fetus or infant so avoid flaxseed if you are pregnant or nursing and do not give it to children under the age of two.
The minute amount of cyanide in flaxseed should not be harmful to most people if you only consume the recommended daily amount which is 2 to 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed. It is also important to remember that there are usually very small amounts of cyanide that are constantly present in human tissue which are constantly being metabolized so the cyanide in flaxseed should not really be a cause for concern. Other plants such as cruciferous vegetables also contain small amounts of cyanide.
A tablespoon of flaxseed contains about 5 to 6 milligrams of cyanide but for cyanide to be dangerous to the human body, it would have to be in amounts of at least 1,000 milligrams.
Other precautions with flaxseed relate to allergic reactions. Some people may be allergic to flaxseed and if so, stop using it or reduce the dose.
Some people may also experience bloating and flatulence when they first start consuming flaxseed. If so, start with small amounts and gradually build up.