A study published in the journal “Hypertension” in 2013 showed that ground flaxseeds have one of the most powerful effects on lowering high blood pressure compared to other dietary changes. Having just two to three tablespoons of ground flaxseed a day was far more powerful even than starting an aerobic exercise endurance program. This is not to say that you shouldn’t do both however!
The study was unique in that it was a dietary study that was able to hide from the participants what they were eating, which is obviously quite hard, if not impossible to do with most dietary changes. The researchers were able to do this by “hiding” the flaxseeds in food such as muffins and pasta.
After six months, the people who had no added flaxseeds had the same blood pressures despite being on blood pressure medications. The group that had had flaxseeds added to their food had a significant drop in their blood pressures - at a level that would translate to almost halving the amount of strokes and reducing heart disease by about a third.
Flaxseeds have also been shown in clinical studies to help control cholesterol, triglyceride and blood sugar levels. They help reduce inflammation and are a good remedy for constipation. Daily consumption is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer, and lower tumour aggressiveness in people with existing breast cancer.
For the same reason that flaxseeds help prevent breast cancer, so too, do they help reduce rates of prostate cancer. As we have discussed previously, flaxseeds are rich in phytoestrogens called lignans. Higher levels of lignans are found in the prostate fluids of populations of men who have relatively low rates of prostate cancer. In the laboratory setting, lignans have been shown to slow the growth of prostate cancer cells.
So now you realize you really do need to add flaxseeds to your daily diet. Dr Greger recommends one tablespoon a day as part of your daily dozen. So how do you go about this? Luckily, flaxseeds are now widely available and it is possible to buy them fairly cheaply at bulk food stores. Mother Nature packs them perfectly in a hard natural hull which also makes them pass right through you undigested unless you grind them first! If you buy the whole seeds it is easy to grind them in a coffee grinder, or I use the individual setting on my Ninja food processor. It is possible to buy them already ground or “milled” and they do last well in this form - up to about four months at room temperature.
Ground flax can be added to oatmeal, soups and salads - pretty much anything really. Adding a tablespoon to your oatmeal each morning gets your day off to a good start. Flax can be added to baked goods such as muffins without damaging the lignans so that is another easy way to get your daily dose. Flax crackers are pretty easy to make - just mix two cups of ground flaxseeds with a cup of water, add your favourite herbs and spices, then spread the dough thinly on a baking sheet. Bake at 400F for about twenty minutes. Then enjoy the crackers with your favourite hummus or bean dip for more of your daily dozen.
Finally, one tablespoon of ground flaxseed with three tablespoons of water replaces an egg in baking recipes, thus helping your cholesterol levels while enjoying healthier treats.