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The Facts About Flaxseed

Cathy Christensen May 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
flaxseed in heart

Ever since I became a mom, I always think of flaxseed as an incognito health boost for my kids. One of the best secrets I learned early on after my kids started eating solid foods was that flaxseeds were delicious but had a neutral-enough flavor that I could sneak them into other foods without them noticing. Little do they know there are flaxseeds in their spaghetti sauce and in those sloppy joes they love. It’s my secret, but this little seed has a big impact on a person’s health.

Flaxseeds grow from the flax plant, which has narrow leaves and blue flowers, and is also the source of the fabric linen.1 Flaxseeds are particularly rich in alpha lineolic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid believed to be helpful in lowering cholesterol, as well as vitamins, minerals, potassium, and soluble and insoluble fiber.1, 2 They also contain lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that may protect against certain types of cancer.2 This omega-3 fatty acid content also helps skin protect itself by increasing natural oils, keeping skin soft and preventing it from drying out.3

In the kitchen

Flaxseeds have a warm, earthy, nutty flavor, and are eaten either whole, ground or in the form of oil, which can be added to cooked food for a health and flavor boost. They are slightly larger than sesame seeds and have a smooth, shiny shell, varying in color from deep amber to reddish brown, depending on the variety. Ground flaxseeds are convenient, but be sure that they are packaged in a vacuum-sealed package and refrigerated after opening to avoid spoilage. Whole flaxseeds are usually prepackaged and have a longer shelf life than ground flaxseeds.4 Flaxseeds are commonly used in baked goods, such as crackers, breads, cakes and muffins, and they can also be used in juice drinks and smoothies, and sprinkled on salads and breakfast cereals.1

Spa cuisine chefs have been aware of the benefits of flaxseeds for years. Following are some examples of the use of flaxseeds in spa cuisine:

Persimmon and Pineapple Smoothie—Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, Texas;

Unbaked Pumpkin Yogurt Cheese Pie—Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Baja California, Mexico;

Grains & Fruit Cookie—Marc Allan’s Men’s Club & Spa Ltd., Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada;

Flax Energy Smoothie—Kohler Waters Spa, Kohler, Wisconsin;

and Low Fat Blueberry Banana Bran Muffins—See the recipe from Director of Nutrition Paulette Lambert of the California Health & Longevity Institute in Westlake Village, California.

In the spa

Although omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal skin and body function, they aren’t produced naturally and must be introduced to the body through the diet.3 Flaxseed oil can be applied directly to the skin to help lock in moisture and can improve a dry, dull complexion. The omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseeds are also anti-inflammatory, meaning they can help minimize redness and skin irritation.3

Many spas use flaxseed as a cure-all due to its multiple skin benefits in a variety of services, including:

The Laka, an antioxidant face and body mask and scrub that includes flax, organic green tea and hemp—The Spa at the Kona Village Resort, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii;

The Ideal Controle Facial balances purity and softness, using flax extract to rebalance and hydrate skin—The Spa at Lucknam Park, Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, Bath, England;

The Anti-Aging Flax Facial—The Cannery Day Spa at The Cannery Pier Hotel, Astoria, Oregon;

The Power Mani and Pedi exfoliates and purifies skin using flaxseeds, walnut, crushed bamboo and sea salt—Penterra Spa at The Heathman Hotel, Kirkland, Washington;

The Flax Anti-Aging Facial stimulates the production of collagen and elastin—Spa Soak, Chicago;

The Antioxidant Body Wrap feeds skin with moisture and heals, using flaxseed oil and zinc oxide—The Spa at Spruce Point, Boothbay Harbor, Maine;

The Omega-3 and Babassu Body Envelopment nourishes and revitalizes, beginning with a flaxseed sugar scrub—Serenity Wellness Spa, Milledgeville, Georgia;

The Organic Therapeutic Seaweed Massage and Soak blends flax with wild organic seaweed, pumpkin and olive oil to relieve tired, achy muscles—Drift Spa at Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, Ucluelet, British Columbia, Canada; and

The Detoxifying Back Treatment—See the step-by-step how-to from Escape Day Spa and Salon, Nashville, Tennessee.

Flaxseed’s multiple skin care benefits are also utilized in a variety of skin care products.

Phytomer’s Ogenage Excellence is a soothing cream that helps densify the epidermis and improve its elasticity and radiance, using flaxseed oil.

Szép Élet’s ilike organic skin care’s Phytoestrogen Moisturizer contains flaxseed to help balance androgen hormone activity while smoothing and firming.

Sundari’s Omega-3 and Flaxseed Body Exfoliator gently exfoliates, renews and nourishes the skin.

Jane Iredale’s Facial Blotting Papers are made from organic flaxseed for absorbency.

And Éminence Organic Skin Care’s Eight Greens Whip Moisturizer uses flaxseed for its omega-3 content to provide a natural phyto-hormone boost.

