Further, the two basic varieties of flax are golden flax aka yellow flax and brown flax. Flaxseeds have some unique features: their high omega-3 fatty acid content, their high lignan content, and their mucilage or gum content.
Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and the alpha-linoleic acid or ALA is their primary omega-3 fats. Each serving of flaxseeds equivalent to 2 tablespoons or 14 grams contains approximately 132.9% omega-3 fats.
Mucilage is the water-soluble fiber that forms gels to provide a special support to the functions of intestines. Each serving of flaxseeds contains approximately 15.3% fiber.
These unique nutrients not present in commonly-consumed nuts and seeds are the key factors in the unique nutritional benefits of flaxseeds which include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.
Flaxseeds are among the antioxidant-rich foods. In fact, flaxseeds have significantly higher amounts of polyphenol antioxidants compared to blueberries and olives. Flaxseeds provide antioxidant benefits by helping to prevent cardiovascular diseases and to lower insulin resistance.
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits of flaxseed intake are not only applicable to the cardiovascular system. There is strong evidence that flaxseed intake may reduce risk of developing various health problems commonly triggered by chronic oxidative stress and chronic inflammation which include metabolic syndrome, obesity, asthma, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and cancer.
Pinoresinol, metairesinol, and secoisolariciresinol are three of the lignans present in flaxseeds. The intestinal or gut bacteria convert these lignans into enterolactone (ENL) and enterodiol (END). There is strong evidence that once END and ENL are produced, they may help alter the progression of hormone-dependent tumors. So, END and ENL may help reduce risk of hormone-related cancers like prostate cancer and breast cancer.
The lignans in flaxseeds have also shown to contribute in an increased activity of certain Phase II detox enzymes that deactivate toxins in our body. This may help inhibit accumulating toxins which might increase the risk of developing cancer.