Today, I'm going to share with you one of an innumerous number of research papers I had to write this semester. This is going to be a long one so sit down, grab some coffee or a snack (preferably a healthy one that contains both carbs and protein:)), make yourself comfortable, and let's get right to it ;).
As I've mentioned earlier, I'm taking a seminar course in nutrition and disease, that has a strong focus on cancer. A supplement vs. whole food project was one of our first assignments. We all got to pick a cancer and choose a food that has been shown to have anticancer properties. Then we had to evaluate whether the supplemental form or the whole food provides the most benefits.
For me, I had no problem choosing. I've been incorporating a lot of seeds into my diet, especially flaxseed. So that's what I rolled with. I actually didn't know that it had cancer preventive power until I began my research.
It turns out that the consumption of flaxseed has actually been shown to prevent breast cancer! According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer amongst women in the U.S. Here's an alarming statistic: 1 out of 8 women develop this devastating disease in their lifetime! It is important to note that the rate of incidence differs greatly between different populations. More specifically, people who consume a Western diet have a higher incidence rate compared to others (e.g., Asians). This suggests that lifestyle factors, such as diet, def play a role here.
Flaxseed is the most lignan-rich food, containing as much as 120 times higher levels than legumes and 260 times higher levels than most fruits and vegetables.
Overall, studies have shown that daily intake of flaxseed, 2-4 Tablespoons, can inhibit human mammary tumor cell growth, inhibit mammary tumor initiation, significantly decrease the proliferation of mammary tumor cells, increase apoptosis (cellular death), modulate the expression of growth factors involved in signal transduction pathways, and reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels to support tumor cells) and expression of human breast cancer cells.
Flaxseed showed promising results for established tumors as well. When it was taken with Tamoxifen, a standard endocrine therapy in premenopausal breast cancer patients, flaxseed not only inhibited tumor growth but also strengthened the efficacy of Tamoxifen.
Flaxseed is not only the richest source of lignans, but it also contains nearly 40% oil of which 45-52% is the alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega 3 fatty acid. Omega 3 fatty acids have also been receiving the spotlight as an anticancer agent. As flaxseed is very bulky, supplementation with flaxseed oil (removed of all the lignans) has been increasing in popularity.
Currently, an appropriate dosage of flaxseed oil supplementation cannot be recommended as there is not enough scientific evidence to determine the proper amount. There are a lot of factors to consider such as the person's age, weight, health, and other conditions. Even though it’s a natural product, it doesn’t mean that it’s completely safe. Thus, dosage is crucial, and one should consult with a physician before taking flaxseed oil supplementation regularly.
So the bottom line? If there's one thing I've learned from being a nutrition student, it's that consuming whole foods is far superior to taking supplements! So let's stay away from popping those "healthy" pills and get back to eating food in its glorious and natural state. And one last pearl...milling the flaxseed maximizes the absorption of lignans into the body. Therefore, use ground or crushed flaxseeds!
I know this post is getting really long, but how could I end without sharing with you a wonderful recipe involving, yup you got it, flaxseed!
Harvest Pumpkin Granola Cluster!
- 3 ¼ cup old-fashioned oats
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup roughly chopped almonds
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- 3 Tbs ground flaxseeds
- 1 cup dried fruit of your choice I used craisins
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup pumpkin puree
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- In a sauce pan, melt brown sugar, maple syrup under med heat. Stir in pumpkin and vanilla extract. Simmer and stir frequently for about 3-5 min. Set aside to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.
- Pour in the wet to the bowl and combine thoroughly.
- Transfer to a greased cookie pan and distribute evenly by pressing down firmly.
- Bake for 30 min. Allow to cool completely. It will harden up the longer it sits.
- Crumble into granola clusters or cut into bars.
These are my beloved squirrel foods! Can't live without them. I usually buy them in bulk, store them individually in freezer-safe ziploc bags (make sure to let out all the air before zipping!), and bc I don't want to have all these lil' bags running loose in my freezer, I consolidate all of them into my most coveted SEED BAG! What a creative name ;).
Let the sauce cool before stirring in.
Press the granola down firmly into the pan to make sure it will bake evenly.
You can either cut it into bars or in my case break it into clusters! I like to snack on little bites. Perfect to take to school!
This power snack will last up to a week in a container, but I promise you it won't last that long (it's soooo good!). It does get softer and chewier with time.
