Easy Ways to Add Flaxseeds to Your Diet

Flaxseed for Breast CancerBy: Michelle Whitmer medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center.
Bust out your coffee grinder, and get ready for a new way to boost your energy and reduce breast cancer risk: flaxseeds! The little seeds of the flax plant are packed with nutrition and can be easily added to your diet in many ways.
Dr.  Michael Greger, a physician who specializes in clinical nutrition, has touted the benefits of flaxseeds for breast cancer patients here at Breast Cancer Yoga. Now it’s time to think about ways to get these beneficial seeds into your body to fuel that beautiful machine! Whether you are trying to prevent breast cancer, are going through treatment, or a survivor, flaxseeds offer health benefits to everyone.
Flaxseed Tips: Buying, Storing and Eating
You can buy flaxseeds in three forms: whole, ground and as an oil.
Whole flaxseeds possess the longest shelf life, however, eating the seeds whole doesn’t offer much dietary benefit (the hull around the seed prevents our bellies from getting to the good stuff inside). Ground flaxseed offers the most health benefit, but it oxidizes once ground and will lose some of its nutritional value if not consumed quickly.
Grinding whole seeds before consuming them is the ideal option for nutrient value. If you don’t have a miller or grinder at home (a coffee grinder works well), simply buy ground flaxseed, also called flaxseed meal. Keep your flaxseed – whole seeds, ground meal or flaxseed oil – cool in the fridge or freezer to prevent oxidation. It is particularly important to store ground flaxseed in a cold place to reduce oxidation.
Begin with small doses, and gradually increase your consumption because flaxseed is high in fiber. Make sure to drink extra water with flaxseed to prevent constipation. Start with a teaspoon of ground flaxseed a day, and slowly work your way up to two tablespoons a day.
Consider some of the following options to work flaxseeds seamlessly into your diet:

  • Add ground flaxseed to cereal, oatmeal, granola or yogurt.
  • Sprinkle whole or ground flaxseed onto salads.
  • Include ground flaxseed in baked goods like zucchini muffins.
  • Stir ground flaxseed into condiments like mustard and ketchup.
  • Mix whole or ground flaxseed into breadcrumbs.
  • Blend flaxseed oil into smoothies or into a vinaigrette for salads.

Ground flaxseed will naturally thicken when introduced to water. Some even describe the effect as gel-like. Just add more water to thin it out.
A dose of flaxseed may not contain the caffeine you’ll find in coffee, but the nutrients packed in these tiny seeds will give you a natural energy boost that lasts. And when you’re coping with or recovering from cancer, a little extra energy goes a long way.
Author bio: Michelle Whitmer has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center since 2008. Focused on the benefits of natural and holistic medicine for cancer patients, Michelle is a certified yoga instructor and earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Rollins College in Florida.

Michelle WhitmerAuthor bio: Michelle Whitmer has been a medical writer and editor for The Mesothelioma Center since 2008. Focused on the benefits of natural and holistic medicine for cancer patients, Michelle is a certified yoga instructor and earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Rollins College in Florida.

Breast Cancer Survival and Soy


-Michael Greger, M.D.

In my two recent posts The Best Detox and Breast Cancer Stem Cells vs. Broccoli, I documented ways to 1) boost our liver’s ability to clear carcinogens, 2) make our DNA more resistant to toxins that make it past our first line of defense, and 3) then ramp up immune surveillance of any budding tumors—all in hopes of preventingcancer. But what about for those who already have it?

Though small consolation, one consequence of the fact that breast cancer is now the #1 cancer killer of young women is that breast cancer survival is a very active area of research. For example, a major study was recently published that followed 4,000 women with breast cancer for 7 years. Not all of them made it to the end. The researchers tried to figure out if there was anything about the diets of the non-survivors that may have played a role in their deaths. Two dietary components in particular were associated with an early death: saturated fat and trans fat.

Breast cancer survivors may decrease their risk of dying by 41% simply by avoiding saturated fat, found primarily in the American diet in cheese, chicken, and junk food (see my 3-minute video Breast Cancer Survival, Butterfat, and Chicken). And breast cancer survivors may improve their survival 78% by avoiding trans fat, found primarily in junk food and animal products (see my 1-minute video Breast Cancer Survival and Trans Fat). Ideally, everyone should try to minimize the intake of both, as explained in Trans Fat, Saturated Fat and Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero.

On the other hand, the two foods expected to improve breast cancer survival are flax seeds and soy products. Breast cancer is initially so slow-growing that women may have tumors for years or even decades before they’re diagnosed (see my 1-minute video Cancer Prevention and Treatment May Be the Same Thing). So one might expect that the same dietary factors that helped grow the tumor in the first place would keep goading it on after diagnosis. This may not always be the case, though.Alcohol, for example, is strongly associated with breast cancer risk, but the data has been mixed as to whether once you already have a full-blown tumor, it makes a difference if you continue to drink or not. Still, in general, the diet that helps prevent breast cancer is the same diet that’s going to help prolong survival. And that certainly seems to be the case for the phytonutrients found in flax and soy.

Flax seeds are the most concentrated source of lignans, a class of cancer-fighting compounds that may cut breast cancer mortality risk in half (see my 3-minute videoBreast Cancer Survival and Lignan Intake). Interestingly, there are no lignans actually found in the seeds, just precursors that the good bacteria in our gut turn into lignans. This may explain why women who have frequent urinary tract infections have higher breast cancer rates—the courses of antibiotics wipe out the gut flora critical to the production of these anti-cancer compounds (see my 2-minute Flax and Fecal Flora).

Soy foods appear to help prevent breast cancer and prolong survival more directly, though. In Breast Cancer Survival and Soy I review the only three human studies to date, all of which suggest soy is beneficial. Before we had any human data, rodent studies found conflicting results, and we just found out why. It turns out rats and mice metabolize the phytoestrogens in soy up to 150 times less efficiently than humans. The faulty old lab rat data continue to be cited by soy detractors, however, even though we now have studies published on thousands of actual breast cancer survivors. While the jury may still be out on whether to feed tofu to your pet rat, the verdict is in on soy in human beings: not guilty.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

image credit: imgdive / Flickr and MesserWoland / Wikimedia Commons

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