Alsi/Flaxseed Health Benefits

It is a common trend these days that whatever food western countries declare as “SuperFood”, it will become star food in the Indian Markets. One such Superfood is “Flaxseed” or “Alsi” for its numerous health benefits. Flaxseeds are popularly known as ALSI in India. It is being used by Indians in Various ways from centuries. People are talking about Alsi everywhere. Many doctors and Dieticians are recommending Alsi for Weight-loss, and treating Cancer, Diabetes, Heart problems, etc. With growing Inflammation related problems amongst the population like Diabetes, Auto-Immune Diseases, Atherosclerosis, PCOS, etc, it becomes necessary to include Anti- Inflammatory food in our regular diet. Alsi is one such super seed that has the magical powers to cure many ailments.

 

How to eat alsi/flaxseed for health benefits

What are Alsi/ Flaxseeds? (1) (2)

Alsi/ Flaxseeds are the seeds of a blue flowering plant Flax (Linum usitatissimum), from the family of Lineacea. The plant is cultivated for its Fibre, from which linen yarn is made and for its nutritious seeds called Alsi or Flaxseeds. Alsi is widely cultivated in various states of India including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Himachal Pradesh. The Indian Institute Of Oilseeds Research (IIOR), Hyderabad conducts various research on Flax Seeds.

Flax Plant or Alsi is adaptable to a variety of soils and climates but grows best in Loamy soil and temperate climate. Other than India, Kazakhstan, Canada, Russia, and China are the largest producers of Alsi/ Flax Seeds.

Hindi Name: Alsi or Alasi
English Name: Flax Seeds OR Linseeds
Telugu: Avisa ginjjalu
Kannada: Agase
Tamil: Ali Vidai
Marathi: Alashi or Jowas
Bengali : Tishi or Pesi

Nutritional Profile of Alsi/Flaxseeds

The two basic varieties of Alsi are Brown and Golden Seeds, with almost the same nutrient profile and health benefits.

The following table shows the principle of nutritional facts per 100 grams serving of Alsi/Flaxseeds.

                     Nutrient Parameter                                   Amount
Energy 534 KCal
Carbohydrates 28.8 grams
Protein 18.3 grams
Fat 42.16 grams
Dietary Fiber 27.3 grams
Calcium 255 mg
Potassium 813 mg
Calcium 255 mg
Copper 1.12 mg
Phosphorous 370 mg
Mgnesium 392mg
Iron 5.73 mg
Thiamine 1.64 mg
Niacin 3.08 mg
Folates 0.087 mg
Riboflavin 0.161mg
Vitamin E 19.95 mg
Vitamin K 0.043 mg
Vitamin C 0.6 mg

Reference: Nutritive Value Of Indian Foods, National Institute Of Nutrition (ICMR) by C.Gopalan, B.V.Rama Sastri, and S.C. Balasubramanian.
After checking out the nutritional profile of Alsi there is no doubt why they are listed in Superfoods Category. Alsi may be minute in size but in reality this little seed packs loads of nutrition in them. The Vitamin and Mineral content in Alsi is similar to that of Grains. Besides they are rich in essential fatty acids which make them a top contender in the fight against Diabetes, Heart Diseases, Cancer. A few tablespoons of flaxseeds can recharge and revitalize you and your body’s defense mechanisms in ways not possible through artificial supplements.

Three unique and magical nutrients found in Alsi make them powerful in combating many health issues.

  • Omega -3 fatty acid.
  • Lignan.
  • Mucilage.

