If you’re a woman over 40 and you’re not getting flaxseed into your diet daily…read on so you’ll know exactly why you should and how you can.
For women in peri or post menopause, flax might just be the single most beneficial addition to your diet. What’s more, flax has a nutty, delicious flavor and is moderately priced, which makes your new flax habit easy on your taste buds and your wallet.
One of the oldest fiber crops in the world, flax(seed) was originally cultivated in ancient Egypt and China. Today, Canada is the world’s largest grower. Also called linseed, flaxseed is a rich source of micronutrients, manganese and vitamin B1 but it’s the unique nutritional make-up of flaxseed’s lignan, omega 3 and dietary fiber profile that make this simple seed perhaps the single most potent nutritional super star for women in peri and post menopause.
Flaxseed is the single richest dietary source of two top women’s health nutrients, lignan, an antioxidant rich polyphenol, and the omega 3 essential fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Add to that the high fiber quality of flaxseed, and you’ve hit nutritional gold.
Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of flaxseed for women in peri or post menopause. Remember, you are one or the other, you’re in “peri menopause” until you’ve gone 12 months without a period, at which point, you are “post menopausal”..yipee! Flaxseed has incredible benefits for women in either stage.
Flaxseed’s SuperPowers =
Lignans, Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (ALA) and Fiber
But first, what's a lignan?
Lignans are type of plant compound called polyphenols that provide antioxidant benefits, fiber-like benefits, and act as phytoestrogens. Flaxseeds have about 7X the amount of lignans as the second highest lignan containing food, the sesame seed.
What do lignans do? Lignans offer several health benefits for maturing women.
They help balance hormones:
Lignans contain phytoestrogens which help the body regulate estrogen. If you have naturally high estrogen levels, or have peri menopausal estrogen spikes (think: hot flashes, breast tenderness, heavy periods, fibroids) the weak “estrogens” from lignans may bind to some of your estrogen receptor sites, thereby actually reducing total estrogen activity. On the other hand, if your estrogen levels are low, as with post menopausal women, lignans may help to supplement your levels to promote a more optimal balance.
Lignans have anti cancer effects.
More and more studies on flaxseed lignans show that they help in the prevention and treatment of breast and colon cancer because they can moderate the production of certain types of hormones.
LIgnans prevent free radical damage – anti-aging bonus for skin, hair and nails!
Lignans have antiviral, antibacterial and antioxidant properties, which means they help prevent free radicals in the body associated with aging and disease.
Lignans protect the heart: Studies have shown that lignans in the form of flaxseed lower LDL cholesterol (the bad one) while raising HDL (our good cholesterol). Remember that heart disease is the second leading cause of death in women between 45-64, and the number 1 cause of death in women over 65.
Are you convinced that flaxseed is worth a try? Hang on, there's more!
Omega 3 ALA: Flaxseeds are the richest dietary source of omega 3 fatty acid in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Omega fatty acids affect the health of each and every cell in our bodies and brain. ALA is one of 3 forms of omega 3 fatty acids essential in your diet. The other 2 forms are EPA and DHA which are found in marine foods including cold water fish, algae and sea veggies.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid super powers for peri menopause and post menopausal women:
- Improves energy / fights fatigue
- Relieves dry skin, cracking nails and thinning, breaking, dry hair and hair loss
- Relieves constipation
- Relieves depression
- Helps correct hormonal imbalances
- Protects the immune system
- Protects the heart
- Protects the nervous system and brain
- Helps prevent arthritis and promotes bone health.
Still on the fence about trying flaxseed? Consider this...
Fiber: While flaxseeds are not the highest fiber rich food, they are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber when in seed form (not oil). The fiber in flaxseed is less irritating than wheat or bran fiber, which can irritate the bowel. While women are at higher risks for cardiovascular disease and diabetes during their peri and post menopausal years, the fiber in flaxseed has been proven to
- lower glucose levels
- decrease central obesity (weight carried around the middle)
- Improve heart health
How Much is Enough?
Good questions. Recommendations vary. Because flaxseed is high in fiber, it’s important to make sure you take it with enough water so you don’t suffer from cramps, bloat or constipation when introducing it into your diet.
Start with 1 TBL of ground flaxseed and work your way up to 1 oz. (1/4 cup) per day. Increase by 1 TBL each week. Studies have shown that the body does not digest the whole seed so using a coffee or spice grinder to grind the flaxseed will provide you the most nutritional benefit. Once the seed has been ground, it’ll start to lose some it’s nutritional potency, so in a perfect world, you would grind yours daily rather than buying ground flaxseed. Grinding your flaxseed daily vs. buying pre-ground also takes the risk of consuming moldy or rancid flaxseed off your table.
On the Plate: I always try and get the first half of my flaxseed dose with my morning meal. That way, I can rest easy that the 2nd half of the daily dose will show up either at lunch, dinner or in an afternoon smoothie without having to put much thought into it. Add ground flaxseed to
- Cereals and oatmeal
- On top of toast with nut-butter
- Fold into scrambled eggs or an omelet
- Top salads
- Top steamed veggies or baked potato
- Make a dressing using flaxseed oil (use 1:1 olive to flaxseed oil for best flavor balance)
- bake ground flaxseed into whole wheat flax and oat bread
Buy whole flaxseed not pre ground, invest in a spice grinder or coffee grinder if you don’t already have one and grind your day’s dose each morning.
Keep the unused ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil in the frig. Whole flaxseeds kept in an airtight container are stable for a much longer period of time and won’t require refrigeration.
Start with 1 TBL of ground flaxseed and increase by 1 TBL each week until you are at ¼ cup per day (1/8 cup each morning + 1/8 cup at another meal or snack).
Make sure you’re getting enough water when you eat ground flaxseed because it is high in fiber.
Add ½ of your daily dose of ground flaxseed to your morning meal. Use the other half in your lunch, snack or dinner.
Considerations and contradictions:
If you’re currently taking medication including blood thinners, have any form of colitis, IBS, diverticulitis or diverticulosis, consult your doctor before adding flaxseed to your diet.