Dear Health-Minded Readers,
Lately, several of my patients have asked me about adding flaxseed to their diets. They’ve heard a lot about the important health benefits of Omega-3 fats and that flaxseeds are high in these good fats. While I agree that adding Omega-3 fats by adding flaxseeds to your diet is highly beneficial, you also need to exercise a little caution in doing so. Let me explain.
The Health Benefits of Flax Seeds
Flaxseed is truly a miraculous food with many health benefits that are varied and include the following:
The Health Concerns of Flaxseeds
For sure, the health benefits of consuming flaxseeds far outweigh its concerns, but it is important for you to know what these health concerns are before supplementing your diet with flaxseeds.
Flaxseeds contain an agent called cyanogenic glycosides, a chemical that occurs in over 2,000 plants. These compounds are part of the sugar molecules in the plant and convert to cyanide, a poison, in the human gut. If you consume too much of these compounds from plants you could become very ill, or it could be fatal.
However, you would have to consume a huge amount, 200-300 ppm, in a short period of time, for these compounds to adversely affect you as the human body rapidly breaks down cyanide compounds within 30 minutes. A lethal dose would be 0.5mg to 3.5 mg per kilogram of body weight in 30 minutes.
Even though it is highly unlikely anyone would intake a fatal dose of these compounds in using flaxseeds, it is important to be careful giving them to small children and adults with low body weights. Make sure they are stored in an area that a small child cannot get into and accidentally ingest more than they should.
The usual, safe, adult dosage for flaxseeds is under 50 grams, or 2 tablespoons. Heat used in cooking, or baking flaxseeds in foods, such as muffins and breads, destroys the detrimental compounds.
Some people can experience mild gastrointestinal upsets and flatulence when eating flaxseeds for the first time but this usually goes away as your system gets more used to processing them. If it does not, or if it worsens, you may have a food sensitivity, or allergy, to flaxseeds and you should stop eating them. In addition, although researchers are not in agreement on this, I feel it would be prudent for pregnant women not to consume flaxseeds during their pregnancy.
Other potentially dangerous symptoms to watch for include:
If you experience any of these symptoms after eating flaxseeds, or using flaxseed oil, seek medical attention immediately via a hospital emergency room or an urgent care walk-in, as you may be having a serious allergic reaction to them.
As I tell my patients, flaxseeds are a near superfood when it comes to all the health benefits they confer. In addition to Omega-3 fats they also contain folic acid and B6 as well as magnesium, phosphorus and copper. They can be purchased ground and can be sprinkled on cereal, added to cooked grain dishes, vegetables, baked goods recipes, or shakes.
I feel that flaxseeds, used within the safety guidelines offered above, can be very beneficial to your health and add a delicious, nutty flavor to your favorite foods!