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Linwoods logoIt’s no secret that nuts and seeds offer plenty of nutritional benefits. But, with so many different types out there – from chia and pumpkin seeds to almond and Brazil nuts – it can be difficult to know which to choose and why they’re good for us.

However, one little seed that’s caused quite a stir in the world of health food is flaxseed – and this is largely down to its positive impact on heart health.

With this in mind, we’ve teamed up with Linwoods Health Foods to explain how flaxseeds can support a healthy heart and offer five great recipes to help you use them.

Linwoods aim to make it easy for everyone to access high-quality nutrient-rich seeds, fruits and nuts – including flaxseeds. Therefore, all their products are gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians, and they source organic materials where possible.

What are flaxseeds?

What are flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are small, shiny seeds that come from a flowering plant called flax – and they’re available in whole, milled (ground), or oil form.

Flaxseeds have a rich history spanning centuries. Aside from being eaten, they’ve also played a role in traditional medicine, and have even been used for industrial purposes to create things like linen fabrics. Plus, flaxseed oil has been used to create varnish, ink, and skincare products (due to its moisturising properties), and produce linoleum.

Despite their tiny size, flaxseeds are powerhouses of nutrition. Not only are they rich in fibre and omega-3 but they also contain a number of essential nutrients including vitamins B1 and B6, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.

As a result, flaxseed has numerous health benefits – for example by improving gut health and possibly even reducing menopause symptoms. But, there’s also an extensive body of research linking flaxseed to heart health.

We’ll explore these benefits below.

Why are flaxseeds good for heart health?

Why are flaxseeds good for heart health

Flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids

A key benefit of flaxseeds is that they’re high in essential fats known as omega-3 fatty acids. We can’t make these healthy fats ourselves – instead, we must get them from our diet.

Flaxseeds contain an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is a powerful coenzyme and antioxidant that can prevent a situation where the body has an imbalance of harmful molecules called ‘free radicals’. This imbalance is known as ‘oxidative stress’ and is a primary cause of heart disease.

ALA has also been found to lower chronic inflammation in the body by reducing the production of inflammatory cytokines. Chronic inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease because it causes plaque build-up in artery walls and restricts blood flow. Blood clots can also form if plaque formations rupture, which can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

As a result of extensive research into the effects of ALA on heart health, the consumption of flaxseed through plant-based foods has been linked to a 10% lower risk of heart disease and a 20% reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease.

Experts say that flaxseeds are one of the richest sources of ALA in the Western diet – and studies have shown that ALA levels can start to rise just two weeks after participants start adding flaxseed to their daily diet.

Flaxseeds may reduce blood pressure

Flaxseeds’ ability to lower blood pressure levels – and therefore, reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes – is well documented.

For example, a large review of 11 studies found that taking flaxseed daily for more than three months may decrease blood pressure levels by an average of 2 mmHg.

Although this reduction may seem small, research indicates that a 2 mmHg decrease in blood pressure can reduce the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease by 14% and 6% respectively.

Flaxseeds may reduce cholesterol levels

High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease because it can restrict blood flow to and from the heart. But research suggests that the high fibre content in flaxseeds could help to lower cholesterol levels.

For example, this one-month study of people with peripheral artery disease showed that people who ate four tablespoons of milled flaxseed per day lowered their levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) by 15%.

Another 12-week study of 112 people also saw significant reductions in total cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), and blood pressure in people who ate four teaspoons of milled flaxseed per day.

Experts believe that the reason for this is that, before fibre is excreted by the body, it binds to bile salts. Cholesterol is then pulled from the blood into the liver to replenish these salts.

Flaxseeds contain lignans

Health experts estimate that flaxseeds contain up to 800 times more lignans than other foods.

Lignans are natural compounds found in plants. Lignans are naturally occurring phytoestrogens that can mimic the role of oestrogen in the body – and oestrogen may help protect the heart by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Lignans are also antioxidants, so can help to reduce oxidative stress and prevent damage to heart cells and blood vessels.

In this study, which followed 214,108 men and women, and repeatedly assessed their diet, an increased, long-term intake of lignans was linked with a much lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Another study of 1,889 Finnish men (age 42-60) over an average of 12 years found that those with the highest serum enterolactone levels (markers of lignans) were less likely to die from coronary heart disease than those who had lower levels.

Flaxseeds may help with blood sugar control

High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, increase the risk of atherosclerosis, and contribute to high blood pressure – all of which raise the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. However, there’s some evidence to suggest that flaxseed may help with blood sugar control.

One study found that when 15 healthy participants ate three flaxseed muffins three times a day (containing 10g of flaxseed per muffin), their blood glucose levels were lowered over 24 hours, compared with people who ate muffins with no flaxseed.

Different research also revealed that when people ate 30g of flaxseeds in yoghurt, they had big reductions in one of the key markers of insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control (HbA1c), compared with people who ate the same yoghurt with no flaxseeds.

Researchers generally agree that flaxseeds’ ability to help with blood sugar control is due to their high-fibre content. This means they’re digested more slowly and that glucose is released into the blood at a steadier rate.

5 ways to use flaxseed to boost heart health

ways to use flaxseed to boost heart health

As we’ve seen above, there’s a large body of evidence to suggest that flaxseeds can help to support a healthy heart. Though, it’s important to remember that a varied diet containing plenty of fruit and veg, high-fibre foods, dairy (or dairy alternatives), protein, and healthy fats is also needed for optimal health.

