In my 20s, I did nutritional research that lead me to the powers of the humble flaxseed. I started to include them in my/our diet, but I couldn’t find a way to incorporate them consistently, so I stopped eating them.
Change is hard, isn’t it?
Last year, as I proceeded through treatment for breast cancer, I came across a study: Dietary flaxseed alters tumor biological markers in postmenopausal breast cancer.
The results were stunning.
Conclusion: Dietary flaxseed has the potential to reduce tumor growth in patients with breast cancer.
Read that again. I was so hopeful, and honestly stunned, that I took the study in hand to my oncologist and we discussed further. She confirmed the studies have been exciting and that most women would benefit from including ground flaxseed in their diets.
Since then, I have included them in mine. I still struggle to find a way to add them consistently (not a yogurt eater), but the information I have gleaned makes it important for me to keep trying.
The benefits go hand-in-hand with a clean diet of lots of fruits, veggies and lean protein.
And cake. Some cake, right?
While the benefits are HUGE for women who have had breast cancer, everyone, including men, can benefit from adding this humble seed in their diets.
CAVEAT: I am not a doctor and this is not intended as medical advice. Talk to your doc before adding flaxseed to your diet if you have concerns.
The Amazing Power of the Humble Flax Seed
This post has tons of study links and info. If you’re only going to read one post of the use of flaxseed in conjunction with the reduction of breast cancer, this is the one to read.
Outside of an experimental setting, there just weren’t a lot of women eating flax seeds regularly to study—until now. Matching 3,000 women with breast cancer to 3,000 women without, a study published in Cancer Causes and Control found that consumption of flaxseed (and of flax bread) was associated with a 20–30 percent reduction in breast cancer risk. The researchers note that, as flaxseeds are packed with lignans, only a small daily serving of flaxseed is required to attain the level of lignan intake associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk. Researchers concluded: “As it appears that most women do not consume flaxseed and that small amounts may be associated with reduced breast cancer risk, interventions to increase the prevalence of flaxseed consumption might be considered.”
A study showed flaxseed to be as effective as hormone replacement therapy in the management of menopausal symptoms.
WHOA! That is a huge benefit!
Studies of postmenopausal women showed that flaxseed supplementation improved the ratio of hormones that are thought to help prevent breast cancer. Studies in animals have shown promising results, but human data are lacking.
~ Oncology Nutrition
While research has shown some benefits with regards to ER+ breast cancer cell death and prevention of metastases within mice and cellular models, it is recommended that human intake should be through diet only, not supplementation. Only moderate amounts of ground flaxseeds, up to two to three tablespoons per day at most, should be eaten.
Always consult your health care team prior to making any changes to your diet or the dietary supplements you are using.
Yes, this is an important distinction: get your dose of flaxseed goodness through diet, not supplements.
The latest research shows that consuming flaxseed does not increase risk for breast cancer. At one time, there was concern that flaxseed’s lignans, classified as phytoestrogens could raise the risk of breast cancers that are fueled by high levels of estrogen. Now studies show that although lignans’ chemical structure is like estrogen, they don’t act like estrogen in the body. In fact, research indicates flaxseed may be protective, especially in post-menopausal women. It seems to decrease cell growth, increase self-destruction of abnormal cells and shift estrogen metabolism to less cancer-promoting forms.
That last sentence gets me every. stinkin’. time.
~ Can improve cardiovascular health.
~ May modestly improve blood sugar for diabetics.
~ Has been shown to reduce inflammation.
~ Can cut the intensity of hot flashes in post-menopasual women by 57%.
So, how much is enough?
The original study at the top of the post details that the women consumed 25 g per day of flaxseed, which equals roughly 2.5 tablespoons per day. Some studies suggest between 2-4 tablespoons per day. I have stuck with the 2.5 per day.
Ground or whole?
You can either grind your own, or, do what I do: buy a large bag and store in the freezer, taking out a week’s worth at a time and storing that in the fridge. The reason I store in freezer and fridge is because I live in a humid environment and these two actions will keep the seed from turning rancid (the seeds contain oil that can turn rancid).
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Here’s what’s in my freezer: Premium Gold Organic Flaxseed
Planted in the spring on the Miller Family Farm it grows in the fertile fields in the heart of North Dakota. Harvested in the fall, it is then put through their unique True Cold Milling process that not only allows for better digestion, but also makes it possible to keep in your cupboard instead of the fridge.
Right now, as I’m writing this post, I’m enjoying a smoothie made of 1 cup of frozen blueberries, 1 cup of frozen strawberries blended with 1 cup almond milk and 2.5 tablespoons of flaxseed for my daily dose of nutritional punch.
Makes me happy knowing what I’m eating has the power to help me fight breast cancer…and all those other thangs.
Do you include flaxseed in your diet?