1.Omega -3 fatty acid content (3) (4)

Out of 127 World’s healthiest food, Alsi stands out as the number one source of the Omega – 3 fatty acids. Omega – 3 fatty acids have numerous benefits to your body. It improves risk factors associated with heart diseases, Improves brain function, builds Immunity, reduces fat in the Liver, Improve Eye Health, and fights depression and anxiety. The Omega -3 fatty acids present in Alsi is Alpha Linoleic Fatty Acids (ALA). The specialty of ALA in Alsi/Flaxseeds is that it remains stable for atleast three hours after it has been cooked or heated at a temperature of 150 deg celsius.Studies have shown that in Whole seeds, roasted or grounded the ALA is present in the matrix of other phytonutrients. Lignans especially secoisilaresinol di glucoside , minerals and vitamins protect the ALA structure from being oxidised. This property allows flax seeds to be used in baked goods like muffins and bread without tarnishing the beneficial omega -3 fatty acids. 28grams of flaxseeds ( 2 tablespoons) contains around 3.5 grams of ALA.

2. Lignan (5 ) (6)

The Lignans are a group of polyphenols found in plants. Plant Lignans are metabolized by intestinal bacteria to mammalian Lignans enterodiol and enterolactone. Lignans are one of the major classes of phytoestrogens, which are like estrogen-like chemicals and act as antioxidants. 100 grams of Alsi contains 0.3 grams of Lignan.

The following table shows plant lignans compounds in Alsi/ Flax seeds (100 grams) which are precursors for mammalian Lignans

Pinoresinol 871ug
Syringaresinol 48ug
Sesamin Not Detected
Lariciresinol 1780 ug
Secoisolariciresinol 165759ug
Matairesinol 529ug
Hydroxymatairesinol 35ug

3. Mucilage Content (7)

Another important feature of Alsi is its mucilage content. Mucilage is a water-soluble fiber, very significant in keeping a healthy intestinal tract. It slows down the process of transfer of contents of the stomach into small intestines, thus increase the rate at which nutrients are absorbed from the intestine. 23% of the seed represents mucilage and is found in the seed coat.

 

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Health Benefits Of Alsi/ Flaxseeds

1.Alsi/Flaxseeds for Cardiovascular diseases (8) (9) (10) (11) (12)

The combination of ALA, Fiber, and Lignans makes alsi effective in lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and Stroke rates.

Alpha Linoleic Acid( ALA) in Alsi is the basic building block of molecules that help to keep inflammation under control. This in turn protects blood vessels.
Lignans protect blood vessels by inhibiting the formation of an enzyme named Platelet Activating Factor (PAF). When PAF is produced in excessive amounts it can lead to multi cardiovascular diseases in the body.

In a study, Lignans in alsi have shown to reduced atherosclerotic plaque buildup to 75%. To support this, a study in which alsi consumption lowered CRP levels by 10-15%.
(CRP levels are indicators of inflammatory status in the human body)

A study conducted in IOWA state university’s Nutrition & Wellness Research showed that Cholesterol levels significantly reduced in patients with high cholesterol after consuming 3 tablespoons of flaxseeds every day for 90 days. Alsi or flax seeds increase HDL (Good Cholesterol) and maintain proper cholesterol levels in the blood.

Alsi also regulates blood pressure in people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

2. Alsi/Flaxseeds for Cancer Prevention (13) (14) (15)

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are common in the early stages of cancer patients.

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics of Alsi make the natural soldiers in the fight against Cancer. Flaxseeds have shown warding off cancer, specifically Breast, Prostate, and Colon Cancer.

Breast and Prostate cancers are categorized in the list of cancers that are “hormone-related”; flaxseeds contain a high percentage of lignan, which are the main component in curing the cancers.

These lignans, with the help of intestinal bacteria, can be converted into chemicals known as Enterolactone (ENL) and Enterodiol (END). These chemicals show a SERM (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators) behavior which is the ability to downgrade estrogen activity in cancer tissue.

It is also shown in a research study that tumor growth is reduced in breast cancer patients by increasing programmed cell death (apoptosis).

Alsi/Flax – supplemented & Low Fat Diet proves an effective treatment against prostate cancer as well as reducing cholesterol levels.