That said, flaxseed is incredibly versatile and can be used to supercharge a number of healthy recipes. With the help of Linwoods, we’ve pulled together a few delicious options to help get you inspired.

1. Flaxseed pudding smoothie

Flaxseed pudding smoothieChia puddings have become incredibly popular in recent years – largely because the tiny seeds used to make them are good sources of calcium, iron, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. However, did you know that you could also make a delicious flaxseed version?

This Linwoods recipe is a cross between a smoothie and a pudding, so it should be ideal for those who prefer a lighter breakfast but still want to be left feeling satisfied. And it couldn’t be easier to make!

Just mix together Linwoods Milled Flaxseed with almond milk, yoghurt, and maple syrup, and put them in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.

Then, in the morning, blend together almond milk, protein powder, acai powder, and some fruit of your choice (berries and pineapple work well!) – and use it to top the flaxseed pudding, along with some blueberries and chopped kiwi.

2. Buffalo chickpea and cauliflower salad

Buffalo chickpea and cauliflower salad

Garnished with Linwoods Milled Flaxseed with Bio Cultures and Vitamin D, this buffalo chickpea and cauliflower recipe is reminiscent of long summer days – and is fresh, light, and filling all at the same time.

It’s coated in a wonderful tahini ranch dressing, which you can whip up in minutes by mixing together lemon juice, tahini, hot water, dried dill, and garlic powder.

To make everything else, toss roughly chopped cauliflower in paprika and hot sauce, and roast for 15 minutes. Then, make a salad of gem lettuce, cucumber, carrot ribbons, and red onion, which you’ll later top with chickpeas, roasted cauliflower, ranch dressing and, of course, flaxseed.

For a protein top-up, you could also try adding chicken, prawns, or tofu!

3. Flaxseed yoghurt blueberry muffins

Flaxseed yoghurt blueberry muffins

Many of us love classic blueberry muffins, though many of the shop-bought ones are made with lots of sugar and fat, and have low nutritional value. But, these flaxseed yoghurt blueberry muffins are made with Greek yoghurt and flaxseed for a healthier twist.

To make them, prepare your oven to 190 degrees Celsius, and line a muffin tray with paper cases. Mix three tablespoons of Linwoods Milled Flaxseed with nine tablespoons of water, stir well, and set aside for five minutes. Meanwhile, combine sugar, dairy-free spread, Greek yoghurt, and vanilla in a bowl – then stir well and add the flaxseed mixture.

In a separate bowl, mix flour with baking powder and salt, stir into the wet ingredients, and add the blueberries. Then, spoon the mixture into the cases and bake for 25 minutes.

Finally, enjoy them as a tasty breakfast or snack on the go!

4. Simple egg fried rice with hemp

Simple egg fried rice with hemp

Egg fried rice is tasty, versatile, and cheap to make – and, in this version, flaxseed is stirred through the rice for an extra boost of fibre.

Ready in 15 minutes, this is a great recipe for using up leftover cooked rice and anything in your fridge that needs eating up. Simply fry your rice with any veggies you have lying around like peas, sweetcorn, and carrots. If you want to add more protein, you can throw in any additional bits and bobs you may have in your fridge – ham, prawns, and tofu work well!

Then add your cooked egg, soy sauce, sesame seeds, Linwoods Flax, Nuts, and Q10, and stir through to combine.

Once heated through, top with thin slices of crunchy spring onion for some additional colour, flavour, and texture!

5. Peach pesto pizza

Peach pesto pizza

If you love pizza but find yourself sticking to the same toppings and wanting to avoid the high calorie and fat content, you might want to try this fruity version which is topped with juicy peaches, courgette ribbons, and kale basil pesto.

Not only does it use spelt flour which is a bit healthier than regular flour because it’s higher in some important vitamins and minerals like B1, B6, iron, and zinc, but the base also doesn’t use yeast and is made with yoghurt and milled flaxseed.

Making the base is as simple as mixing together flour, Linwoods Milled Flaxseed, baking powder, yoghurt, and salt to make a dough; kneading it for a minute or two; and leaving to rest for an hour. The pesto topping is also quick and easy – just blend together fresh basil, kale, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice until smooth.

When your dough has rested, roll it out between two sheets of baking paper, remove the top sheet, and bake on a baking tray for five minutes. Add the toppings and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Then garnish with basil and honey if desired!

Final thoughts…

With so many nuts and seeds out there, it can be tricky to know which ones to add to our shopping list to gain the greatest health benefits.

But looking after our heart is one of the most important things we can do – and there’s plenty of research to suggest that adding flaxseeds to our diets can help with this.

We hope you’ve been inspired by some of the flaxseed recipes above, though there are many other ways you can introduce flaxseed to existing meals. For example, sprinkling it on your breakfast cereal or yoghurt, using it as a breadcrumb substitution for chicken, or adding it as a crunchy topping on salads, soups, and sandwiches.

If you want to read more about the benefits of flaxseeds and explore other ways to use them, check out our article; 8 health benefits of flaxseed and how to add it to your diet.

Or if you want to explore Linwoods’ entire range of flaxseed products, you can do so using the button below. One of their newest products is Menoligna, which has been specifically developed for women during the menopause stage of life – and contains a mix of flax and chia seeds.

Do you add flaxseed to your food? Have you noticed any benefits? Or do you have a favourite flaxseed recipe you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.