Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds. ~Norman Vincent PealeTwo great people have had an interest in flaxseeds, so it's time to write about it. King Charlemagne was such a believer in the health benefits of flaxseeds that he passed laws requiring his subjects to eat it. Then MindfulEater Kaitlyn asked us what we eat flaxseeds in. The answer is nearly everything! (but more on that later.)
So what are flaxseeds and why are they marvelous? The flax plant is known for its fibers (which make cloth, paper and stuff) and flaxseeds, which can be eaten or pressed into oil. We're focusing on the seeds. People are awed by their health benefits because they are full of essential fatty acid Omega-3 (1.8 gms per tablespoon of ground flaxseed), lignans (antioxidants) and fiber. Omega-3s are associated with a slew of benefits - everything from good brain function, less depression, and good heart health to anti-cancer benefits. Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed a day are even supposed to halve menopausal women's hot flashes. In general, ground flaxseed is preferable to flaxseed oil since it has more lignans.
So now you're probably sold on a good thing and you want in, right? Cool. Eat more flaxseed, but don't go nuts. Like anything else, too much is bad. Eat a lot without enough water, and you might be constipated. An excessive amount may become cancer promoting, due to the plant estrogens. Be moderate!
Flaxseeds add a nutty, fresh taste to food and go in almost everything! Mix it in:
- Dairy foods like yogurt, cottage cheese and on top of cream cheese spreads
- Nutty topping on top of vegetables
- All whole grains - rice, quinoa, barley, etc.
- Pasta and soups
- Meatballs, chili, mole sauce
- All hot and cold cereals
- Baked goods - replace some flour with ground flaxseed. Apparently you can substitute an egg with 1 tablespoon of flaxseed and 3 tablespoons of water, but I'm not a baker so I've never done it.
What to do: Eat Ground Flaxseeds
- Buy ground or whole flaxseeds. Color doesn't matter - brown and golden have the same basic nutritional value, if you prefer the color of one against your food, buy that. Ground flaxseeds are more easily digestible - whole flaxseeds can pass through your digestive system. Buy a bag of ground flaxseeds or get them whole and grind them yourself in a coffee bean grinder.
- Air is the enemy of flaxseeds. They oxidize, so squeeze air out of the bag when you reseal them, and keep them in the refrigerator, freezer or in a cool, dark place. Zip lock bags are best.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds per day to add Omega 3 and 6 oils to your diet. They're fresh tasting and mix in nearly everything! See suggestions above.
- Don't go nuts - just because some is good doesn't mean more is better. Stick to 1-2 tablespoons per day.
- If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, do not supplement with flaxseed - it may have an adverse effect on your young.
Want to learn more?
- Mindful Eats post on Omega-3 6 and 9
- WebMD on flaxseed
- UC Berkeley Wellness Guide to Dietary Supplements: Flaxseeds
- WHFoods on flaxseed
For posts on sustainable, organic, local and ethically grown food, go to Food Renegade.
What I ate: latte, hemp milk, Mindful Mix, dried mangos, 4 squares dark chocolate, quinoa + ground flaxseeds, microwaved asparagus, 1 cup coffee, whole wheat spaghetti + Rao's Siciliana sauce + spinach, parmesan cheese, 3 spears pineapple, 50 oz. water, 1 cup hot chocolate
Exercise: 4 miles warm up and cooldown, 4 mile tempo run