“According to the WHO, approximately one-third of the deaths caused by cancer are due to bad eating habits and lack of physical activity. By improving eating habits and increasing physical activity, more than 30% of the cancers diagnosed could be avoided. Thus, with the increased risk, a proper nutrition intervention is necessar. Nutrition plays a fundamental role in cancer, as it can reduce complications that happen during treatment and can contribute to the patient’s well-being.”-National Institutes of Health
With that said, a simple yet nutritious superfood to add to your diet are flaxseeds! These small seeds are loaded with essential nutrients, have tons of health benefits and can be easily incorporated with a variety of drinks and meals.
- lignans (a class of phytoestrogens which act as antioxidants)
- alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid (essential for energy, brain function, cell maintenance, heart function and anti-inflammatory. ALA is an essential fatty acid, which means that your body cannot naturally produce it, so you need to obtain it from the food you eat.)
- thiamine ( vitamin B1, essential for normal metabolism and nerve function)
- magnesium (important for bone health, calcium absorption, heart function, metabolism)
- phosphorus (important for bone health)
- selenium (assists with cognitive function, helps lower oxidative stress in the body, which reduces inflammation and enhances immunity)
- copper (It helps maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune function, and it contributes to iron absorption)
- folate (support brain health, important during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects, needed to make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow)
- iron (a mineral vital to the proper function of hemoglobin, protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood)
- potassium (regulates fluid balance, muscle contractions and nerve signals)
- zinc (plays a role in our immune function and wound healing)
- protein (helps build and repair tissues)
Benefits of ground flaxseeds:
- Help lower the risk of different types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease
- Reduce oxidative stress with its antioxidant properties (high in polyphenol antioxidants)
- Aid in gut health (support the growth of probiotics in the gut and may also help eliminate yeast and candida in the body.)
- Aid in preventing and relieving constipation (one of the major side effects endured during cancer treatment, make sure to take with plenty of water!)
- Good for colon detoxification
- Help reduce overall total cholesterol and bad cholesterols: triglycerides and LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol
- Help balance hormones (bind to estrogen in the bowel and help eliminate it which might help reduce the risk of breast cancer and aid in mood regulation)
- Help regulate blood sugar levels
- Promote healthy hair: nourish the hair follicles making them stronger, shinier, help improve elasticity of hair and aid in hair growth.
There are studies that also show that flaxseeds have an effect on breast cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health “α-linolenic acids have been shown to be able to suppress growth, size, and proliferation of cancer cells and also to promote breast cancer cell death. Additionally, some clinical trials showed that flaxseed can have an important role in decreasing breast cancer risk, mainly in postmenopausal women.”
“Lignans are considered natural “phytoestrogens,” or plant nutrients that work somewhat similarly to the hormone estrogen. Phytoestrogens in flaxseed can alter estrogen metabolism, causing either an increase or decrease in estrogen activity depending on someone’s hormonal status (in other words, flax has both estrogenic and antiestrogenic properties). For example, in postmenopausal women, lignans can cause the body to produce less active forms of estrogen, which is tied to increased protection against tumor growth.” -Dr. Axe
The best benefits of flaxseeds has been found to come from ground flaxseeds over the consumption of whole flax seeds (which are not easily absorbed by the body and you will likely pass them whole in your stool) or flax oil (which lacks fiber and protein).
- The fiber in the flaxseed may also lower the body’s ability to absorb medications that are taken by mouth, so avoid taking it at the same time (take at least 1 hour apart).
- Freshly ground flaxseeds should be used shortly after grinding or stored away in the refrigerator immediately. It is best to add to cold beverages like smoothies or sprinkle on top of food like yogurt, fruit, açaí or salads.
- Flax seeds have a mild nutty taste, so if there is a bitter taste then your flaxseeds have gone bad and should be tossed out.
Ground flaxseeds are best stored in an airtight container kept in the refrigerator. When I buy my already ground flaxseeds I transfer them from their bag into a large glass mason jar and cover them with a bamboo lid (avoid using aluminum and plastic) and store it in the refrigerator. It typically lasts up to a year when refrigerated but make sure to check expiration date on package and always look out for that rancid smell.
Here are a couple of ways that I have been able to incorporate flaxseeds into my sons diet (mind you he is a very picky eater and has not noticed the ground flaxseeds or their taste used in these methods):
- Adding to homemade pancake mix! Pancakes have also been one of the easiest ways I have been able to pack in nutrients and calories to help my son battle his weight loss during cancer treatment. Our favorite are making Golden Milk Pancakes:
- Start out with your favorite pancake mix (I love Birch Benders!)
- Add a tsp of golden milk mix (I use Zen’s Tea House Golden Milk mix)
- Add milk of choice or alternative
- Add a tsp of ground flaxseeds with lignans (great way to add fiber and omega 3)
- Add an egg (farm fresh eggs are always the best, if not look for organic eggs with the highest omega 3 and DHA) or you can substitute for banana
- Cook in butter (my favorite is Kerry Gold or Organic Valley) in a cast iron skillet (as a way to increase iron levels, unless contraindicated)
- There are so many other things you can add to the mix, some of my favorite are: coconut, dark chocolate chips, walnuts and blueberries
- Some tips that helped me add calories to my son’s pancakes were adding: a tsp of almond butter or any nut butter, dash of heavy cream or whipped cream
- Adding it to homemade baked cookies
- Adding it to ground meat when making meatballs, meatloaf or burgers
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Consuming flaxseeds, especially when first introducing them to your diet, can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea and/or nausea. It is recommended not to consume more than 4-5 tablespoons daily. Because it is considering a bulk-forming natural laxative it can block the intestines if you are not taking in enough fluids, so make sure to have an adequate water intake.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking flaxseed by mouth during pregnancy is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Flaxseed can act like the hormone estrogen. Some healthcare providers worry that this might harm the pregnancy, although to date there is no reliable clinical evidence about the effects of flaxseed on pregnancy outcomes. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking flaxseed if you are breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Bleeding disorders: Flaxseed might slow clotting. This raises the concern that it could increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders. Don’t use it, if you have a bleeding disorder. (Take precaution when platelets are low during chemotherapy)
Diabetes: There is some evidence that flaxseed can lower blood sugar levels and might increase the blood sugar-lowering effects of some medicines used for diabetes. There is a concern that blood sugar could drop too low. If you have diabetes and use flaxseed, monitor your blood sugar levels closely.
Gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction: People with a bowel obstruction, a narrowed esophagus (the tube between the throat and the stomach), or an inflamed (swollen) intestine should avoid flaxseed. The high fiber content of flaxseed might make the obstruction worse.
Hormone-sensitive cancers or conditions: Because flaxseed might act somewhat like the hormone estrogen, there is some concern that flaxseed might make hormone-sensitive conditions worse. Some of these conditions include breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer; endometriosis; and uterine fibroids. However, some early laboratory and animal research suggests that flaxseed might actually oppose estrogen and might be protective against hormone-dependent cancer. Still, until more is known, avoid excessive use of flaxseed if you have a hormone-sensitive condition.(Consult with oncologist)
High blood pressure (hypertension): Flaxseeds might lower diastolic blood pressure. Theoretically, taking flaxseeds might cause blood pressure to become too low in individuals with high blood pressure who are taking blood pressure-lowering medication or individuals who already have low blood pressure.L
*Any application of the recommendations in this website is at the reader’s discretion.Information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.Please consult with physician prior to use.