Most research and attention on omega-3 fatty acids has been focused on fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and trout as well as fish oil supplements. The healthy all-important polyunsaturated omega-3 fats found in these are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Although omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), decrease triglycerides and reduce the development of plaque in the arteries, finding a non-meat, vegetarian source of omega-3s is not as simple as one might think. We can identify various Flaxseed oil benefits. (Find out more about Omega 3 and cholesterol level)
Flaxseed oil benefits
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Oil from flaxseed is thought to be a good alternative to fish oil because of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which converts to the beneficial EPA and DHA. Other sources of ALA are chia seeds, canola oil, hemp seeds and walnuts. The problem with these sources is that only about 5 to 7 percent of ALA is converted into EPA and very little is converted into DHA.
Flaxseed oil is available in liquid and softgel capsule forms. It needs special packaging because it is easily destroyed by heat, light, and oxygen. Like any oil, flaxseed oil may turn rancid if not refrigerated. High quality flaxseed products are processed at low temperatures in the absence of oxygen or light and bottled in dark containers.
In addition to the health benefits above, people often use flaxseed oil for many other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, osteoarthritis, anxiety, enlarged prostate, vaginal infections, dry eyes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Flaxseed oil is also used as a laxative for constipation and for weight loss. Flaxseed is one out of the six food in diet fighting cellulite, click here to find out about more about 6 secret foods that fight cellulite.
There is also some evidence that flaxseed oil and/or ALA may be beneficial for the following:
– High Triglycerides – Research suggests that taking flaxseed oil might lower triglyceride levels.
– Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) – There is some evidence to support the idea that increasing the amount of ALA in the diet can help prevent hardening of the arteries.
– Heart Disease – People with heart disease who consume more ALA in their diet seem to have a lower risk of dying from the disease. (Click here to find out more about healthy heart weight loss diet)
– Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Some research has shown that taking flaxseed oil might improve attention, impulsiveness, restlessness, and self-control in people with ADHD.
– Breast Cancer – Women who have higher levels of ALA in their breast tissue may be less likely to get breast cancer.
Most of the negative effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation have been associated with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), primarily from fish oil. This is at least partly due to the overwhelming focus and substantially higher use of fatty acids as compared to alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Many reported health precautions related to the use of omega-3s have to do with interactions with medications. One concern is an increased risk of severe bleeding when taking blood thinners. Another is a potential increase in fasting blood sugars. It is possible that alpha-linolenic acid could have similar effects.
Research must differentiate between the risk and benefits related to a specific food component and the actual food that contains the nutrient in question. Much of the research that has been done has not adequately addressed the association of diseases and conditions as related to the use of either alpha-linolenic acid, flaxseed oil, whole or parts of flaxseed, and other foods containing ALA.
Some of the health benefits with flaxseed may be due more to other components found in flaxseed. Whole flaxseed contains lignans (phytoestrogens, or plant estrogens), which also have positive health benefits, while flaxseed oil preparations lack lignans.
As a general rule it is best to emphasize consuming a variety of healthy foods instead of focusing on specific parts of the food. Supplements should be used primarily as an addition to a nutrient-dense, healthy diet and lifestyle in much the same way as auto insurance should be used in conjunction with safe driving habits. Eating a diet that routinely includes foods containing alpha-linolenic acid such as flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts should be the focus.
A quick and easy way to add flaxseeds to your diet is by preparing these homemade energy balls. Including additional flaxseed oil and canola oil can be another add-on to an otherwise healthy diet.