I would argue that the word “super food” is thrown around a little too often if you know what I mean.
Now, don't get me wrong -- there are a lot of foods out there that are full to the brim with potent vitamins and minerals that are great for health and function.
But that doesn't make them super.
In my mind, for a food to be considered “super” it needs to exhibit beneficial effects on your health that are greater than its nutritional content alone. It needs to offer something more than just vitamins and minerals.
It needs to be something like Flaxseed, for example.
What is Flaxseed?
Flaxseed (or for those of you who speak a little latin, “Linum usitatissimum”) is a supplement derived from small seeds called “flax seeds”.
These little seeds (also known as linseeds) are full to the brim with oil, and have been consumed by eastern countries for centuries, where they have long been promoted for their potent health boosting properties.
More recently, however, they have become a staple in the diet of fitness enthusiasts across the globe due to their rich content of healthy fatty acids, high quality fiber, and abundance of other potent plant compounds.
With this in mind, flax seed consumption has been linked to improvements in numerous aspects of health.
Flax Seeds Benefits
No matter how you choose to consume flax seed (we grind it up into a fine powder so that it is easily digested and nothing goes to waste), it can offer several unique benefits to your health and function.
1. Enhance Weight Loss
Flax seeds are absolutely full to the brim with what is known as “soluble fibre” -- which makes flaxseed powder an extremely useful weight loss supplement.
Soluble fibre becomes really “sticky” when it is combined with water. This means that when you consume flaxseeds, they absorb the water in your gut, and form a thick substance within your stomach and digestive tract.
While this may not sound like a good thing, it actually helps reduce hunger cravings by making you feel fuller for longer.
With this in mind, research has consistently shown that supplementing with flaxseed can promote greater weight loss than simply diet and exercise alone. It is important to note that most studies recommend around 30 grams per day to receive the optimal weight loss benefits .
2. Reduce Inflammation
One of the most interesting plant compounds found within Flaxseed aer known as “Lignans”, which have been shown to have a number of unique effects in the human body.
One of which revolves around inflammation.
Lignans act as a potent antioxidant, where they scavenge harmful free radicals from the cells of your body. They also prevent inflammatory compounds from circulating in the blood, reducing arterial damage.
As a result, they have been shown to reduce systemic inflammation throughout your whole body .
This is seriously important from a health perspective because it can lead to a reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. Moreover, from an exercise perspective, it may speed up recovery after exercise -- which is essential to making long term gains.
3. Lower Blood Pressure
Above I mentioned that flaxseed is full of healthy fats -- to be more specific, it is full of “omega-3 fatty acids” which play an important role in regulating blood platelet function. When this is combined with the ability to reduce inflammation within the arteries, you have a recipe for success.
In fact, research has shown that supplementing with flaxseed every day for 6 months can cause a marked reduction in blood pressure. In some cases it is even enough to move people from unhealthy to healthy ranges .
While this is unlikely to impact the results of your training in the short term, high blood pressure is one of the most common issues to plague modern society, and is a known contributor to heart disease.
As such, supplementing with flaxseed can keep your heart healthy well into your old age, which is key if you want to be lifting heavy things for the rest of your life.
4. Reduces Blood Sugar
By reducing systemic inflammation, flaxseed supplementation has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels . This can cause a subsequent improvement in insulin resistance, which can aid in the prevention of diabetes.
More importantly, good blood sugar control is integral to not only optimising health, but also improving sport performance and recovery -- making flaxseed a good choice for those of us into this whole “training” thing.
5. Improves Digestion
Feel free to let me know if this is too much information, but in my opinion, one of the worst things about bulking is the digestive discomfort that comes with eating an absurd amount of food.
I mean, I get it -- you need to eat big to get big, right, but that doesn't mean your stomach will like you for it.
AKA welcome to bloat city.
Fortunately, the soluble fibre in flaxseed can facilitate the movement of food through your digestive tract, reducing bloating and stomach discomfort . More importantly, flaxseed consumption has also been linked to improvements in digestive health, which can contribute to better nutrient digestion.
I should note that because flaxseed can also blunt hunger when taken in higher dosages, you want to keep the dosage on the lower side (~25 grams or less per day). This will help digestion during a bulk without reducing your hunger.
Does Flaxseed Have Any Side Effects?
For the most part, flaxseed seems to be very well tolerated in most situations. In fact, some research has used up to 50 grams per day without any serious issues -- which is well above the recommended dosage of 10-30 grams per day.
However, some people may experience some issues with flaxseed.
While flaxseed can be very good for digestive health, if you do not consume much fibre, incorporating them into your diet too rapidly can lead to the onset of mild digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, and nausea.
It is for this reason that we often recommend starting at 10 grams per day and slowly increasing the dosage up to 20 or 30 grams per day over a couple of months.
There has also been some research conducted in pregnant animals demonstrating that the lignans within flax may lead to decreases in fetal birth weight, and may even impair reproductive development of the fetus -- particularly if consumed during early pregnancy.
While this research is in animals and uses extremely high dosages, it would be in your best interest to avoid flaxseed consumption if you are pregnant (you know, just to be on the safe side).
Finally, the omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed can exhibit a mild blood thinning effect. While this will not be an issue for most of you, it could become problematic if you take blood thinning medication.
As such, if you do take medication that can thin your blood, seek medical advice before supplementing with flaxseed.
While I am hesitant to give away the “superfood” title too easily, I am pretty convinced that flaxseed fits the bill.
With the ability to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, enhance digestion, reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and promote weight loss, they truly are a potent health boosting supplement.
If your goal is to lift weights, be healthy, and stay jacked will into your nineties, then flaxseed would be a worthy addition to your diet -- just make sure you implement it slowly and do not exceed 50 grams per day -- or your stomach will let you know about it.
- Mohammadi?Sartang, M., et al. "The effect of flaxseed supplementation on body weight and body composition: a systematic review and meta?analysis of 45 randomized placebo?controlled trials." Obesity Reviews 18.9 (2017): 1096-1107.
- Hallund, Jesper, et al. "The effect of a lignan complex isolated from flaxseed on inflammation markers in healthy postmenopausal women." Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 18.7 (2008): 497-502.
- Rodriguez-Leyva, Delfin, et al. "Potent antihypertensive action of dietary flaxseed in hypertensive patients." Hypertension 62.6 (2013): 1081-1089.
- Mani, Uliyar Vitaldas, et al. "An open-label study on the effect of flax seed powder (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation in the management of diabetes mellitus." Journal of dietary supplements 8.3 (2011): 257-265.
- Cunnane, Stephen C., et al. "Nutritional attributes of traditional flaxseed in healthy young adults." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61.1 (1995): 62-68.