FLAX DIET AND NUTRITION
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain a fatty acid called omega-3. The type of omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed is called ALA – alpha-linolenic acid. 100 grams of flaxseed contain 22.8 grams of ALA omega-3 fatty acid, whereas 100 grams of flaxseed oil contain 53 grams of ALA omega-3 fatty acid. Research has shown that incorporating this fatty acid in one’s diet can help treat heart diseases, inflammatory bowel diseases, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other health issues.
This fatty acid (ALA) is also found in other plant products such as canola oil, soy oil, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. It is important to note there is a strong correlation between consuming fatty acids called omega-3 and fatty acids called omega-6. Consuming these two fatty acids in the right proportion can greatly impact a person’s health.
Most omega-6 fatty acids speed up inflammatory processes, whereas omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammatory processes.
A healthy nutrition will include a ratio of 2-4 between omega-6 and omega-3 (we need to consume more omega-6), but the problem is that Western diets contain much larger quantities of omega-6 than omega-3.
The American diet, for example, contains 30 times more omega-6 than omega-3 (even though the recommendation is to consume only 2 times as much). The human body converts ALA fatty acids into EPA and DHA fatty acids (which we can obtain from fish oil), but only to an extent, so that only a very small portion of the ALA is converted into DHA and EPA.
DHA and EPA have a strong impact on the human body because they enter the plasma and cell membranes very quickly. In order to achieve the desired impact from consuming DHA and EPA we need very large quantities of ALA. However, the problem is that consuming large quantities of ALA from flaxseed can cause diarrhea and raise blood sugar levels.
On the other hand, there is an advantage to consuming ALA from flaxseed, which cannot be found in fish oil. The advantage of consuming ALA from flaxseed or other plants is that it is also a good source of vitamin E.
As a result, the dietary recommendation for people interested in supplementing their nutrition with omega-3 fatty acid is to prefer omega-3, which is found in fish, over omega-3 sources from flaxseed or other plants.