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Flaxseed Helps Reduce High Blood Pressure

Posted by Geoff Beaty on 24 April 2022
Flaxseed Helps Reduce High Blood Pressure

Flaxseed: What is it?

Flaxseed is a grain that contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (so-called “good fat”), and fibre.

For the study, 110 patients with high blood pressure and peripheral artery disease added 30 grams of milled flaxseed to their diet each day for six months. Results were compared to a similar group of people who added a placebo to their diets. The group with the flaxseed in their diet showed a measurable decrease in blood pressure.

Lowering blood pressure is one way people can significantly reduce their risk of stroke and heart attack, and anything we can do with diet and exercise to reduce that risk is a huge health benefit.

Would I recommend that people eat more milled flaxseed based on this study? I would certainly consider including flaxseed in a diet for improved cardiovascular health, and milled flaxseed is thought to be better absorbed than other forms.

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers. Systolic is the top number and diastolic is the bottom number. Systolic pressure indicates how much pressure is on your artery walls when your heart is beating. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure of blood in the arteries when the heart is resting between beats. According to the AMA (Australian Medical Association):

  • Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), according to AHA.
  • Stage 1 high blood pressure is a systolic pressure of 130 to 139 mmHg or a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89 mmHg.
  • Stage 2 high blood pressure is a systolic pressure of 140 mmHg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 90 mmHg or higher.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is dangerous because it's a risk factor for heart attack and stroke, so it needs to be controlled. Some people are able to lower it with lifestyle changes, including adding flaxseed to their diet.

Flaxseed’s Secret: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

What is it in flaxseed, or flaxseed meal, that can lower blood pressure?

Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s, which are essential fatty acids. Flaxseed is particularly rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid you can get only through food — your body doesn't make it. ALA is believed to help lower blood pressure.

Flaxseed offers a bounty of nutrients. Every tablespoonful of ground flaxseed has:

  • 37 calories.
  • 1.3 grams of protein.
  • 2 grams of carbs.
  • 1.9 grams of fibre.
  • 3 grams of total fat.
  • 0.3 grams of saturated fat.
  • 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat.
  • 2.0 grams of polyunsaturated fat.

Adding Flaxseed to Your Diet

While the exact amount of flaxseed needed to lower blood pressure isn't clear, there are heart health benefits from having just 30 grams of the seeds every day. That's about 2 tablespoons.

The best way to get the most from flaxseeds is to grind them into flaxseed meal (a spice or coffee bean grinder works great). That's because their hard outer shell is difficult for the body to break down in order to absorb its beneficial nutrients.

Getting flaxseed in your diet is easy. You can add it to oatmeal, yoghurt and smoothies. You also can substitute a portion of ground flaxseed for flour in bread, muffin or cookie recipes.

Ground Flaxseed Nutrition Facts

Whether ground or whole, flaxseeds are a powerhouse of nutrition. This functional food is 20 to 30 percent protein and boasts large doses of omega-3s, lignans, ferulic acid and other phytonutrients. Furthermore, it's gluten-free.

These tiny seeds contain up to 800 more lignans than other plant-based foods. Diets rich in lignans have been linked to lower rates of heart disease, Some studies suggest that these polyphenols may also protect against ovarian, endometrial and breast cancers, but more research is needed to confirm.

The potential benefits of flaxseed meal and ground flaxseeds are largely due to their high content of fibre, lignans and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). These compounds may help reduce inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. Fibre, for example, may increase bowel movement frequency and aid in weight management. In clinical trials, flaxseed meal has lowered blood glucose levels and improved blood lipids, according to the Journal of Food Science and Technology review.

It's important to note that flaxseed meal also contains phytic acid, linamarin and cyanogenic glycosides. When consumed in large doses, these anti-nutrients may affect vitamin absorption. 

To stay safe, try not to exceed 50 grams per day. If you're taking birth control pills or medications for diabetes, high blood pressure or blood clotting, it's better to avoid these seeds altogether as they may cause drug interactions. Also, be aware that flaxseeds may reduce the absorption of oral medications.

How to Use Flaxseed Meal

Some foods, such as whole-grain bread, multi-grain flour, granola bars, breakfast cereals and even cookies, may contain flaxseed meal or whole flaxseeds. A growing number of manufacturers are adding them to baked goods and dairy foods. Additionally, they help increase the nutritional value of baked goods.

Incorporating flaxseed meal into your diet is simple. This functional ingredient can handle high heat and makes a healthy addition to both savoury and sweet dishes. Consider using flaxseed meal in smoothies, banana bread, and homemade muesli. 

 

Author:Geoff Beaty
Tags:NewsResourcesEvidence Based ResearchCancerCardiovascular HealthFood as Medicine

Associations

  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
  • Society for Integrative Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Australian Traditional-Medicine Society
  • Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia