Scientific Name: Linum usitatissimum
Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) is also known as linseed. It is the small, brown or yellow seed from the flax plant. Flaxseeds can be pressed to release an oil that contains high amounts of polyunsaturated fats (i.e., omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids). Flaxseed oil is commercially available in softgels. The seeds are also eaten raw, and can be added to cereals, salads, and yogurts. Flaxseed oil should not be used for cooking because of its low smoke point. At high temperature, low smoke point oils can break-down into harmful chemicals. Note that other cooking oil options do exist.
Flaxseeds contain a high amount of fat (65% daily value [DV]), most of which come from polyunsaturated fats. These beneficial fats may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases because they improve blood cholesterol levels. Apart from fat, flaxseeds are a good source of dietary fiber (109% DV). Dietary fiber plays a role in slowing down the absorption of sugar and improving blood sugar levels. A diet high in dietary fiber is also critical in relieving constipation.
Furthermore, thiamin is abundant in flaxseeds (110% DV). This vitamin helps turn fats, protein, and carbohydrates into usable energy that the body needs for growth and development. In addition to this vitamin, flaxseeds are rich in manganese (124% DV). Manganese, when combined with other nutrients, such as calcium (26% DV in flaxseed), is important for bone health. Flaxseeds also contain high amounts of magnesium (98% DV). This nutrient plays a role in bone and heart health, as well as nerve/muscle function. Besides manganese and magnesium, flaxseeds also have numerous other beneficial minerals such as phosphorus (64% DV), copper (61% DV), selenium (36% DV), iron (32% DV), and zinc (29% DV).