If you're not familiar with the nutritional benefits of these tiny little seeds - it's time to get acquainted.
Flax seeds are an exceptional source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that may help protect against heart disease.
A Harvard University involving more than 76,000 women found that those who consumed the most ALA per day 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 g of ALA per day were 40 percent less likely to die suddenly of cardiac arrest than women whose diets provided no more than 0.66 g per day.
A higher intake of ALA has also been linked to a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds provide 3.2 grams of ALA, two day's worth for women and men. (Women require 1.1 g of ALA per day; men need 1.6 g).
Flax seeds are also rich in lignans, phytochemicals thought to offer protection from cancers that are sensitive to hormones, including breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. Flax seeds contain more lignans than any other food source.
Flaxseed is also a good source of fibre, manganese and magnesium.
Whgen eaten whole, flax seeds are more likley to apss though your intestinal tract undigested. That means you won't get all of the health components from the seeds. The recommended dose is one to two tablespoons of ground flax per day.
Nutrient information per 2 tablespoons (25 ml) ground flaxseed:
|Monounsaturated fat||1 g|
|Polyunstraurated fat||4 g|
Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b
Flax seeds come from a blue flowering crop found widely across the prairies of Canada.
Two types of flax seeds readily available: golden yellow and reddish brown. According to the Flax Council of Canada, golden and brown flax seeds are nutritionally very similar, both a healthy choice.
Once found only in health food stores, flax seeds are now sold in major grocery stores. Flax seeds can be purchased whole, ground and as an ingredient in breads, cereals, crackers, energy bars, muffins and frozen waffles.
Whole flax seeds are sold in sealed packages or in bulk. If buying in bulk, make sure the bins are covered and that the store has a high product turnover to avoid buying stale flax seeds.
Once ground, flax seeds have a much shorter shelf life than whole seeds due to their natural fat content. If you wbuy whole flax seeds, grind them as you need them. Purchase ground flax seed (also called milled flax or flax meal) in vacuum-sealed packages.
Avoid buying ground flax seeds in bulk.
The hard shell of a flax seed offers a protective barrier to the nutrients inside the shell. Once that shell is broken (or ground), nutrients become exposed to light, heat and moisture and the healthy fats in flax can go rancid.
Store whole flax seeds in an airtight container in a dark, dry and cool place where they will keep fresh for up to a year. Store ground flax in a tightly sealed container in the fridge or freezer for up to 6 months.
Flax seeds require little or no preparation. If you're grinding whole flax seeds, use clean coffee bean grinder.
If adding ground flax seeds to a cooked cereal or grain dish, do so at the end of cooking since the soluble fiber in flax can thicken liquids if left too long.
Whole or ground flax seed can be used in many ways. They add flavour and texture to baked goods like muffins and cookies and they can also be stirred into hot cereal or sprinkled over yogurt. Flax seeds can also be added to meatloaf, burgers and casseroles.
Ground flax seed can also be used to thicken soups and stews. It 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 quite as high.
Healthy ways to enjoy
- Sprinkle ground flax on hot and cold breakfast cereal.
- Add a tablespoon of ground flax to a homemade smoothie.
- Sprinkle ground flax on a bowl of low-fat yogurt and fresh berries.
- Make your own flax seed porridge; stir together 1/3 cup of ground flaxseed with 2-3 tbsp. of hot water, drizzle with maple syrup and enjoy.
- Stir ground flax into pureed soups to thicken them.
- Sprinkle a garden salad with whole flax seeds for an alternative to croutons.
- Add ground flax to homemade beef and turkey burgers, meatloaf and meatball recipes.
- Give roasted vegetables a nutty flavour by sprinkling them with ground flax after cooking.
- Add flax seeds to homemade quick bread, muffins and cookie recipes. Click here for a recipe.
- Stir a teaspoon of ground flax into Greek yogurt.
- Give muffins and quick breads a crunchy topping by sprinkling them with whole flax seeds before baking.
Did you know?
- Flax seeds 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.