3. Alsi/Flaxseeds for Diabetes  (16) (17) (18) (19)

The insoluble fiber content in Alsi slows down the release of sugar in the blood and maintaining blood sugar levels in the body. This fiber in Alsi can actively help to trap glucose and fat in the gut. It can moderate and ease the glucose release throughout the body, which effectively reduces sugar spikes. These effects have a positive impact on both blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Omega -3 fatty acids in alsi/flaxseeds are required to keep the walls of the cell membranes flexible. The function of cell membranes is like gatekeepers. The allows essential nutrients to come inside a cell and eliminate wastes from the cell. Flexible cell membranes can absorb glucose and insulin better than stiffer and less flexible cells. So, alsi is very beneficial for people with diabetes type -2 to manage their blood glucose levels.

4. Alsi/Flaxseeds for Women Health (20) (21) (22)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOS/PCOD) is the major health issues suffered by women all over the world at some point in their life. These ailments happen due to hormonal imbalances in the body. Insulin Resistance, Weight gain, Irregular periods, Heavy Bleeding, and Hirsutism are the common symptoms in PCOS and PCOD. Diet plays a major role in overcoming symptoms of PCOD and PCOS.

High Protein, Low Diary, Healthy Fats, and plenty of vegetables & fruits will help to balance the hormones and support detoxification. The best, easiest, and cheapest way to add fiber, omega -3 fatty acids, and essential amino acids in your diet is by adding Alsi/ Flaxseeds in your diet. Lignan is phytoestrogens when absorbed in the body make up the hormonal imbalance. It significantly reduces high testosterone levels, present in PCOD/PCOS. The extra testosterone is carried out of the body by an increased number of hormone-binding globulin produced by the Alsi/Flaxseeds.

Studies have shown that Alsi can decrease hot flashes in hormonal imbalance and postmenopausal women. It has also shown improvement in mood swings and decrease pain in muscles & joints, chills, and sweating. Bonus point it doesn’t come with side effects like Hormone -Replacement Treatments.

Alsi/Flaxseeds are proven to be beneficial in reducing pre-menopausal symptoms. In Women of menopausal age, the reduced estrogen levels within their bodies can create hot flashes, migraine, rapid heartbeat, back pain, depression, frequent urination, cramps and sleep disturbance. Menopausal women are most susceptible to inflammation and infection. Adding alsi/flaxseeds in their regular diet will help in counteract these symptoms.

Alsi/Flaxseeds also improve fertility in women.

5. Alsi/Flaxseeds for Brain Health (23) (24)

The brain controls and coordinates the body. It needs large quantities of oxygen supply to perform all the functions efficiently. A network of blood vessels and fine capillaries are responsible for maintaining this supply of oxygen. The brain uses 20% of the oxygen available to the whole of the body when it as rest and not doing any activity. Thus, Healthy blood vessels play a very important role in the proper functioning of the brain.

About 60% of the brain consists of lipids (fats) which make up the lining of the cell membrane of every brain cell. The types of fats present in the brain influence its structure and function. A diet with the right fats is important in maintaining brain functions in the long run. The functional unit of the brain is Neurons.

Several Neurons are responsible for the transmission of messages to other nerve cells, muscles, and gland cells. The transmission of messages along the nerves in the brain relies on fatty insulating myelin sheath around the extended regions of the nerve cells. Essential fats are needed to produce these parts of the brain and that fats have to come from the diet.

If the diet lacks essential fatty acids then in the long run it will lead to depression, attention deficit disorder, memory problems, and dementia. Alsi is a good source the omega -3 essential fatty acid and when included in the diet restore the brain health by providing necessary building blocks to repair the damage that has been done.

It is proven to be beneficial in patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hypersensitivity Disorder).
6. Alsi/Flaxseeds and Eye Disease (25)

Macular Degeneration is an eye disease that destroys vision by damaging nerve cells in the eye. In a study, it is found that a diet with a combination of low omega -6 fatty acid and high omega -3 fatty acid protects the eye from developing the disease. Alsi is a rich source of omega -3 fatty acids. When alsi/flaxseeds are included in the diet it restored the balance between omega -3 and omega -6 fatty acids and prevent Macular Degeneration in those people who are at risk of this condition.
7. Alsi/Flaxseed and Protein (26) (27)

Another important feature of Alsi is its high-quality protein content. Flaxseed protein is rich in amino acids Arginine, Aspartic Acid, and Glutamic Acid. Lab studies have shown that Alsi protein helped improve immune function, lower cholesterol, prevent tumors, and had anti-fungal properties.

