Can flax help you manage your weight? The answer is yes, in two important ways. First, flax is very high in fiber: only one ounce of flaxseed contains 32% of the recommended daily amount. Fiber helps to keep weight down in several ways: first, high-fiber foods have what’s called low energy density, which means fewer calories relative to the total weight of the food. Essentially, you can pile your plate with plenty of high-fiber foods without worrying about calorie overload. In addition to being low-calorie, foods that are high in fiber are also more filling. Fiber is absorbed by our bodies more slowly than other food compounds, which means that we feel full longer when we eat it. Flax in particular is more filling than other foods, since it swells to form a gel-like substance in the intestine, thereby delaying the passage of food from the stomach. Flax also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, which makes the energy we get from eating last longer and so prevents the early-onset “munchies” that we all know so well!
Secondly, flax contains high levels of the “good” kind of fat—polyunsaturated fats. A full 42% of flaxseed is oil, and 70% of that is the healthful polyunsaturated fat. Lots of diets recommend that we lower our fat intake, which is helpful only up to a point. Saturated fats, like the kind found in greasy French fries and pizza, are certainly bad for us and should be avoided. Polyunsaturated fats, however, are an essential part of our diet, and should not be cut out. Low-fat diets often give people the feeling of never being “full,” since fats in large part are what give us a “full” feeling. This, of course, just makes us eat more, and has been the downfall of many a determined dieter. Consuming the proper amount of polyunsaturated fat, as found in flaxseed, can help to give us that “full” feeling without the harm of saturated fats, and thereby help us to maintain a healthy diet.
If weight management is important to you, I would recommend dividing your daily flax intake into three portions, and taking a little bit with each meal. You’ll feel “full” more quickly with less food, and you’ll take longer to get hungry afterwards. I’d also recommend eating other foods that are high in fiber, like legumes, fruits, vegetables, bran cereals, and whole-grain breads (being careful, of course, to avoid too many carbohydrates). Flax can be helpfully added to all sorts of these nutritious foods, like bran muffins and wheat bread.
Finally, remember to drink at least eight glasses of water a day, to get plenty of sleep and exercise, and to
-Esther Hylden, R.N.
Golden Valley Flax