Friday, May 4, 2012

Time To Flax It Up




It may be tiny, but it’s mighty: The flax seed carries one of the biggest nutrient payloads on the planet. And while it’s not technically a grain, it has a similar vitamin and mineral profile to grains, while the amount of fiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids in flax leaves grains in the dust.

Additionally, flax seed is very low in carbohydrates, making it ideal for people who limit their intake of starches and sugars. And its combination of healthy fat and high fiber content make it a great food for weight loss and maintenance -- many dieters have found that flax seed has been a key to keeping them feeling satisfied.

Flax Seed Nutrition
Yes, flax seed is high in most of the B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese, but this little seed is just getting started. There are three additional nutrient groups which flax seed has in abundance, and each has many benefits.

Flax Seed is Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
 Omega-3 fatty acids are a key force against inflammation in our bodies. Mounting evidence shows that inflammation plays a part in many chronic diseases including heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and even some cancers. This inflammation is enhanced by having too little Omega-3 intake (such as in fish, flax, and walnuts), especially in relation to Omega-6 fatty acid intake (in oils such as soy and corn oil). In the quest to equalize the ratio of these two kinds of oils, flax seed can be a real help.

Most of the oil in flax seeds is alpha linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is an Omega-3 that is a precursor to the fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty cold-water fish (called EPA and DHA). Because not everyone is able to easily convert ALA into EPA and (especially) DHA, it is best not to rely solely on flax for your Omega-3 intake. However, ALA also has good effects of its own, and definitely helps in the Omega 3/6 balance. 


Flax Seed is High in Fiber:
 You’d be hard-pressed to find a food higher in fiber -- both soluble and insoluble -- than flax. This fiber is probably mainly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effects of flax. Fiber in the diet also helps stabilize blood sugar, and, of course, promotes proper functioning of the intestines.

Flax Seed is High in Phytochemicals:
 Flax seed is high in phytochemicals, including many antioxidants. It is perhaps our best source of lignans, which convert in our intestines to substances that tend to balance female hormones. There is evidence that lignans may promote fertility, reduce peri-menopausal symptoms, and possibly help prevent breast cancer. In addition, lignans may help prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Please note that flax seeds need to be ground to make the nutrients available (otherwise they just “pass through”) and flax seed oil alone contains neither the fiber nor the phytochemicals of whole flax seed meal.
 

Tips for Using Flax Seed
  • Drink plenty of water. There is so much soluble fiber in flax that it is important to drink plenty of water when eating flax products, otherwise constipation may result.
  • Remember to start slowly if you aren’t used to a high-fiber diet.
  • If you purchase the whole seeds, you need to grind them up to get the benefit.
  • Flax is often used as an egg substitute in baked goods for people who can’t or choose not to eat eggs. This is because of the soluble fiber, which adds structure to the food.
  • About 2/3 to 3/4 cup of flax seed yields 1 cup of flax meal. With my grinder, it’s 3/4 cup, and my recipes reflect this.

Flax Recipes and Serving Suggestions:
  • Raw or toasted: Sprinkle over cottage cheese, ricotta, yogurt, breakfast cereal; put in shakes (thickens them somewhat)
  • Cooked in a hot cereal: For example, try Hot Flax Oatmeal or Flax Cream of Wheat
  • Cooked into other foods: For example, meatloaf, meatballs, or casseroles.
  • In baked goods: Add a few tablespoons to any recipe which relies on flax as flour.
As you can see the possibilities are endless for this amazingly healthy little treat. Time to go Flax it up!

1 comment:

Sarah Z said...

I have recently been adding ALOT of flax into my baking... replacing, not only eggs, but oil & butter too! It's amazing that the recipe turns out great with the correct sub amounts. I made these delish & super healthy pumpkin muffins last week that were loaded with flax...yum! I love when you can sneak stuff like this into recipes without it altering the taste.