A huge study by the World Cancer Institute has found evidence that the consumption of as little as 10 – 20 grams (about a tablespoon) of ground flaxseed per day reduces the risk of breast cancer by decreasing inflammation as a result of high amounts of naturally occurring omega 3 fatty acids; specifically ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). It should be noted that this study focused on the whole flax seed, and not simply the oil.  

Furthermore, flax seeds are rich in lignans which act as a type of phytoestrogen similar to those found commonly in soy, sesame seeds, fenugreek, oats and barley (among many other foods). Despite the confusion regarding phytoestrogens amongst the general population, they don’t increase your estrogen load or your risk of cancer. In fact mounting evidence has shown that phytoestrogens have a protective effect against cancers not only limited to the breast, but prostate and bowel as well. 

Phytoestrogens such as the lignans found in flax bind to estrogen receptor sites where they exert effects that are thought to balance estrogen metabolism by occupying the sites that more active forms of estrogen would normally stimulate. They also modulate the concentration of internally produced estrogens by interacting with enzymes that may affect the ability of estrogen and sex hormone binding globulin.

While using whole flax seeds can be beneficial to an extent, we highly recommend grinding flax seeds in small batches with something as simple as a coffee grinder.  Because the oils are sensitive to heat and oxygen, we recommend that you store freshly ground flax in the refrigerator and grind only a few days worth at a time.  Alternatively you can purchase pre-ground flax seed but look for packages that state "nitrogen-flushed" or "oxygen-free" to ensure maximum freshness.

Other anti-inflammatory omega 3 food sources such as fish exert even great anti-inflammatory effects but lack the built-in phytoestrogens found in flaxseed. Why not both? Flax seeds can be easily used in cereals, sprinkled on salads, and freshly ground flaxseed can be added to smoothies for some extra richness.