My posts have been quite sparing this month. Thanks to my crashed computer, I’ve had an abnormally peaceful month: watching TV (instead of sticking to the computer) after work, getting to bed earlier, and not having to think what to write for my next post…
Because of all of these, I’ve had the luxury of reading up on a few books about fats. So yes, my comeback post will be about fats, fats that every one of us needs: essential fatty acids. If you are like me, not being able to splurging on the expensive deep-water fish on a regularly basis, the omege-3-rich flaxseeds may be something that piques your interest.
Flaxseeds: A Rich Source of Omega-3
Flaxseeds are rich in fiber, lignans, and EFAs, which are necessary for our body’s proper functioning. The omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds can help increase the good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) and reduce the bad one (low-density lipoprotein) in our bloodstream. Omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent heart disease, stroke, and cancers. From a beauty perspective, they can also provide moisture to our skin and replenish collagen, a building block of protein, in our skin.
However, the biggest problem is human body can’t produce EFAs on its own. If you want to have EFAs, you must eat foods that contain EFAs such as flaxseeds.
Ground or Whole Flaxseed or Flaxseed Oil?
A brief visit to the supermarket quickly let me know there are at least three forms of flaxseeds. They are flaxseed oil, flaxseed meal, and flaxseeds.
Flaxseeds, which were what I bought, cost only HK$16.9 for a pack of 250g. However, I was amazed to find out the cost of flaxseed meal was a triple of its seed form! While both were certified by USDA (without pesticide, herbicide, chemical fertilizer or artificial colorings), I had no idea why they were priced so differently. A quick glimpse at its nutrition facts didn’t give me a bit of an idea either. So, I grabbed the cheapo version: flaxseeds without second thought.
It is only later that I know that ground flaxseeds are preferred because our body may not be able to digest all the benefits whole flaxseeds offer. Which is to say, some of the goodies of whole flaxseeds may go through your intestines directly without being absorbed. As for the oil, according to the books I’ve read, it’s the richest source of omega-3 among other vegetable oils such as olive and sunflower oils. However, some also say that flaxseed oil doesn’t have the beneficial fiber that seeds have to offer.
Difference Between Fish and Plant Sources of EFAs
Apart from the form of flaxseed you take, there is also another question: is the kind of EFAs from flaxseeds the same as that of cold-water fish? Good question! EFAs coming from fish and plants are actually different. EFAs from fish are called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) while those from plants are called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The body partially converts ALA to EPA and DHA. However, as the Harvard School of Public Health points out, it is yet to know whether vegetable and fish omega-3 fatty acids are equally beneficial.
Not being a nutritionist myself, I decide to take the plunge and have a go at it. I can’t judge how flaxseeds have helped me fight aging, but as far as I can see, my eye wrinkles seem to be under control, and the lines also seem to be softer. But note that I also eat many other natural foods. I have no way to tell whether it’s flaxseeds or the combo effect of the foods I eat that work the magic. Of course, all of the improvement I see may also be my own illusion
Do you include flaxseeds or other sources of essential fatty acids in your meals?