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11 Benefits of Flaxseed Oil You Never Knew

11 Benefits of Flaxseed Oil You Never Knew

I can’t say that I love flaxseed. I mean, it doesn’t really have a memorable taste! What I do love is how good it is for me and how easy it is to incorporate into my day! You can have it whole, ground, or as an oil. Add it to cereal, smoothies, salads, and more! Just don’t heat it up. Heating can destroy the health benefits of this wonderful seed.

King Charlemagne, in the 8th century, required his subjects to consume it. In fact, it was law! He believed in its health benefits that strongly. Some of those benefits include a decrease in heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. That’s a lot of power for a little seed! But what else might it do?

It is such a tiny seed and some of its benefits come from the oil and others come from ingesting it from a ground-up state. It does have a short shelf life so if you don’t use it very much it will go rancid sooner than you’d like. Flaxseed oil contains vitamins such as B1, B2, C, E, and carotene, a form of vitamin A. The oil also contains omega-6 and omega-9 essential fatty acids, zinc, iron, and trace minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that promotes heart health .Flaxseed oil does not contain fiber and phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogen-like compounds) like the whole seed does.

The best option is to freshly grind it yourself and add it to your foods. I use a coffee grinder just for seeds and it works perfectly! Another good option is to buy it whole or ground and store it in the freezer. Finally, you can use the whole seeds but chew your food well. You should anyway, right? Whole seeds look really nice in muffins and in salads. Seeing the seeds is a nice reminder that you’re choosing a healthy lifestyle!

And just what are those benefits? Here we go!

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1. Cancer

Two of the most important components of flaxseed that may help protect against cancer are omega-3 fatty acids and lignans. Omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed, called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), have been shown to inhibit tumor incidence and growth.

Lignans (which are phytochemicals such as phytoestrogen) may help protect against hormone-related cancers like breast and prostate cancers by blocking enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism. This phytoestrogen binds to the cell receptors, blocking the ability of the body’s own hormones to bind. This interferes with the growth and spread of tumor cells.

2. Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascularly, flaxseed oil is like a blood vessel lubricant. It appears to keep the white blood cells from sticking to the inner walls of the blood vessels. This, in turn, prevents plaque from being deposited thereby preventing hardening of the blood vessels. Apparently, flaxseed oil is also useful in treating an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and heart failure!

3. Diabetes

By using the whole seed, flaxseeds may improve sensitivity to glucose in glucose-intolerant people. This may be related to the antioxidant properties of the seed. In other words, it may modestly improve blood sugar.

4. Inflammation

ALA has been shown to decrease inflammatory reactions in humans. Reducing inflammation associated with plaque buildup in the arteries may be another way flaxseed helps prevent heart attacks and strokes.

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5. Lupus

Flaxseed has also been shown to improve kidney function in people with lupus.

6. Stroke

As stated above, by reducing inflammation in the body, you reduce your chances of a stroke. However, there have also been indications that flax may bring on a stroke. You need to talk to your doctor to see if supplementing with flax is right for you.

7. Cholesterol

Again, by lubricating your blood vessels with flaxseed oil, you prevent plaque build-up and lower your risk of high cholesterol.

8. Dry eyes syndrome

According to Jack Greiner, DO, PhD, of Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston, a high-fat diet is partly responsible for this syndrome. Eating a high-fat diet prevents the oil in the eye glands from moving out. They get too thick! He believes that the omega-3 fat in flaxseed oils soften the glandular secretions so they can flow.

9. Arthritis

Other chemicals as well as ALA, as stated earlier, decrease inflammation in the body. That is why flaxseed oil is useful for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory (swelling) diseases.

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10. Depression

Flaxseed oil and omega-3 contains docosahexaenoic and eicosapentanoic acids. People with significant depression suffer from low levels of these compounds. These compounds are also found in walnuts and fish.

11. Liver disease

The lignans (phytochemicals) in flaxseeds may reduce liver disease risk factors.

The Cons

The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds aren’t taken up as well by the human body as the omega-3 in fish oil, which is why greater levels of flaxseed need to be consumed to meet our omega-3 needs. Flaxseeds have very high fiber content, so it’s best to start slowly and increase the levels gradually to avoid cramping, bloating, or an excessive laxative effect.

Precautions

Interactions

If you take any medicines or other supplements regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using flaxseed. Flaxseed may block the normal absorption of medicines. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil may also interact with drugs like blood thinners, NSAID painkillers, hormone treatments, and medicines for blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Use caution when taking flaxseed or flaxseed oil with supplements like St. John’s wort and Valerian, which are often used for people with depression.

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Risks

Never eat raw or unripe flaxseed — it could be poisonous. Talk to a doctor before using flaxseed or flaxseed oil if you have diabetes, bipolar disorder, high triglycerides, bleeding disorders, or prostate cancer. Don’t use flaxseed if you have digestive problems (like Crohn’s disease, IBS, or colitis) and women with hormone-sensitive diseases (like endometriosis, PCOS, breast cancer, and uterine cancer) should not use flaxseed.

Storage Tip

Keep it in the freezer.

The best place to store ground flaxseed is the freezer. Freeze ground flaxseed in a plastic sealable bag. The freezer will keep the ground flax from oxidizing and losing its nutritional potency.

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Jennifer Wasylenko

Exercise Physiologist, ACSM

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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