The consumption of grains has increased in recent times because it has been realized that they are rich sources of fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Flax seed, also known as linseed, is one of the ancient cultivated crops since Mesopotamian times, grown for its oil seeds and fiber. Flax seeds are packed with full of nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals, and essential vitamins. Off late, nutritional and health benefits of flax have widely drawn the attention of nutrition researchers as well as health enthusiasts alike across the globe. Flaxseed was cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC. In the 8th century, King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it.
Flax belongs to the family of Linaceae, of the genus of Linum, and botanically named as Linum usitatissimum. Flax is one of the easily cultivated crops that flourishes well both in tropical as well as subtropical climates, with its higher production as a field crop noted in some fertile river valleys. It is an erect annual plant growing about 1 to 1.5 meters tall and bears light-blue colored attractive flowers.
Distinctive Nutrient Features of Flaxseeds
Although flaxseed contains all sorts of healthy components, it owes its primary healthy reputation because of, Omega-3, Lignans & Fiber
The first unique feature of flax is its high omega-3 fatty acid content. Among all 127 World’s Healthiest Foods, flaxseeds come out number one as a source of omega-3s. The primary omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseeds is alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. The ALA in flaxseed has found to be stable for at least 3 hours of cooking at oven temperatures (approximately 300F/150C), which makes it available after ground flaxseeds have been added to baked goods like muffins or breads.
The second unique feature of flaxseed is its lignans. Lignans are fiber-like compounds, but in addition to their fiber-like benefits, they also provide antioxidant protection due to their structure as polyphenols. The unique structure of lignans gives them a further health-supportive role to play, however, in the form of phytoestrogens. Along with isoflavones, lignans are one of the few naturally occurring compounds in food that function as weak or moderate estrogens when consumed by humans. Among all foods commonly eaten by humans, researchers rank flaxseeds as the number one source of lignans. Sesame seeds come in second, but contain only one-seventh of the total lignans as flaxseeds. To give a few further examples, sunflower seeds contain about 1/350th as many lignans, and cashews nuts contain about 1/475th as many lignans as flaxseeds.
A third unique feature of flaxseeds is their mucilage (gum) content. “Mucilage” refers to water-soluble, gel-forming fiber that can provide special support to the intestinal tract. For example, gums can help prevent the too rapid emptying of the stomach contents into the small intestine, thereby improving absorption of certain nutrients in the small intestine. Arabinoxylans and galactoxylans are included within the mucilage gums found in flaxseeds.
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