Flaxseed Through the Years
Since the beginning of civilization humans have consumed flaxseed. Before 5000 BC, Egyptians carried flaxseed in their medical bags.
Later on in history, Hippocrates stated flaxseed was used for the relief of abdominal pains in some of his writings. For 8,000 years flaxseed has been used as a source for sustaining energy.
During the eighth century, King Charlemagne passed laws requiring the consumption of flaxseed by his subjects to ensure their good health. Over more recent centuries, flaxseed use has grown across Europe, Africa and now to North America. In spite of all this history, flaxseed is still a mystery to many. It, along with soy, is just starting to gain in popularity in the world of nutrition.
Flaxseeds are tiny, dark brown or yellow seeds packed with alpha-linolenic acid.
Alpha-linolenic acid is the plant world's version of the omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish. In addition, flaxseed is rich in plant estrogen's called "lignans" which have anti-cancer benefits.
There are many other health threats that appear to be helped with the consumption of flaxseed. Among them are cardiovascular health and digestion, the inhibiting of tumor formation, a decrease in the symptoms of menopause, and increase in stamina, the reduction of the inflammation of arthritis and even the production of silky smooth skin and shiny hair. And these are just for starters.
Nutrients in Flaxseed
The flaxseed has a nutty, butter flavor and contains a virtual powerhouse of nutrients. The Omega-3 fatty acids, also found in salmon, leafy vegetables and nuts, help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering elevated blood fat (serum triglycerides) and reducing blood pressure. Flaxseed is also a great source of insoluble and soluble fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol levels.
Flaxseed provides approximately 50 percent more omega-3 oils than the amount available from fish oil. Flaxseed contains omega-6 and omega-9 essential fatty acids, linolenic, linoleni and oleic acids, linamarin (a cyanogenic glycoside), mucilage, cyanogenic glycosides, B vitamins, fiber, protein, potassium, lecithin, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins A and E. The body does not naturally produce certain essential fatty acids, so it is necessary to receive them via the diet. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
Along with the all-important Omega-3 fatty acids and added fiber, flaxseed also contains a phytoestrogen, a naturally occurring plant estrogen called lignans. Lignans also have many health benefits including prevention of bone loss, reduced risk of colon cancer and estrogen-related breast cancer, and diminished symptoms of menopause. Both flaxseeds and soybeans are two of the richest food sources for plant estrogens.
As a dietary supplement, flaxseed and flax oil can be found in 100 Percent Golden Flax Oil form, or in Organic Flaxseed Oil Softgel form. You can also usually find many sources of ready-to-eat foods containing flaxseed. The seeds and the oil both have benefits, but most prefer to use the seeds for the additional high fiber and lignan content.
Adding Flaxseed to Your Diet
Add flaxseed to your own recipes! The pleasant, nutty flavor of flaxseed is very easy to work with and much more pleasant to use than soybean products. A good idea is to grind the flaxseed prior to use. Flaxseed that's freshly ground will have more active lignans than flaxseed that's already pre-ground. You can mill them with a food processor or a blender or coffee grinder.
One of the most enjoyable ways to use flaxseed is in baking. In most baked goods, roasted flax seeds are more subtle -- both visually and in flavor -- than whole wheat fiber. Most people prefer golden flaxseed. It has a milder flavor than the brown seed, integrates more easily into recipes, and is often of higher quality. (Most brown flaxseed is grown for industrial purposes. In contrast, golden seeds are usually grown for human consumption.)
Available in food form, is dry roasted organic flaxseed. Roasted flaxseeds can be enjoyed direct from the bag, or sprinkled on cereal, yogurt and other foods, or used in baking. Add it any number of food categories including baked goods, smoothies, casseroles, burgers and meat loaf. If you decide to give flaxseed a try, it is important to note you should ease it into your diet slowly. There is 30g of fiber for every 100g of dry seed - this is a very high level of fiber.
Start out using half of a tablespoon per serving and slowly increase from there. As there is no precise recommended daily amount determined at this time, it is best to use flaxseed in moderation. Current studies indicate that tremendous health benefits, especially to the cardiovascular system, can be gained by adding two tablespoons a day to your diet.
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. In fact, many dieters who add flax seed to their diet have found that flax seed has been a key to keeping them feeling satisfied.
It has been seen that adding flaxseed oil to foods, or seeds taken with a meal, creates a feelings of fullness and satisfaction following a meal. The essential fats in flaxseed oil cause the stomach to retain food for a longer period of time as compared to no-fat or low-fat foods. The net result is that you feel fuller, longer, and actually eat fewer calories.
There is no RDA yet for omega-3 fatty acids or lignans, but experts have made recommendations. Try starting with about 1 tablespoon of whole ground flaxseed per day, and work your way up to somewhere between two tablespoons and 1/4 cup. Make sure to get extra fluids to help your body handle the extra fiber.
Flaxseed has no known warnings or contraindications.
- Store whole seeds at room temperature for up to one year. If you suspect they are old, taste a few. If they are off in flavor and not pleasantly nutty, discard them.
- Ground flaxseed should be stored in an airtight opaque container and refrigerated or frozen. Refrigerated ground flaxseed should be used within 30 days.
- Store flax oil in the refrigerator in a container that blocks light.
- Stir 1-tablespoon ground flax per serving into your morning hot cereal after cooking.
- Sprinkle ground flax over a salad, cooked vegetables or cold breakfast cereal.
- Garnish homemade baked goods such as muffins, yeast and quick breads with ground flax before baking for a crunchy topping.
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