I had the opportunity recently to chat with a new friend who is currently managing a tumor by diet alone. As I chowed down on a delicious whole foods meal prepped by this friend and his wife, I was on the edge of my seat listening to his story. Several years back he found out about a large tumor dangerously close to his thoracic spine. Long story short- he decided not to undergo any of the radiation, drug therapies, or surgeries recommended to him. Instead he dedicated himself to a clean diet and has watched his tumor decrease drastically over the years. He even let me see the photos of his MRI's. Pretty incredible. Though it was late in the evening, I was not going to leave his house without finding out what his "cancer-fighting" diet looked like. The details are a story for another day, but I bring this up because one of his daily staples is flaxseed oil. I wasn't entirely surprised. Flax is like nutritional gold, and it confirmed what I already knew about its amazing health benefits. Let's take a look:
- Heart Health: The high content of omega 3's in flax help clear the circulatory system of cholesterol and fat deposits, minimizing risk of stroke and heart attack. Regular intake of flaxseed has been shown to lower levels of LDL-HDL cholesterol.
- Mental/Emotional: These omega 3's are one of the brain's essential building blocks and are necessary for maintaining brain and nervous system function.
- Digestive Health: Flaxseeds contain a unique "gel-forming" type of fiber that helps regulate the movement of food through the intestines, as well as optimizing nutrient absorption.
- Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory: The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of flax are their contribution to a healthy cardiovascular system. Oxidation and inflammation are often contributors to a wide variety of other health problems including immune dysfunction, GI issues, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance/ weight gain, asthma, and cancer.
- Cancer: It is these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that make flax a great preventative tool for cancer. Inflammation and oxidative damage are often contributors to cancer. Studies are showing that because of flax's hormone balancing properties, it is especially significant in risk reduction for breast, prostate, and other hormone-related cancers. The lignans in flaxseeds that have these hormone balancing properties also support phase II detox pathways, increasing the removal of toxins that may otherwise act as carcinogens.
Adding just 1-2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed or oil to your daily diet is a great way to boost your overall health. Buy flaxseeds whole and grind them in a coffee or spice grinder for optimal potency. Keep ground flaxseeds and flax oil in refrigerator to prevent rancidity. Add into smoothies, salads, baked goods (bake at lower temperature), or use the ground seeds as a binding agent. My latest fave? Flax Oil Pesto!
Flax Oil Pesto
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Yield: About 1 cup pesto
- 1/2 cup flax oil
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed down
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, packed down
- 1/2 cup pine nuts or cashews
- 1/4 cup black olives
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- salt and pepper to taste
- Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Be careful not to let your machine heat up too much, as the flax oil is sensitive and we don't want to overheat it.
If the flavor of the flax oil is too bitter or strong for your liking, sub 1/4 cup flax oil for 1/4 cup olive oil to tame it down.
I am especially diggin my Flax Oil Pesto with spaghetti squash and feta....
Bauman, Edward. 2014. Therapeutic Nutrition. Vol. 2. Penngrove, Ca: Bauman College, Print.
"Flaxseeds." Flaxseeds. George Maljan Foundation, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015. <http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=81>.
Murray, Michael T., Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria, 2005. Print.