Linseed oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the flax plant seeds. This vegetable oil, also called flaxseed oil, contains compounds that are beneficial for our health. Both linseed as well as linseed oil is loaded with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a fatty acid that is essential for the health of our heart. It helps to prevents development of several heart conditions. Alpha-linolenic acid is a member of the group of fatty acids known as omega-3 fatty acids.
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Aside from its therapeutic uses, linseed oil or flaxseed oil has a wide range of applications from using it in oil painting to furniture finishing oil. Often, this oil is found in arts supply and hardware stores. Moreover, there are several options of using this oil and each of them behave somewhat differently when the oil is used for different purposes.
People using linseed in the form of a dietary supplement actually desire to obtain the health benefits of the nutritional constituents of this oil when it is in its raw and cold-pressed form. However, here is a word of caution. People who wish to consume this oil for its health benefits ought to ensure that they buy only flaxseed oil whose package clearly mentions that it is "food grade".
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Among its various applications, the use of linseed oil in furniture furnishing is typical. This oil should not be consumed in its raw form. However, the raw oil can be used as a polish on unfinished wood to give them a rich and glowing look. Usually, unfinished wood requires several coatings of linseed oil and it also takes a very long time for the finishing oil to between the coats to dry completely. Hence, one needs to have some patience while undertaking the finishing process. However, the supposed "boiled" or "heated" linseed oil that has been treated already dries up much faster, thereby enabling people to apply several coats of the oil on unfinished wood in a relatively shorter period.
In fact, treated linseed oil is also incorporated in several products such as paints, varnishes, inks and resins since it dries up very quickly, thereby promoting speedy and even drying. Painters use the treated linseed oil in the form of a carrier oil for their paints, as it helps to give a rich glow to their paintings. Subject to the quantity of oil used in a pain, a painter is also able to change the paint’s thickness from very thick and lumpy to thin and transient.
It is worth mentioning here that treated linseed oil has a tendency to have a dark amber hue. At the same time, its odour is noticeably sharp. The odour as well color of treated linseed oil is a warning that it is unsafe for consumption. On the other hand, flaxseed oil has a light golden color and practically it is tasteless and odourless.
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Flaxseed oil offers a very rare health benefit. Flax encloses high amounts of mucilage gums - which are dietary fiber in gel form. Mucilage gums are water-soluble and, hence, they can move through our gastrointestinal (GI) tract easily and still remain undigested. Consuming flaxseeds can help to retain the food in your stomach for long, thereby preventing the food from passing into the small intestine too quickly. This quality of flaxseed is attributed to its mucilage gum content. As a result, it helps the body to absorb the nutrients in the ingested food and, at the same time, make one feel fuller. This is because the fiber present in flaxseed is not broken down into simpler substances in our digestive tract. This is the reason why a part of the calories in flax is not taken up by the body. Therefore, consuming flaxseed does not increase your calorie intake.
The carbohydrate content of flax is very low - it is extremely low in both forms soluble as well as insoluble. As a result, it also endorses detoxification of the colon and may aid in fat loss as well as in suppressing cravings for sugar. It is recommended that most adults should try to consume anything between 25 grams and 40 grams of fiber by consuming foods that are rich in fiber content daily. Consumption of only two tablespoons of flaxseed daily will provide the body with about 20 to 25 per cent of an individual’s daily requirement of dietary fiber.
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Among all varieties of vegetable oils available in the market, flaxseed oil contains the maximum amount of omega-3 fatty acids and this makes this oil highly beneficial for our overall health. Although both types of cholesterol - HDL and LDL - are vital for our body, omega-3 fatty acids are storehouses of high density lipo-protein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids aid in removing low density lipo-protein (LDL) or the "bad" cholesterol and maintain a healthy balance of the two cholesterols in the body. In other words, when the level of LDL is low in the blood stream, there would be no plaque build-up on the arterial walls and the other blood vessels. This, in turn, will diminish the chances of developing heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis. In addition, it will also help to maintain normal blood pressure. Hence, it is important to eat flaxseed if you want to protect your heart from all the above mentioned conditions.
The ability of flaxseed to improve our digestive health has been established by several studies. Alpha-linolenic acid found in flax has the ability to diminish inflammation and, at the same time, protect the gastrointestinal tract's lining from damage. It has been found that flaxseed is very useful for people enduring Crohn's disease as well as other digestive problems. In addition, flaxseeds also promote the growth and development of good gut flora. The fiber present in flaxseeds nourishes the good bacteria in the colon, thereby helping to cleanse all toxic and waste substances from your system.
