How to Eat More Flax
When being seedy is good: How to eat more flax!
Back in the eighties, when parents were mostly not aware of the ills of fluffy white bread, I was the only kid in school with “multigrain” bread in a sea of unblemished, alabaster Wonderbread-type sandwiches.
My friends would wrinkle their nose at the sandwich my mum, also a nutritionist, had lovingly packed for me. “Alex, there are ants in your bread,” they would say. “No,” I replied somewhat self-consciously, “those are flax seeds.”
Now that we are well into the new millennium, people know about flax seeds. You can even find them in commercial breads (which unfortunately, still doesn’t mean most commercial breads are good for you).
Most people know of flax seeds as a good source of fibre and a source of plant-based omega 3’s. That is true although if you want to get your omega 3’s from flax, you are better off consuming the oil instead of the whole seeds. Whole seeds are difficult for the human digestive system to break down and therefore in order to obtain the full benefits of flax, they are best consumed freshly ground. I buy my seeds whole, grind them in small batches in a coffee grinder, and store them in the freezer to preserve freshness.
Here is a summary of some impressive things that flax can do, and below that you will find some recipes to help you incorporate more of this wonderful seed into your diet.
1 tablespoon of ground flax seed per day lowered levels of fasting blood sugar and glycosylated hemoglobin (a measure of longer-term blood sugar regulation ability). An improvement in blood lipid parameters were also noted, with a reduction in total cholesterol, particularly LDL (the “bad’ cholesterol) and triglycerides .
Breast Cancer Survival:
Plant compounds, called lignans, found in particularly high amounts in flax seeds have been linked to better survival rates in women with breast cancer. It is thought that flax lignans act like weak estrogens and block the receptors from stronger estrogens encouraging the growth of cancerous cells [2,3,4].
Particularly in its whole form (ground up) flax seeds reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, improve circulation by improving blood viscosity, and at higher doses reduce inflammatory markers in the body (such as C-reactive protein). Recently, it was shown that two tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day significantly reduced blood pressure in hypertensive participants. The effect of flax was greater than any other dietary intervention so far in its impact on blood pressure .
Fertility & PMS:
Daily consumption of flaxseed reduced the likelihood of anovulatory cycles (menstrual cycles where ovulation doesn’t occur) and decreased symptoms of breast tenderness .
For those prone to constipation, one to two tablespoons of ground flax seed a day helps lubricate the bowels and add bulk to stool, thus creating an easier, fuller poop. ‘Nuff said.
So, how do we sneak more of these little seeds into our diet?
Flax seeds are very mild tasting with a pleasant, nutty flavour. In terms of taste, they are easy to disguise, so they can be thrown into smoothies, cereals, soups, salads, burgers, and baked goods. Many people will just put the ground flax seeds directly into water, give it a stir, and gulp it down.
Please note that if you are using flax seeds for the first time, start slow! Flax seeds promote bowel movements and some people may be more sensitive to this effect than others. Start with 1 tsp at a time, and work your way up!
Here are a few of my favourite ways to use flax seeds:
Simple Flax Crackers
1 cup whole flax seeds
¼ cup whole chia seeds
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp oregano
1 tsp sea salt
- In a bowl soak flax and chia seeds overnight (or about 7 hours). Once soaked, drain and rinse them.
- Add garlic, oregano, and salt to the flax mixture and stir until incorporated.
- Preheat the oven to 190 F and line a large baking tray with greased parchment paper.
- Spread out flax mixture onto parchment, trying to make it even thickness throughout (aim for about ½ cm thickness- thicker will yield longer baking times)
- Bake for 3-4 hours, making sure to check on them frequently to prevent burning.
Flax Banana Soft Serve
2 ripe frozen bananas, diced
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
- Place frozen banana slices into a food processor and begin processing. While blade is still moving, pour flax seed into top shot. Process until smooth. Scoop into bowls and serve immediately. Serves 2.
Alex Picot-Annand, BA (Psych), Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Certified Life Coach