Flaxseeds are so versatile and can be added to just about everything. I like to sprinkle them on top of my oatmeal or add them to my smoothies. Or how about adding them to breads? Check out my dear friend, Maura's Flax and Honey Banana Bread, which I personally CANNOT wait to make!
Have you had flaxseeds before? If so, how do you like to enjoy them?
You brought up a pretty controversial debate. "Gluten-free" is definitely all the rage these days, isn't it? It's definitely the manufacturer's dream come true. Consumers pay nearly double the price for it. However, from what I've learned in my education is that only a very small handful of people (<1% of US population) actually have the celiac disease, meaning they're gluten intolerant. You'll def know when you have this - diarrhea, abdominal pain, bone and joint pain, muscle cramping, skin rash, and even seizures.
So what's with all these health claims about going gluten-free? If there's anything I've learned from my education, it's to look to research and see if there's a strong scientific evidence supporting various claims. It's really important to pay attention to your sources and make informed decisions. I can go on and on about this issue but I shall move on. It turns out that there really isn't any sound evidence as of now in regards to the benefits of consuming a gluten-free diet for individuals without celiac disease.
So why do people believe that they feel much better after cutting out wheat? It may not be just wheat but other factors. Chances are that they've cleaned up their diet so they're eating better as a whole, they're striving to live a healthier lifestyle, or it may be the placebo effect : I've cut out wheat so I am feeling better....My point is, unless the ONLY change an individual makes is cutting out wheat, it's hard to find a definitive correlation.
Whole wheat and various grains are nutritional wonders so without any solid evidence saying otherwise, I will continue to enjoy them. I'm actually planning on doing a series highlighting different grains in the near future. Hope you come back to take a look at some of them 😉
I've just started eating flaxseed after starting the dukan diet, and someone recommended flaxseed as an alternative to oat bran. I haven't read all of your blog yet, but I am very interested in nutrition and how food affects people. What are your thoughts on wheat? Ive given it up and have never felt healthier.
Yum I love pumpkin granola and these bars looks easy and delicious! Thanks for the recipe, definitely making these asap!
Brittany Trentham (@batrentham) says
Love this!! I need to get on eating flaxseed again. I used to do well with it, but I stopped eating as much lately for some reason.
Khushboo Thadani says
Great, informative post Min! I completely agree about eating real food being more superior than supplements....to get the maximum benefit of a nutrient, you cannot isolate them! I love flaxseeds especially on yogurt and oats!
So very interesting! Thank you for charing this information with us!
Wow this is AMAZING! Who knew?! I certainly didn't! I use ground flaxseed in lots of things - oatmeal, smoothies, pancakes!
Kristen @ Swanky Dietitian says
These look delicious! I love sprinkling a bit of flax on my yogurt or throwing it in a smoothie. YUM!
I always try to eat the whole food versus a supplement. I wrote about probiotics on my last post. I am taking a pill right now but really want to start getting into fermenting foods! I think I am just nervous!
Laurie @ Love, Laugh, Laurie says
That's crazy, I didn't realize that about flaxseed! Love the granola recipe, perfect way to eat some!
Wonderful post Min. Thanks so much. I've not used flaxseeds but do take flaxseed oil daily. Now I think I'm going to try adding seeds to my foods. Enlightening!
This is great information! I had no idea that they could help prevent breast cancer. I started using flaxseeds because I wanted a natural way to get in more Omega's, so this is a great added benefit. I get ground flaxseeds from Whole Foods and sprinkle it into my salads that I have every day.
That does look like good granola! Yes, I make Flax and Sunflower Seed Bread using 1/2 cup of flax seed that I grind.
Kari @ bite-sized thoughts says
I love these research posts of yours 🙂 And I love the look of this recipe! The bars look fantastic.
This is fascinating, Min! And what a clear summary you did of all the research, no wonder you give some amazing presentations 🙂 I really appreciate that!! I'm going to start putting more ground flaxseed in my daily diet, maybe on top of my yogurt and salads 🙂 And make your pumpkin granola...that's so interesting that you heat the sauce, can't wait to try that!!
Hope you're having a great week, Min!! I miss you and can't wait to have one of our chats soon 🙂 Praying for you and love you!
Great post! And I'm definitely bookmarking this granola:)
Great post - This was so informative. I have a mason jar filled with flaxseed that I bought with the intention of adding to my diet. Unfortunately, I keep forgetting but this has truly motivated me to start sprinkling!
Meme @ Living Well Kitchen says
Love love love this! I wish I could hear about all the other cancers & anti-cancer foods too 🙂
And your granola looks perfect!