wheel.gif dialog_close.gif error_bg.jpg error_header.gif warning_bg.jpg warning_header.gif warning_bg.jpg warning_header.gif success_bg.jpg success_header.gif prompt_bg.jpg prompt_header.gif
Flaxseed - Food Sources of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
Flax Council of Canada
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)* is the parent compound of the omega-3 fatty acid family. ALA is a precursor to the long-chain fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and is an essential fatty acid for humans because it cannot be synthesized from dietary precursors.

What Is the Availability of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Diet?

Omega-3 fatty acids constituted a minuscule portion (<1%) of the total fatty acids in the U.S. food supply in 1985, whereas the omega-6 fatty acids constituted a significant majority. Thus, the level of omega-3 fatty acids in the U.S. food supply is low relative to the omega-6 fatty acid level.

This fatty acid imbalance has led some nutrition experts to recommend replacing some omega-6 fatty acids in the diet with those of the omega-3 family. Concern about the current high level of omega-6 fatty acids in the food supply arises from studies of their health effects in humans. Omega-6 fatty acids interfere with the conversion of ALA to its long-chain metabolites, EPA and DHA; and one omega-6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid, is converted to thromboxane A2 and other eicosanoids that tend to enhance atherosclerosis by promoting vasoconstriction and platelet aggregation. In contrast, the omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the conversion of linoleic acid to arachidonic acid, thereby reducing the biosynthesis of arachidonic acid and its eicosanoids. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to provide protection against atherosclerosis, cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, and some types of cancer. ALA may have particular antithrombotic properties that reduce the risk of fatal cardiovascular events and stroke.

Food Sources:
What Are the Major Food Sources of ALA?

Up to 80% of the fatty acids in leafy green plants is in the form of ALA; but because their overall lipid content is low, leafy plants do not contribute significant amounts of ALA to our diets. Flaxseed is by far the richest source of ALA.1 ALA is also found mainly in the fats and oils of canola, wheat germ and soybeans; in nuts such as butternuts and walnuts; and in red and black currant seeds. Fish contain only trace amounts of ALA, although some species of fish, particularly fatty marine fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, are rich in EPA and DHA.

What Are the Food Industry Uses of Flaxseed?

Surveys show that North American consumers want foods with a strong sensory appeal and healthful image. They perceive a need to improve their diets and believe they could be doing more to ensure proper nutrition. Canadian consumers, for example, are generally concerned about the fat content of foods and worry whether their fibre intake is adequate. The food industry, particularly the baking industry, is turning to flaxseed to meet consumers’ demand for foods that taste good and provide nutritional and health benefits. Bakers are adding milled flaxseed to so-called hearth breads — breads baked in open hearths and not in pans — and to variety or multigrain breads. In multigrain breads, flaxseed is mixed with three or more other grains. Milled flaxseed is also added to mixes, frozen doughs and thaw-and-serve food products. These products are designed to meet the North American consumers’ demand for convenience and ease of preparation.13 Overall, flaxseed is a traditional food whose nutritional profile and good taste is capturing the attention of the food industry.
Tags: Flax, Flax seed, Flaxseed, Health Benefits, Nutrition, Omega 3