By Anna Roufos, January/February 2008
New research suggests that lignans, estrogen-like compounds in flaxseeds, may help relieve hot flashes. In the pilot study, 28 women consumed four tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily—two in the morning, two at night. After six weeks, the frequency of their hot flashes dropped, on average, from 7.3 to 3.6 a day. Intensity of the hot flashes decreased too. “[Lignans in] flax offer a ‘natural,’ less potent estrogen effect on hot flashes than synthetic hormone therapy,” says the study’s lead author, Sandhya Pruthi, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who is planning a larger study to confirm the findings. Pruthi recommends starting with two tablespoons daily and working up to four. (Note: 4 tablespoons = 190 calories.) Flaxseeds are rich in fiber—2.5 grams per tablespoon—so increasing intake too quickly can cause bloating. Grind whole flax—a coffee grinder works great—and sprinkle it on yogurt, cereal, fruit and salads.
One of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds provide both soluble fiber, linked to reduced risk of heart disease, and insoluble fiber, which provides valuable roughage. They must be ground for your body to absorb the benefits. Whole flaxseeds have a longer shelf life (grind them in a clean coffee grinder or dry blender). Once ground, flaxseeds are highly perishable, so store them in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator or freezer. You can purchase whole seeds and ground flaxmeal in natural-foods markets.
Flaxseed oil, pressed from flaxseeds, is a valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids. It is highly perishable, so store in the refrigerator and use as soon as possible. Available at natural-foods stores.