Plant-based protein in alsi provides satiety and feeling of fullness when included in the regular meals and prevents eating more in the next meal.
8. Alsi/Flaxseed for IBD and Crohn’s disease  (28) (29) (30)

Studies have shown that there is a positive effect of alsi/flaxseed on IBD and Crohn’s disease.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is an inflammatory disease of the large intestine or colon. The inner lining of the intestine becomes inflamed and develops ulcers. This is most severe in the rectal area, which is caused due to frequent bouts of diarrhea. Mucus and blood often appear in the faces if the lining becomes damaged.

In Crohn’s disease inflammation occurs within the lining of the small intestine and some parts of the large intestine. In severe cases, the inflammation extends into the layers of the intestinal wall.

The anti-inflammatory function and natural high fiber content of Alsi can reduce the inflammatory symptoms and improve overall digestive health.

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How much Alsi/Flaxseeds will be beneficial? (31)

Like any other food, Moderation is necessary with Alsi/Flaxseeds. Most studies have reported that 1- 2 Tablespoons (10- 20 grams) per day of alsi/flaxseeds will fetch all the health benefits related to it.

If you are looking Alsi /flaxseed as a treatment supplement for a specific clinical condition consult your Healthcare provider or Qualified Nutritionist for the correct dosage.

In case of Bleeding disorders, Pregnancy and Schizophrenia please consult your physician before taking Alsi/ Flaxseeds.

Which form of Alsi/Flaxseed oil is beneficial for health?

Alsi/ Flaxseeds are primarily used for the seed and flax oil. Alsi/Flaxseeds can be consumed in the following ways:-

1. Whole Alsi/Flaxseeds: These have a soft and crunchy texture. You can dry roast them and store them in an airtight container. You can add these roasted seeds in your mouth freshener (Mukhwas) or to homemade cereals, Chikkis, and Deserts.

You can sprout alsi and consume 1 tablespoon early in the morning. Sprouted seeds can be added to your regular salads and curries to enhance their nutritional value.

2. Ground Alsi/Flaxseeds: Opt for ground flaxseeds/alsi for better digestion and absorption. Whole seeds may be hard to digest for some individuals due to their tough outer shells. Crush the flaxseeds in a coffee grinder, blender, or food processor and store it in the refrigerator for a week.

You can add a teaspoon of this in your buttermilk glass, Raitas, and Parathas. You can also add them to your Dhoklas, Curries, muffins, Puffed rice, bread, and Idly or Dosa Batter.

You can start your day by drinking a glass of lukewarm water mixed with 1 teaspoon grounded Alsi power to detox your body.

3.Alsi oil/ Flaxseed Oil: Flaxseed oil is extracted by a process called cold pressing the seeds. Flaxseed oil contains more ALA than the seeds. 1 tablespoon of ground seeds contains 1.6 grams and 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains 7 grams of ALA.

But, flaxseeds are more beneficial than the oil as the oil is devoid of fiber and other nutrients.

Flaxseeds are heat sensitive and therefore not suitable for high-temperature cooking. It can be used for salad dressing.

Store the Flaxseed Oil in an airtight container and keep it the cool & dark place. If it is exposed to sunlight, the oil may get rancid and not fit for consumption.

