Know your natural supplements: is flax seed good for the heart?

November 4, 2008 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

“All-natural” or “natural health product” or natural nutritional supplement“. These are the buzzwords that appeal to the health-conscious individual. Over the years, many natural health products have been introduced to the market, supposedly good for our health and vascular system.

Facts about flax seed or linseed

Flax seed oil, also known as linseed oil is extracted by pressing the ripe seeds of the flax plant Linum usitatissimum. Flax seed oil is a popular nutritional supplement because it contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and lignans thought to be good for cardiovascular health. Flax seed is also rich in dietary fibers which are of importance in lowering blood cholesterol levels.

The fatty compositon of flax seed oil are as follows (Source: Flax Council of Canada):

  • Monosaturated fatty acids 18%
  • Saturated fatty acids 9%
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids Omega-3s 57%
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids Omega-6s 16%

The nutritional value per tbsp (approximately 14 g) of flax seed oil is as follows (Source: Flax Council of Canada):

  • Calories: 124
  • Total fat: 14g
  • Omega-3: 8g
  • Omega-6: 2g
  • Omega-9: 3g

Those who say flaxseed is good for the heart

According to the Flax Council of Canada

flax components decrease inflammatory factors associated with atherosclerosis – also called “hardening of the arteries” – and may help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

In a Nurses’ Health Study of 727 women, flax seed supplementation decreased the levels of cell adhesion molecules in the blood, which are biomarkers of atherosclerosis.

Another report states that the intake of omega 3 fat-rich diet such as flax seed and its derivatives can prevent abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmia. This has been demonstrated in cell cultures in the lab as well as in clinical studies of dietary supplementation.

Those who say flaxseed may not be beneficial as originally thought

In a review article published in the British Medical Journal in 2006, researchers reviewed the risks and benefits of omega 3 fats such as those found in flax seed oil for mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, with the following conclusions:

Long chain and shorter chain omega 3 fats do not have a clear effect on total mortality, combined cardiovascular events, or cancer.

In a more recent study, researchers at the Univesity of Montreal found that consumption of flax seed oil by pregnant women, especially during the last 2 trimesters increased the risk for premature delivery from 2% to 12%. However, the increased risk was not observed among those who consumed flax seed (but only the oil).

To summarize, the health benefits of flax seed oil is not clearly known. However, it doesn’t seem to do much harm except in pregnant women.

Photo credit: matka wari at stock.xchng

A Recipe For Life

April 17, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Recipe for Life–  “Recipe” will focus on various aspects of nutrition and health that will be helpful to caregivers, those affected with Alzheimer’s disease and everyone in between.  A well balanced diet, high in complex carbohydrates, with several servings of fruits and vegetables each day is essential to good physical and mental health.

During my 7 years as a caregiver for my mom, who had Alzheimer’s disease, I moved twice, had two horrible pregnancies (but two great sons!), traveled domestically and internationally and worked as a freelance writer.

I was always tired.  It seemed as if I literally woke up, even on the rare occasions that I got enough rest, still feeling tired.  I eventually became ill, as many caregivers do and the road to recovery has taught me many lessons.

The first is that I don’t need to be a martyr.  Martyrs are people who believe in a cause, person, or movement so much they were willing to give their lives.  While it sounds nice, the truth is that my mother needed me rested and healthy so that I could take care of her.  As nobel as it was that I was willing to “give my life” as it were, she needed me awake, alert and ALIVE.  I was of much less use to her (and my sons) when I was worn down, irritable and stressed.

Time is always of the essence.  I found then and still find today that smoothies are a wonderful (and quick) way to get in some fruits and vegetables, get a great pick me up and have an enjoyable drink all at the same time.

If you are exceptionally tired, consider these tips from Pat Crocker in her popular book, The Smoothies Bible.

Eat lots of:

Fresh fruits and vegetables

  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Eat just a little:
  • Fat found in meat and dairy products
  • Fried foods

Remove from your diet:

  • Caffeine and processed sugar
  • Refined (translate white) flours as they depletes the body’s nutrients
  • Processed foods
  • Margarine and salad oils (except olive)
  • Alcohol

Today’s Recipe(s) for life

To make smoothies, you will need a blender.  I use a vitamix, which is a very high powered blender, but the recipes here can be made with a standard, household blender.

Apple Fresh Smoothie

Ingredients:

¾ cup apple juice

2 apples peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup seedless grapes

Half a lemon peeled, seeded chopped

Instructions:

Put all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth

B-Vitamin Smoothie

B vitamins are important for brain function, nerve function, for converting protein, fat and carbs into energy and for healthy hair and skin.

Ingredients:

½ cup pineapple juice

¼ cup plain soy milk

1 cup chopped peeled pineapple

¼ cup fresh chopped pitted peeled apricots (okay to use dried)

1 ripe banana, peeled and chopped

1 TBS *wheat germ

2 tsp flax seed

1 tsp cod liver or hemp oil

Instructions

Place all ingredients into blender (liquid first) and blend till smooth

Note: I find that stocking up on flax seed and wheat germ makes it easy to add them to almost any smoothie.  Both are reasonably priced and keep will in the fridge or freezer.

*Wheat germ is a super food of sorts, it contains potassium, vitamin E, several B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.  You can find the raw version (my personal favorite) at health food stores and the toasted version in your local grocery store.

*Flax comes in seed and oil form.  I generally use the seeds. Sometimes I grind them first in my coffee grinder and sometimes I put them directly into the blender. Flax provides fiber (seed) and essential fatty acids.

Well, there you have it! Your Recipe for LIFE

Please try out the smoothies and let me know what you think.  Bottoms Up!

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.