by Dr. Tina Marcantel

Flaxseed provides numerous health benefits when it is a regular part of a person’s diet. Dr. Tina Marcantel is a naturopathic doctor in Gold Canyon, Arizona, who also serves the East Valley cities of Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, Scottsdale, Queen Creek, and Apache Junction, as well as the greater Phoenix area.

One food that I highly recommend to all my patients is flaxseed. The health benefits of this little seed make it sound like nature’s wonder drug: it can help protect against heart disease, cancer, and diabetes; it can reduce cholesterol and has anti-inflammatory benefits; it’s even been shown to reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women!

Flaxseed is helpful in managing women’s health issues because it contains high levels of lignans, which are phytochemicals that are converted in the body into hormone-like agents that block the estrogen flaxseedpathways and limit estrogen in fat cells.

Limiting estrogen is important because it can help prevent estrogen dominance, a condition that can lead to numerous health problems including premenstrual syndrome (PMS), insomnia, irregular bleeding, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease, and breast cancer. In fact, many physicians treat women with breast cancer by adding flaxseed to their diets. It should be noted that only the seeds (not just the oil) provide the proper estrogen-blocking effect.

Flax is a mega-source for an omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid. Omega-3 is a great support for cardiovascular function, skin health, and joint health. It’s also an excellent source of fiber (1 tablespoon ground = 2 grams of fiber), which can improve regularity and help prevent colon cancer, as well as helping to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

You can put flaxseed in muffins, breads, cookies, cereals, cottage cheese, sprinkle it on salads, and add it to soups. Make sure the seeds are ground and kept in a closed container in the refrigerator. An amount of approximately 25 grams per day of ground flax will provide a medicinal effect. This equals 4 tablespoons per day.

You can find flaxseed in both the ground (milled) form and in whole seed form in almost any grocery store, usually in the health food section. I like to buy it in whole seed form and grind it myself in a small coffee grinder; it tastes better when it is fresh-ground and you’ll retain more of the nutrional value. However, the milled form may be more convenient for you. Either way, it’s important to understand that you should use the ground form because it is a soluble form of fiber that is much more effective in reducing cholesterol and triglycerides and excess estrogen. The seed form can also be irritating to those with bowel problems.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Flax should not be eaten within one hour of taking medicines or vitamins because of its absorbing properties. It can actually absorb and eliminate the medicines from your body, making them ineffective.

For much more information on the health benefits of this food for both women and men, I suggest reading the comprehensive article on The World’s Healthiest Foods website.