Flaxseed is a plant-based food that contains omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fibre. Some people refer to it as a “functional food,” which means that it can be consumed to improve one’s health.
Flax was grown as a crop in ancient Egypt and China. For thousands of years, it has played a role in Ayurvedic medicine in Asia.
Flaxseed is now available in seeds, oils, powder, tablets, capsules, and flour. It is used as a dietary supplement to prevent constipation, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, and a variety of other ailments.
The nutrients in flaxseed include lignans, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), or omega-3. Consuming these nutrients may help lower the risk of various conditions.
However, there is not currently enough evidence to support all of these claims. Here, find out what the research says about flaxseed and its possible health benefits.
Possible health benefits
Flaxseed contains some nutrients that may have various health benefits.
Like other plant-based foods, flaxseed is rich in antioxidants. These can help preventTrusted Source disease by removing molecules called free radicals from the body.
Free radicals occur as a result of natural processes and environmental pressures. If there are too many free radicals in the body, oxidative stress can develop, leading to cell damage and disease. Antioxidants help remove free radicals from the body.
Flaxseed is a good source of lignans, which appear to have antioxidant properties.
According to some scientistsTrusted Source, flaxseed may be over 800 times richer in lignans than most other foods.
The following sections discuss the possible health benefits of flaxseed in more detail.
Reducing the risk of cancer
Flaxseed contains omega-3 fatty acids. ResearchTrusted Source suggests that these may help prevent different types of cancer cells from growing.
Flaxseed also contains lignans, which are antioxidants that may slow tumorTrusted Source growth by preventing them from forming new blood vessels.
One 2013 survey found a lower incidence of breast cancer among females who consumed flaxseed regularly.
Also, in 2018, the authors of a reviewTrusted Source concluded that flaxseed may help reduce the risk of breast cancer after menopause.
Lignans are a type of phytoestrogen, which is a plant-based nutrient that acts in a similar way to estrogen. There has been some concern that phytoestrogens may increase the risk of breast cancer, but recent researchTrusted Source suggests that they may play a protective role.