Quick tips for this new trend.
This week’s show topic was suggested by Debbie, in Okinawa, Japan.
I keep hearing a lot about flaxseed and how wonderful it is for you. I found some ground flaxseed in my grocery store and bought it. But I have no clue on what to do with it. Can you explain what flaxseed is supposed to do for you and give me some ideas on how to use it?
Konnichiwa, Debbie! Thanks for your question. And I know what you mean! Whoever is running PR for flax is doing a great job. You could probably sprinkle a few flax seeds on a deep-fried Twinkie and sell it as health food. What exactly makes these tiny little seeds so good for you, anyway?
Like most seeds, flaxseeds are a good source of fiber and pack a fair amount of protein into a very small package. But you don’t see sesame seeds wearing this kind of health halo. So it must be something else.
Flaxseeds also contain lignans, compounds that seem to provide extra protection against many types of cancer. Other seeds and nuts contain these compounds as well, but flaxseeds are particularly rich in lignans.
Another Way to Get Omega-3 Fats
And, finally, flaxseeds are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have all kinds of beneficial effects, such as reducing inflammation and protecting against heart disease, bone loss, cancer, and diabetes.
Omega-3s are hot, hot, hot! You can now buy peanut butter, eggs, mayonnaise and other products that are enhanced with extra omega-3 fats—and flax is what they’re using to pump up the omega-3 levels in these products. They simply blend flax oil into the peanut butter or mayonnaise. To get more omega-3 into eggs, they add flaxseed to the chicken feed.
These omega-3 enhanced products are nice, because most of us don’t get nearly enough omega-3 fats in our diet. Besides flaxseeds, the other primary source of omega-3 fats is oily fish, such as salmon, herring, sardines, or mackerel.
Now, I should point out that the omega-3s in flax are not exactly the same as the omega-3s you get in fish. They’re both in the same family. But the omega-3s in fish are in a more potent form. Still, for vegetarians or people who don’t like fish, flaxseeds are the go-to source of omega-3s. Plus, with flax, you’re also getting the added benefits of the lignans and the fiber.
As health food trends go, I have to say that flaxseeds seem to be worthy of their reputation. Eating a couple of tablespoons of flaxseed a day is a great health habit to develop.
How to Buy and Use Flaxseed
In order to get the full nutritional benefit of flaxseed, you have to grind them up. Otherwise they pass right through your digestive system completely unaltered. You can grind them up by chewing them very, very thoroughly. But most people either buy them already ground—like you did, or grind the seeds in a coffee grinder as they use them.
If you are buying pre-ground flax, buy only small amounts that you can use up in a couple of weeks. This is not the time to buy the 100-pound sack from Costco. Also, look for packaging that protects the ground seeds from light and air and check your expiration dates. Finally, store ground flax and flax oil in the refrigerator, not in the cupboard. Any flax product that has a rancid or fishy smell should be discarded.
You can use ground flaxseed in muffins, pancakes, cookies, or other baked goods. If you are using white flour, you can replace up to 2 tablespoons per cup with ground flaxseed. If you’re using whole wheat flour, replace 1 tablespoon per cup with flax.
Some people like to toast the whole seeds and sprinkle them over vegetables or hot or cold cereal. They add a sort of nutty crunch. (But remember, you have to chew them well). I have a terrific recipe that uses flaxseed to create a crispy coating for oven-“fried” chicken. The recipe is in my book Secrets for a Healthy Diet. It’s delicious.
This is Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, with your quick and dirty tips for eating well and feeling fabulous.
These tips are provided for your information and entertainment and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, please work with your health professional to determine what’s right for you.
Have a great day and eat something good for me!
Nutritional analysis of flaxseed (from NutritionData.com)
Health benefits of flaxseed (from George Mateljan Foundation)
The recipe for Crunchy Sesame-Flax Chicken can be found in Secrets for a Healthy Diet