What Are Flax Seeds?
Flax seeds are procured from the plant Linum usitatissimum. The seeds are kenned for their oil content while the stems are abundant in high-quality fiber. Nutritionists and fitness fanatics globally are haunting over the health interests of flax seeds.
The alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and the fiber content of flax seeds are accountable for their health benefits. ALA is an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic (anti-clotting) properties.
Flax seeds or flax seed oil are frequently used as fish oil substitutes. You can also find either the seeds or their products in fiber bars (granola bars), bread, muffins, cereal, and meat extenders.
How Can Flax Seeds Be Harmful?
A comprehensive analysis has shown the presence of anti-nutrients in flax seeds. Anti-nutrients are molecules that may have unfavorable effects on your health. Cyanogenic glycosides and phytic acid are the most abounding anti-nutrients found in these seeds.
These molecules form malignant intermediates – like hydrogen cyanide – in your body. They can also conflict with the absorption of minerals, such as calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron.
Anti-nutrients are heat-sensitive. They deteriorate when you cook or roast flax seeds. However, the presence of these components in raw seeds result in various side effects.
Eating the seeds in large amounts is another cause of these issues.
What Are The Side Effects Of Flax Seeds?
Overconsumption of flaxseeds can cause bloating, gas, stomach ache, and nausea. There are also various chronic problems associated with flax seed intake.
1. Leads To Fiber Overload And Constipation
About 21% of flax seeds is dietary fiber. Immediate overconsumption of these seeds enhances the fiber load in your body. And too much fiber can clog your stomach and intestines.
You may encounter stomach ache, cramps, and even constipation in such cases. Insufficient water intake may also worsen your health. Eating small portions of flax seeds with adequate water is the right way to go.
Moreover, people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or constipation are at a greater risk of undergoing such side effects. It is best to ask a healthcare provider to learn more about the dosage and safety of flax seeds.
2. Cyanide Toxicity
Nuts and seeds like cashews, almonds, legumes, and flax seeds have traces of cyanide compounds. It is all right to consume them in small quantities.
Moreover, most of the cyanogen glycosides are heat sensitive. They get deteriorated into tinier molecules that dissolve or are less lethal when you roast or cook flax seeds.
The problem occurs when you eat large amounts of raw flax seeds. Since raw flax seeds have the deadly cyanide residues intact, it could cause cyanide toxicity. However, a study suggests that daily
consumption of as much as eight tablespoons of raw flax seeds is safe!
Don’t worry, though. If you follow the prescribed dose, these seeds are one of the utmost nutritious and healthiest food alternatives out there.
3. May Cause An Allergic Reaction
Like other nuts and seeds, flax seeds (and flaxseed oil) can also act as allergens. Some people develop skin rashes and severe constipation upon ingesting these seeds.
Shortness of breath (dyspnea) and hives were reported in a 42-year-old female who had flax flour. Anaphylaxis is another risk associated with the intake of these seeds. You may notice swelling on the face (facial edema) in some cases.
4. May Increase Bleeding
Flax seeds contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential for the proper functioning of the brain, heart, and body. However, they are also connected to bleeding disorders.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to slow down blood clotting and increase bleeding. They repress the aggregation of blood platelets, which is a critical step in the formation of a blood clot.
Hence, it is important to guard your flaxseed intake if you are on blood-thinning or heart medication. Do not consume Aspirin, Coumadin, or herbal medicines like Ginkgo biloba along with these seeds. This is because these drugs might associate with fatty acids and prolong bleeding time and blood loss.
How Much Flax Seed Is Safe To Eat?
It is recommended to consume about 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds or 1 tablespoon of flax seed oil every day to reap its health benefits. Having 9-10 g or 1 tablespoon of these seeds a day can provide the required levels of ALAs (1.6 g/day for males and 1.1 g/day for females).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved these seeds on a “no objection basis” to be included in the food. Hence, it is safe to presume that flax seeds are safe to eat in limited amounts.
You can use flax seeds in making baked goods, energy bars/granola bars, gums, and thickeners.
But, don’t forget to drink enough water (2-4 liters/day at least) to limit the side effects of these tiny seeds.
Flax seeds are becoming popular as functional foods. But, consuming flax seeds or their products in high amounts can lead to fiber and anti-nutrient overload. Side effects like constipation, allergies, toxicity, and mineral deficiency may follow.
To avoid such setbacks, eat small portions of flax seeds, hydrate your body well, and beware of drug interactions. Consult your healthcare provider to figure out its dosage and safety.