Flaxseed continues to be an increasingly popular ingredient, frequently added to meals and snacks due to its pleasant taste and health properties[1-8].
Flaxseed is a rich source of protein, fibre, vitamins and the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can be converted to EPA and DPA by the body. Read here for more information.
Phytoestrogens are derived from plants and have a chemical structure that is similar to that of human oestrogen. Phytoestrogens are naturally present in many common foods such as vegetables, seeds, berries, wine and tea. There are a variety of structurally different compounds including lignans which are found in flaxseed and grains. Phytoestrogens can bind to the oestrogen receptor in humans and can act either like weak oestrogen promoters or inhibitors.
Lignans play a role in plant growth and act as antioxidants in human metabolism. They are converted into weak oestrogenic compounds in the intestines via the gut flora which renders lignans inactive. Therefore, lignans present no effect on the body’s oestrogen levels. However, in chronic intestinal illness, the flora may have suboptimal binding abilities, potentially leading to a slight increase in oestrogen levels.
Concern has been raised that the ingestion of phytoestrogens could alter the uptake of testosterone in males. However, these claims are unfounded and based on poorly designed studies on rodents that were administered large quantities of extracted phytoestrogens. There have been no reported medical cases of testosterone disturbance due to phytoestrogens in humans derived from dietary intake and the consumption of phytoestrogens from flaxseed does not appear to affect sex hormone metabolism.
Cyanide is naturally present in the environment and plants that are able to liberate hydrogen cyanide (HCN) are referred to as ‘cyanogenic’. Nearly 3,000 plant species have been reported to be cyanogenic: the most common include almonds, soya and flaxseed[16, 17], where they occur naturally.
You’re more likely to ingest these trace amounts of cyanide when such foods are consumed raw and dry, as heat and water degrade these compounds. When flaxseed is eaten raw, the body has a natural capacity to break down cyanide compounds which are expelled through urine and breath[16, 18]. without any harm to health[16, 18].
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