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Flaxseeds are loaded with both soluble as well as insoluble dietary fiber. In other words, these seeds are extremely beneficial for normal bowel movements. Since flaxseeds possess the ability to bulk up stool and eliminated toxins and waste substances from the gastrointestinal tract owing to its gel-like form, they are said to be among the best natural cures for constipation. One can consume ground flaxseeds or take anything between one and three tablespoons of flaxseed oil mixed with eight ounce carrot juice to ensure that your bowel movements are normal. At the same time, people eating flaxseed or taking flaxseed oil also obtain plenty of magnesium, which also helps to improve digestive health as it hydrates stool and also relaxes the gastrointestinal tract muscles.
Flaxseeds also contain a number of hormones that enhance the quality as well as the quantity of fluid in the eyes. This is of importance because absence of enough fluid in the eyes can often be very bothersome. Regular intake of flaxseed oil in your diet can help you to put off dry eyes. In addition, flaxseeds have the ability to put off more serious types of dry eyes, for instance Sjogren's syndrome.
The anti-inflammatory property of flaxseed oil ensures that it can help us to prevent a variety of inflammation in the body, which includes muscle aches and joint pains. Moreover, it helps us to avoid conditions that are more serious, such as arthritis and gout. Flaxseed oil is known to be a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Hence, it is recommended that you include either flaxseed or flaxseed oil in your diet, especially if you are enduring any anti-inflammatory condition.
When a woman enters her menopausal phase, her body undergoes several dramatic changes; especially her hormonal balance is disturbed. The hormone that is most affected during menopause is estrogen. Flaxseed oil contains lignans like pinoresinol, matairesinol and secoisolariciresinol that can help in restoring the hormonal balance. In this way, the lignans help women in their post-menopausal phase to function in a better manner.
Aside from lignans, flaxseeds also include sufficient amounts of chemicals that change into lignans. Most important among these compounds is secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDD), which is later converted into entolactone and entrodiol. These lignans serve as phytoestrogens (or plant-based estrogens). From the structural and functional point of view these lignans are akin to the estrogens in the human body. They are capable of interacting, albeit feebly, with the estrogen receptors in the human body - such as the bones, heart, liver and brain.
It is believed that flaxseed oil may also help in easing menstrual cramps, symptoms associated with menopause and cures infertility. According to some studies, these compounds may help to put off development of various bone diseases such as osteoporosis, breast cancer and cancer of ovaries. To some extent flaxseed oil may also help to prevent prostate cancer.
Flaxseeds are also beneficial for the health of your hair. It makes your hair stronger, increases its resistance to damage and enhances its shine. Flaxseed contains ALA fats that are beneficial for your skin as well as hair, as they provide our body with the essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins. They help to reduce flakiness and dryness. At the same time, ALA fats have the ability to ease the symptoms associated to acne, eczema and rosacea. Moreover, these fats are also beneficial for the health of your eyes since flaxseeds possess the ability to decrease dry eye syndrome owing to their lubricating properties.
In fact, flaxseed oil is a wonderful option for improving the health of your eyes, hair, skin and nails as the concentration of healthy fats in them is much higher. If you desire to enhance the health of your hair, skin and nails, you may try including flaxseeds (two spoonfuls) in smoothies or add flaxseed oil (one tablespoonful) in your daily diet. You can also intake flaxseed oil (one or two spoonful) orally every day to keep your skin and hair hydrated. Alternatively, flaxseed oil may also be blended with other essential oils and applied topically to your skin as a natural moisturizer. The oil will soak into your skin and help to reduce its dryness.
Among the various health benefits of flaxseed, one is that they are loaded with antioxidants, especially lignans. These lignans are exceptional polyphenols related to fiber. Lignans supply our body with valuable antioxidants which are effective in reducing damages caused by the harmful free radicals. Hence, consumption of flaxseeds helps to prevent premature aging, regenerates the cells and maintains a healthy balance of hormones. Aside from flaxseeds, lignans are present in various unprocessed plant-based foods, including whole-grains, seeds, nuts, berries and beans. Harmful lifestyles like smoking, poor gut health, obesity and antibiotics and similar habits have an effect on the levels of lignans circulating in our body. This is the reason why one needs to take a diet loaded with nutrients to restore the levels of lignans.
It is believed that lignans are natural "phytoestrogens" (plant-based nutrients) which, to some extent, work in the same manner as the hormone estrogen found in the human body. Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens and they have the ability to modify estrogen metabolism, which either enhances or reduces the activity of estrogen subject to an individual's hormone status. This means that flaxseeds possess estrogenic as well as anti-estrogenic properties. For instance, lignans may cause the body of women in post-menopausal phase to produce forms of estrogen that are less active. This is associated with enhanced protection against growth and development of tumours.
Lignans are also said to possess anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Hence, consuming flaxseeds or flaxseed oil on a regular basis may aid in reducing the incidences as well as harshness of colds and flu. Findings of several studies have also shown that polyphenols promote probiotic growth in the gut. In addition, they may also be able to aid in getting rid of Candida and yeast from our body.