How 1 tsp of roasted flaxseeds in a fistful of nuts daily can lower cholesterol

Flaxseeds are rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, soluble fibres, lignum and protein, all of which can bust cholesterol. This has been proved in multiple studies, says Dr Dipti Khatuja, head nutritionist at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon.

Written by Dr Dipti Khatuja

Sheena Matthews was diagnosed with high blood cholesterol during a routine health review. However, it wasn’t so high to warrant immediate medication. Predictably, her doctor recommended lifestyle modification to roll back her numbers and a diet discipline. A nutritionist advised her on her meal plan and included a daily intake of flaxseed. Her levels swung back to normal range in three months. Of course, lowering cholesterol levels is co-dependent on several corrective measures but as a dietary intervention, flaxseeds have been proven to be really effective.

A study by the American Society for Nutrition in 2015 showed that dietary flaxseed independently lowers circulating cholesterol and lowers it beyond the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications alone in patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD). Dietary flaxseed in PAD patients, in fact, resulted in a 15 per cent reduction in circulating LDL cholesterol as early as one month into the trial. Milled flaxseed lowers total and LDL cholesterol in patients with PAD and has additional LDL-cholesterol-lowering capabilities when used in conjunction with cholesterol lowering medication. Yet another research shows how dietary flaxseed, which contains the phytoestrogen lignan, lowers plasma cholesterol and glucose concentrations in hypercholesterolemic subjects. In fact, several studies show that taking flaxseed daily can reduce total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels and even help you control blood pressure. In fact, many micro studies have shown that flaxseed reduces LDL and lowers total serum cholesterol while not affecting HDL or good cholesterol.

How flaxseed fights cholestrol
Flaxseed is a linseed and can be interchangeable. Its biological name is linum usitatissimum, which has been used to grow the fibre from which linen has been made for thousands of years. Our ancient civilisations included flaxseed in the human diet or its oil in cooking. The Greeks, Romans. Egyptians, Chinese and Indians have consumed it traditionally. Of course, its application in the new world happened when colonists took the flaxseed to the Americas.

Flaxseed is rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, soluble fibres, lignum and protein, all of which can bust cholesterol. It is the richest plant source of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), which is thought to decrease the risk of heart disease by helping it maintain normal rhythms, pumping and reducing blood clots. It is also rich in Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Research has proven that all three are good at fighting cholesterol, so flaxseed is that magic pill. A cupful or 100 gm of flaxseeds has 20 per cent protein, 28 per cent dietary fibre, 18 per cent of monounsaturated (MUFA) and 73 per cent of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA). It has 57 per cent of ALA and 60 per cent of linoleic acid. The human body cannot produce Omega 3 fatty acids, which have to be had from dietary sources. The soluble gum of the flaxseed is most effective in preventing cardiac episodes by pulling out the cholesterol from the bloodstream.

The high fibre content is good at taking care of all kinds of co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and colorectal cancers. Flaxseed is rich in phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. It has the highest amount of potassium and is low in sodium. So, it can control hypertension. It is a storehouse of micro-nutrients and a good amount of vitamins, particularly Vitamin E, which, being natural antioxidants, protect our cells from oxidation and promote sodium excretion in the urine. This protects the heart, lowers BP and the risk of Alzheimer’s too.

How much flaxseed should I have daily
As a nutritionist, I would say begin with 1 teaspoon or 5 g daily. But never have flaxseeds raw, always roast them. It is equally important to consider the form in which they are ingested. Roast whole seeds and have them with nuts during those in-between food cravings. One teaspoon of seeds mixed with a fistful of nuts is good in a day. Roast the seeds, grind them into a fine powder and add them to smoothies, home-made puddings and porridges, laddoos and curd. Generally, we do not recommend flax oil because it has more essential acids per serving and may aggravate inflammatory bowel diseases and bleeding conditions.

Who should not use flaxseeds
Those suffering from kidney diseases or with high potassium levels should not have it. Same with those who are sensitive to allergy or already have pre-existing inflammatory conditions. Please consult a doctor before incorporating the seeds in your diet. If you take any medicines or other supplements, get a doctor’s advice to avoid conflicting chemistries. Flaxseed may block the normal absorption of certain medicines. Of course, gap your medicines in such a way that they are taken at least one hour before or two hours after using flaxseed.

Flaxseed versus other seeds
Undoubtedly, these seeds are the best when it comes to busting cholesterol and are much more effective in maintaining cardio-vascular health. Ground flaxseed — but not flaxseed oil — may also help with constipation and menopausal symptoms.

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