Did you know that the flax plant is the source of fiber from which linen is woven? It also yield edible seeds and oil, and flax has been part of the human diet probably since forever. Adding small amounts of flaxseed to your favorite foods is a quick and tasty way to get healthier!
Flaxseed is a rich source of a number of beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and protein. With about 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon, flaxseed is a good source of roughage.
And I am sure that you know that adding more fiber to your diet can lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reducing the risk for heart disease and stroke.
Here are other flaxseed benefits:
- The combination of oil and fiber in flaxseed make it an excellent laxative and an effective remedy for sluggish bowels and chronic constipation.
- Flaxseed contains plant estrogens called lignans. These natural compounds have been found to possess anti-tumor properties and appear to be especially beneficial in reducing the risk of breast and colon cancer.
- In the body, lignans act as weak estrogens. Because their chemical structure is similar to the structure of the hormone estrogen produced by the female body, they’re capable of binding to the same cellular receptors. When hormone-sensitive cells, including those of the breast and uterus, are occupied by the weak plant estrogens in flaxseed, they appear to be less susceptible to the cancer-causing effects of human estrogen. While consumption of flaxseed is believed to help prevent breast cancer, researchers from the University of Toronto found that it also may be useful in the treatment of the disease. For their study, the Canadian scientists asked postmenopausal women who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer to eat either a plain muffin or a muffin containing 25 grams of flaxseed every day for four weeks. Women who ate the flaxseed muffins showed a significant reduction in the rate of tumor growth, as well as an increase in the death of cancerous cells. Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that dietary flaxseed has the potential to reduce tumor growth in women with breast cancer. As plant estrogens, the lignans in flaxseed can help alleviate some symptoms of menopause. Scientists at the Mayo Clinic found that postmenopausal women who consumed 40 grams of crushed flaxseed daily for six weeks experienced a welcome 57 percent reduction in the frequency and severity of hot flashes. The women also reported noticeable improvements in mood, as well as reductions in joint and muscle pain. Combined, the benefits of consuming flaxseed significantly improved their health-related quality of life.
- Flaxseed is an important source of an essential omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid. Because essential fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the human body, they must be obtained from the diet. Hundreds of scientific studies performed over the last decade suggest that most Americans don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids for good health. Increased consumption of these beneficial fats has been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels and decreasing the clotting potential of the blood. The essential fatty acids in flaxseed have been credited with improving symptoms of dry eyes, psoriasis and eczema. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to possess potent anti-inflammatory properties, making flax a popular remedy for arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
Flax is available at many supermarkets and most health food stores. Whole flaxseed can be eaten alone or added to other foods, but because the seeds may not be fully digested, ground flazseed is better for you. I grind mine in the coffee grinder; perfect! You can add a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseed to hot or cold cereals or to a cup of yogurt. Adding a quarter-cup of ground flaxseed to recipes can boost the flavor and nutritional quality of baked goods, including muffins and breads, as well as meatloaf, chili and casseroles.
Flaxseed oil is also used as an ingredient in cold preparations, such as salad dressings and smoothies. While the oil is a good source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, it doesn’t contain the protein, fiber or lignans found in the seeds of the flax plant.
So, how about adding a sprinkle of ground flaxseed or a dash of flaxseed oil to your favorite foods?
Savory Muffins –my recipe; I love it!
1 cup each: pumpkin puree, oat bran and whole-wheat flour
2 cups wheat bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Italian seasonings
¼ cup flaxseeds
2 egg whites
1 cup skim milk and 2 tablespoons vinegar
Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix together milk and vinegar; set aside. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree and egg whites. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, wheat and oat bran, salt and Italian Seasoning. Stir in milk and vinegar mixture. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cups. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until springy to the touch and lightly browned. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. 12 servings
Calories: 109; Total Fat: 2.6 g (21 %); Total Carbohydrates: 22.5 g (63 %); Dietary Fiber: 7.6 g; Protein: 6.2 g (17 %)
Oven Baked Fried Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/3 cup ground flax seed
1/4 tsp each garlic powder and Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tablespoon each olive oil, parsley and Parmesan cheese
Nonstick cooking spray
To make a flax breading, combine the bread crumbs, flax seed, garlic powder, black pepper, parsley, parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning in a plastic bag, seal and shake to blend.
Wash and pat dry chicken. Brush chicken with olive oil and coat in the flax breading. Place breaded chicken breasts on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray, and bake, uncovered, in a 375-degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until chicken is done and a golden brown. 4 servings
Calories: 289; Total Fat: 14 g (44%); Total Carbohydrates: 14.5 g (20 %); Dietary Fiber: 2.25 g; Protein: 25.75 g (38 %)
6 cups fresh sliced apples
1 tablespoon each fresh lemon juice, raw sugar and cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oats
Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350-degrees and coat baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Combine apples and lemon juice in baking dish and toss gently to coat. Combine raw sugar, cornstarch and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir with a whisk to blend. Add cornstarch mixture to apple mixture and toss well to coat. Combine flax, remaining cinnamon, brown sugar, and oats in a separate bowl. Sprinkle evenly over apple mixture. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until apples are tender and topping golden brown. 8 servings.
Calories: 128; Total Fat: 2.6 g (18 %); Total Carbohydrates: 26.4 g (78 %); Dietary Fiber: 3.9 g; Protein: 1.75 g (5 %)
Chicken Noodle Soup
6 cups fat free chicken broth
4 ounces cubed cooked chicken meat
1 rib celery, trimmed and diced
1/4 cup diced onion
1 cup whole wheat noodles, dry
Pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish
1/4 cup toasted flaxseed
n a stockpot, combine broth, chicken, celery, and onion. Bring to a full rolling boil. Add noodles. Cook uncovered until tender, about 10 minutes after water returns to a boil. In the final few minutes of cooking, add black pepper as desired. Ladle out into individual bowls, garnished with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and toasted flaxseed. To toast Flaxseed: Toast whole flaxseed in a small flat pan, with a long handle. Cover securely. Hold pan over high heat, shaking vigorously to keep the seeds from burning. You will hear the flaxseed start to pop. As soon as the popping stops, remove the pan from the heat and remove the cover. It only takes a few minutes. 8 1-cup servings.
Calories: 107; Total Fat: 2.9 g (24 %); Total Carbohydrates: 13.9 g (50 %); Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Protein: 7.25 g (27%)
Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
2½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ cup ground flaxseed
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1cup raw sugar
3 egg whites
½ cup skim buttermilk (milk and 1 tablespoon vinegar)
3 cups finely grated, unpeeled zucchini
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda and ground flax. In a separate bowl, cream applesauce and sugar. Add egg whites and buttermilk. Add flour mixture, stirring until just mixed. Add zucchini and mix. Fill paper baking cups half to two thirds full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove and cool on rack. 24 servings
Calories: 89.5; Total Fat: 0.9 g (9 %); Total Carbohydrates: 19 g (80 %); Dietary Fiber: 2.25 g; Protein: 2.9 g (12 %)
Banana-Date Flaxseed Bread
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
2/3 cup banana – mashed
½ cup raw sugar
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
3 egg whites
1½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup whole flax seeds
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ cup whole pitted dates, chopped
Beat the banana, sugar, oil and eggs at medium speed until well-blended. Combine flour, ground flaxseeds, whole flaxseeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to sugar mixture, beating until well-blended. Stir in chopped dates. Spoon the batter into 8 x 4 inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack, and remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. 12 servings
Calories: 164.5; Total Fat: 3.4 g (19 %); Total Carbohydrates: 31.2 g (71 %); Dietary Fiber: 4.25 g; Protein: 4.8 g (11 %)
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