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Although it's important to avoid saturated fats, other kinds of fats, including essential fatty acids, are truly essential for good health. Flax and flaxseed oil, as well as flaxseed oil supplements, are excellent sources of essential fatty acids. These nutrients promote a healthy metabolism, support cell function and support the immune system by helping the body heal after injuries.
In particular, athletes have reported that flaxseed oil helps them recover more quickly after a workout by promoting muscle tissue repair, and some athletes have reported that flaxseed oil heals sprains and bruises more quickly, too. These reports suggest that flaxseed has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it is being studied as a possible treatment for anti-inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
But flaxseed's benefits aren't just for athletes. As a healthy source of an omega-3 essential fatty acids called alpha-linolenic acid, they promote overall good health in anyone. And if you are trying to lose weight, flaxseed oil may support healthy weight loss by promoting metabolism and helping the body burn fat effectively. Flaxseed oil also may help compensate for the constipation associated with some high-protein diets.
Flaxseed may play a role in cancer prevention, too. The National Cancer Institute is studying flaxseed after findings from studies in Europe suggested a link between flaxseed oil and shrinking tumors in prostate, breast and lung cells.
Where can you buy flaxseed? Most health stores and specialty supermarkets will carry flaxseeds (which should be ground up, and can be sprinkled on your cereal, yogurt, etc.), as well as flaxseed softgels. Flaxseed oil, which has a mild nutty taste, can even be consumed in liquid form (take 1-2 Tbs a day). Refrigerate after opening the bottle, and keep in mind that the bottle's shelf life is four to six months. Note: Do not use flaxseed oil for cooking.