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What is flax seed, and what are its health benefits?

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Quick Answer

Flaxseed, also known as golden linseed, is the seed of the flax plant. Mayo Clinic identifies several common benefits of flaxseed, including lowering cholesterol, improving digestion and relieving constipation. Traditional folk use includes treatment of hot flashes, breast pain and arthritis, states the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

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Full Answer

The flax plant, or Linum usitatissimum, is thought to have originated in Egypt. The flax seed has been used in medicines for centuries and is now a common ingredient in crackers, cakes and other foods. Flaxseed can be purchased as whole seeds or in crushed or powder form. According to Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., nutritional experts recommend ground flaxseed over whole seeds because it is easier to digest.

Though full of many healthy components, WebMD reports flaxseed’s three main nutritional elements as omega-3 essential fatty acids, lignans and fiber. Omega-3, commonly known as the "good fat", helps reduce inflammation in the body and protect against heart disease. Lignans are converted into estrogen-like chemicals in the body. According to WebMD, research has shown some evidence that lignans can slow down the progression of certain cancers. Fiber is primarily found in the flaxseed coat, states to the National Institute of Health. Flaxseed has both soluble and insoluble fiber. WebMD states that both soluble and insoluble fiber has many health benefits, working to lower LDL cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, prevent constipation and promote regularity.

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