 

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Side effects of Alsi/Flaxseeds

As such there are no side effects of alsi/flaxseeds but an excess of everything is bad, be it artificial or a natural item; same with flaxseeds. Please remember these three points while consuming Alsi: –

  • Big Fiber Load: As it is a rich source of fiber it can cause a laxative effect and abdominal cramping in a few individuals. It is safe to start with a small quantity and gradually increase once the body gets adjusted. Keep yourself well hydrated while consuming fiber-rich seeds.
  • Oxidation/Rancidity :Oil of flaxseeds is extremely unsaturated, meaning if not stored properly, there is a very high chance it may get rancid. Flaxseeds that are unexposed to heat or sunlight stay safe and can be edible for the whole year. So store the grounded seeds and oils in darkened containers and refrigerated conditions.
  •  Cyanide :Flaxseeds contain a small amount of cyanide compounds that get breakdown into cyanide when heated. A small amount of cyanide can be tolerated by the human body but problems arise when it is over consumed.

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Commonly asked questions on Alsi /Flaxseeds

  1. Are Ground Alsi seeds are more beneficial than whole seeds?

Ans: Yes, ground Alsi seeds are more beneficial than whole Alsi as they are easily digested and absorbed compared to whole seeds. Whole seeds may pass undigested through intestines due to its tough covering.

2. What does Alsi taste like?

Ans: Alsi tastes nutty and pleasant. They are a very versatile ingredient and almost mixes well with anything. You can add to your cereals, juices, Yoghurt, smoothies, buttermilk, bread, and muffins.

3.Does Alsi contain Gluten?

Ans: Alsi contains no gluten.

4. Does Alsi aid in weight loss?

Ans: Alsi can help you in your weightless journey due to its high fiber content. However, please eat healthy throughout the day, exercise, sleep well, and stay hydrated to reach your goal in weight loss journey. If any underlying condition is present like thyroid, PCOD, Diabetes or other hormonal imbalances consult your physician and take medicines as prescribed.

5. Is Alsi safe for hypothyroid?

Ans: Alsi has certain amounts of cyanogen which can hamper iodine absorption if consumed in higher doses or daily. Iodine is an important mineral to keep the Thyroid Gland function smoothly. So, it is advisable to limit the flaxseed intake like once or twice a week in case of Hypothyroid.

6. Is flaxseed help in alleviating Gout Symptoms?

Ans: Yes, flax seeds help in combating Gout Symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

 

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Bottomline

The three magical components Omega – 3 fatty acids, Lignans, and Mucilage in Alsi/Flaxseeds make it in a top list of Superfood category. Tiny seeds called Alsi are loaded with nutritional goodness.

They can be beneficial for diabetes, improve blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol, reduce the risk of cancer, boost brain health, and improve digestive health.
It is a versatile food and can be used as a grounded form or as oil. It can be a star ingredient in many cuisines.

Remember moderation is important to reap the benefits and prevent the side effects. After reading every health benefit of alsi its sure your faith in Alsi /flaxseeds strengthened and you will include them in your regular diet to reap health benefits associated with them.

Akhila Y

Akhila holds a Post graduate diploma in clinical nutrition and dietetics from Apollo health education and research foundation. She is into this field since a year.She worked as an intern at Apollo hospitals, Hyderabad. She is trained in both inpatient and outpatient dietetics department. She did nutritional assessment, diet planning and clinical counselling for individuals with Hypothy-roid, Diabetic mellitus, Hypertension and kidney dysfunctions at outpatient department in Apollo. Akhila was into agricultural biotechnology but destiny had different plans and her strong passion towards nutrition and food sciences got her into clinical nutrition field. Having a strong background in biochemistry and human genetics she acquired a deep knowledge in the statistics specific to whole body macronutrient and micronutrient metabolism and its relation to metabolic diseas-es.Coming from agricultural background she did research on how organic foods are beneficial than conventionally grown counterparts in terms of nutrients such as antioxidants.She always motivates to encourage locally grown food for better health. She doesn’t encourage usage of supplements and crash diets. She believes the blend of traditional food wisdom and modern nutritional science is necessary for healthy body and mind. She em-phasises more on health gain than just loosing weight.This can only be possible by Sustainable diets.She is all happy in to help her clients who are ready to lead healthy, happy and nourishing life through Wellness munch!

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