Flaxseed – much more than just a nice crunch

iStock photo

iStock photo

Flaxseeds, often relegated as a garnish on breads and rolls, offer a potent arsenal of weapons to fight disease. But all too often, flax is only found on the plates of those whose diets already score top marks for their food choices. Considering the accumulating research on flax it may be time for these little seeds to hit the mainstream menus.

These little packets of goodness are a hotbed of research with scientists linking their consumptions to a pretty impressive and growing list of benefits. Components like fibre, omega-3 fats and compounds known as lignans are what give flax a stellar nutritional rating.

When it comes to fibre, what’s the first food that you think of? You’re not alone if bran is the first one that comes to mind. But start thinking of flax too. Tablespoon for tablespoon, flax has more than double the fibre of wheat bran at three grams per.

But the fibre in flax is a mix of both insoluble and soluble types. Insoluble is what used to be called roughage and, as a result, flax can be used as a remedy for constipation. But it’s the soluble fibre in flax that really offers some major perks. Soluble fibre can supply a pretty hefty blood cholesterol-lowering kick along with advantages for blood sugar regulation.

Studies show that  consuming flaxseed daily can reduce total cholesterol by a whopping five to 17 percent in those with elevated readings. It also reduces levels in people with normal cholesterol. As for the artery clogging LDL-cholesterol, flax can reduce the counts by four to ten percent. Daily consumption can also lead to lower fasting blood sugar readings for those with diabetes.

Animal research also shows that besides protecting against the formation of artery–clogging plaque, flax may also enhance plaque regression – that’s where plaque may be broken down and lead to improved blood flow.

Flax also offers anti-inflammatory action  due to its  omega-3 content – ALA in particular.  Fighting inflammation, besides protecting arteries, may defend against certain cancers as inflamed cells are also more likely to become cancerous ones. (I’ll provide some of the research on the flax-cancer connection in my next post.)

As for putting flax on your menu,  here are some facts to keep in mind. Raw flax can be kept at room temperature for up to one year.  While you can purchase milled or ground flax, look for those that are vacuum-packed. But you can grind your own  in a coffee grinder and then refrigerate  it for up to 60 days.  If you don’t own a grinder, just a few uses and you’ve made up the cost compared to buying it in a milled, vacuum-packed form.

And you don’t have to be a cereal eater, to use ground flax – as many who consume flax sprinkle it on their morning cereal.  You can  substitute flax for fat in your baking, using  3 tablespoons/ 45 mL  ground flax seed for each tablespoon/ 15 mL   of margarine, butter or cooking oil.  Using flax, though, will  cause baked goods to brown more quickly. When cooking, add flax to  pancake batter, burgers or meatloaf, as a filler, or to thicker soups and pasta sauces. Or stir it into cottage cheese or yogurt or sprinkle it over salads.

Are you a flax eater? How do you include it on your menu? Please share in the comment section.

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Categories: Research Roundup, Superfoods, Tips and Tricks, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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6 Comments on “Flaxseed – much more than just a nice crunch”

  1. Paula
    February 24, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    I have been a long time flax eater -over 15 years. I add it to my cereal, yogurt , smoothies
    I have my own grinder and grind a few days worth. Love the flavour it adds to my food

  2. Miriam Grunwald
    February 24, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    I make a most delicious cracker with ground flax seed and Parmesan cheese. Eat them all the time

    • Paula
      February 25, 2014 at 6:09 am #

      I would love that cracker recipe !

  3. helensamia
    February 24, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    Sprinkle on my cereal … 😃

  4. February 24, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    Add it to smoothies and green shakes. Helps to thicken too.

  5. February 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    Miriam, I agree with Paula! I would love to see the flax recipe as well. Would you be willing to share it? If you email it to me, I can post it. If not, no worries.

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