If you're not familiar with these tiny little seeds - it's time to get acquainted. Flaxseeds are small, smooth reddish-brown or golden yellow seeds that deliver alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, soluble fibre and phytochemicals called lignans. Together, these nutrients give flaxseeds a unique nutrient profile.
Flaxseeds are an exceptional source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), anomega-3 fatty acid that may help protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A Harvard University involving more than 76,000 women found that those who consumed the most ALA were half as likely to die from heart disease, compared to their peers who consumed the least. An 18- year follow up on this same study found that the women who consumed 1.16 grams of ALA per day were 40 percent less likely to die suddenly of cardiac arrest than women whose diets provided 0.66 grams or less per day.
Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed provides 2.4 grams of ALA. Research also indicates that ALA may have a protective effect against some forms of cancer.
Flaxseed is also rich in lignans, a phytochemical that binds very, very weakly to estrogen receptors in the body. Research suggests that, in so doing, lignans may help protect against cancers that are sensitive to hormones, including breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. Flaxseed contains more lignans than any other food source.
Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed delivers less than 80 calories along with a decent 4 grams of fibre. Flaxseed is also a good source of manganese and magnesium.
Nutrient information per 2 tablespoons (25 ml) ground flaxseed:
|Monounsaturated fat||4 g|
|Polyunstraurated fat||3 g|
Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b
Flaxseeds also known as linseeds are smooth and flat. Flaxseeds come from a blue flowering crop found widely across the prairies of Canada.
Two types of flaxseeds are readily available; golden yellow and reddish brown. According to the Flax Council of Canada golden and brown flaxseeds are nutritionally very similar, and are both a healthy choice.
As more and more research supports the many health benefits of flaxseeds, food manufactures are beginning to offer a wide range of flax products to consumers. Once found only in health food stores, flaxseeds are now found in most major grocery stores across Canada. Flaxseeds can be purchased whole, ground and as an ingredient in breads, cereals, crackers, energy bars, muffins and frozen waffles.
Whole flaxseeds are usually available in sealed packages, or sold in bulk. As with any item purchased in bulk, make sure the bins are covered, and that the store has a high product turnover to avoid buying an old product. When purchasing flaxseeds in bulk, make sure there are no signs of moisture.
Once flaxseeds are ground, they have a much shorter shelf life than whole flaxseeds thanks to their natural fat content, therefore it's best to grind flaxseeds as you need them. As a result, care should be taken when purchasing ground flaxseeds. Purchase ground flaxseeds that are in a vacuum-sealed package and avoid buying ground flaxseeds in bulk.
Flaxseed's hard shell offers a natural protective barrier to the nutrients inside the shell, including heart healthy fats. Once the hard shell is broken (or ground), the nutrients inside are exposed to light, heat and moisture and can become rancid. For that reason, whole flaxseeds have a much longer shelf life than ground flaxseeds.
Store whole flaxseeds in an airtight container in a dark, dry and cool place where they will keep fresh for up to a year. Store ground flaxseeds in a tightly sealed container in the fridge or freezer for up to 6 months.
Flaxseeds require little or no preparation. If you're grinding your own flaxseeds, use a food processor, or clean coffee grinder to get the job done.
If adding ground flaxseeds to a cooked cereal or grain dish, do so at the end of cooking since the soluble fiber in the flaxseeds can thicken liquids if left too long.
Whole or ground flaxseed can be used in a variety of ways. They add flavour and texture to baked goods, such as muffins and cookies, and can also be stirred into hot cereal or sprinkled on yogurt. Flaxseed can also be added to meatloaf, burgers and casseroles.
Ground flaxseed can be used to thicken soups and stews and can be used as an egg replacement in quick bread recipes (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed combined with 3 tablespoons water is equivalent to one medium egg). When used as an egg replacement, baked goods may have a slightly chewier texture and may not rise as high.
Healthy ways to enjoy
- Sprinkle ground flaxseeds on hot and cold breakfast cereal.
- Add a tablespoon of ground flax to a homemade smoothie.
- Sprinkle ground flaxseed on a bowl of low-fat yogurt and fresh berries.
- Make your own flaxseed porridge; stir together 1/3 cup ground flaxseed with 2-3 tbsp hot water, drizzle with maple syrup and eat immediately.
- Stir ground flaxseed into pureed soups to thicken them.
- Sprinkle a garden salad with whole flaxseeds for a healthier alternative to croutons.
- Add ground flaxseed to homemade beef and turkey burgers, meatloaf and meatballs.
- Give roasted vegetables a nutty flavour by sprinkling them with ground flaxseed after cooking.
- Add flaxseeds to homemade quick bread, muffins and cookies. Click here for a recipe.
- Stir a teaspoon of ground flaxssed into Greek yogurt.
- Give muffins and quickbreads a crunchy topping by sprinkling them with equal parts ground flaxseed and granulated sugar before baking.
Did you know?
- Flaxseeds are gluten free.
- The use of flax for the production of material and linen goes back to ancient Egyptian times. Recovered dyed flax fibers have been dated to 30,000 years ago.
- Today, Canada is the world leader in flax production – exporting over a million tonnes per year to Europe, the U.S and Japan.