A powerhouse

Despite its miniature stature, flaxseed is a powerhouse that is jam-packed with nutrients and features a nutty, pleasant flavor, making it a health food that you want to eat. Besides providing benefits internally, flaxseed addresses a variety of skin care concerns, as well. Show your clients how big things can come in small packages and introduce them to the wonders of flaxseed.

 

References

1. www.jeffersoninstitute.org/flax.php

2. http://www.flax.com/Section/Flax_Facts/Flaxseed_-_A_Smart_Choice.html

3. thedermblog.com/2008/06/06/flax-seed-oil-and-your-skin

4. www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=81

(All accessed Mar 12, 2010)

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Quick Facts: Flaxseed

  • The Babylonians cultivated flaxseed as early as 3000 B.C.2
  • Flax was one of the most important crops to early American farmers, acting as a fiber and preservative that helped sustain the population.1
  • Flaxseed oil is also known as linseed oil and is used as a preservative finish on wood.2
  • Crushed flaxseed has been found to decrease the frequency of hot flashes in post-menopausal woman by 50%.4
  • The species name in the scientific name of flaxseed, Linum usitatissimum, means “most useful.”4
  • European emperor Charlemagne passed laws requiring the cultivation and consumption of flaxseed due to its culinary, medicinal and fiber usefulness.4
  • When adding flaxseed into your diet, begin using only one teaspoon and slowly build up to the intake goal to avoid bloating.4

Recipe: Low Fat Blueberry Banana Bran Muffins

From Director of Nutrition Paulette Lambert of the California Health & Longevity Institute in Westlake Village, California

Makes 12 servings, 175 calories

Ingredients:

11⁄2 cup all-purpose flour

11⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

3⁄4 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon

5 Weetabix* cereal biscuits, crushed

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

1⁄3 cup brown sugar

1 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt

1⁄2 cup skim milk

1⁄4 cup egg substitute or 1 egg

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons applesauce

2 tablespoons honey

1 ripe banana, chopped into small pieces

1 cup frozen blueberries

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 375˚F.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, Weetabix biscuits, flaxseed and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl.

3. In another mixing bowl, combine yogurt, milk, egg, canola oil, applesauce and honey.

4. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients with a spatula, being careful not to over mix.

5. Fold in banana pieces and frozen blueberries with a spatula.

6. Place batter in muffin tin.

7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean.

* Weetabix is a trade name of Weetabix Food Co., Kettering, England

How-to Treatment: Detoxifying Back Treatment

From Escape Day Spa and Salon, Nashville, Tennessee 60 minutes

Allow clients to reveal the youthful appearance of their backs with this pampering and therapeutic modern body treatment. This stress-reducing service focuses on a very hard to reach, yet important area.

Treatment duration:

Treatment cost: $80

Products needed:

Body wash

Flaxseed body exfoliator

Lactic acid peel

Nourishing body oil

Mist toner

Body moisturizer

Dual protection sunscreen

Supplies needed:

7 hot towels

2 large dry towels

4 rubber bowls

Table warmer

Sheets and blankets

Equipment needed:

Extractor tool

High frequency tool

Before treatment: Dress the table with two flat sheets, a warm blanket and a plastic sheet.

Step 1: After greeting the client and reviewing the consultation form, go over the steps you will be performing and make sure the client understands the treatment contraindications: pregnancy or allergies to any of the products used. Ask the client to lie face down to begin the treatment.

Step 2: Once the client is comfortable and on the treatment bed, apply one to two drops of the nourishing body oil of her choice to your palms. Cup your hands under the client’s nose and mouth area, being careful not to make contact, and ask her to take three slow, deep breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth. Ask the client to concentrate on achieving a full exhalation with each breath.

Step 3: With the client in the prone position, gently cleanse the back with the body wash, then rinse and remove the residue with a hot towel.

Step 4: Manually exfoliate the back with the flaxseed body exfoliator for five minutes, then remove the residue with hot towels.

Step 5: Perform a skin analysis, and discuss any findings or areas of concern with the client. Also, make note of areas you will be focusing on during the treatment.

Step 6: Perform a second exfoliation with a lactic acid peel for a maximum of 30 minutes, then thoroughly remove residue with hot towels.

Step 7: Perform extractions using tissues on fingers or an extractor tool. Extract blemishes, and then mist with mist toner.

Step 8: Apply high frequency tool to the extracted areas to kill bacteria for approximately three minutes.

Step 9: Massage back with nourishing body oil for approximately 10–15 minutes to stimulate circulation and relax the back muscles.

Step 10: Apply body moisturizer to further hydrate and heal the skin.

Step 11: Finally, apply sunscreen if the treatment has taken place during daytime hours.

Step 12: Allow the client to dress and meet her outside with a glass of water. Discuss a recommended future treatment schedule and products to aid in addressing her skin concerns or condition.

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