Living in the Maine woods, we have our share of wildlife. It’s fun to investigate all of the critter tracks especially after a fresh snowfall. We enjoy keeping the bird feeders filled for the Chickadees, Finches and the occasional crafty squirrel or two. But when it comes to eating nuts and seeds, are they just “for the birds?” Just recently I got on the flaxseed bandwagon and have enjoyed some impressive results. Let’s explore the powerful health benefits of flaxseed and how you can easily incorporate it into your daily routine.
No matter what the latest trend or viral video is, I make it a point not to follow the crowd blindly. A few years ago it seemed that everyone was talking about flaxseed. Here we go again, another so-called miracle ingredient to fix all of our woes — okay so maybe I’m not the most open-mined person on the planet. It’s the science not the hype that gets my attention and the proof that it works for me. Flaxseed actually has a very rich history. According to Elaine Magee of WebMD, flaxseed’s history can be tracked to 3000 B.C. to Babylonian times. Ancient Egyptians used every bit of the flax plant: fiber for clothes and fishnets; seeds for food and medicinal purposes. In more recent centuries, flaxseed oils were beneficial in ointments for burns and facial spots.
Today, in our over processed, pre-packed, fast food society, we are often missing key nutrients that can easily be found in foods that retain their nutrients in their natural state. Flaxseeds are made up of several nutrients that are beneficial to our health and provide a great boost for weight loss too. The following key nutrients make flaxseed a super addition to a healthier diet:
- ALA - which stands for alpha-linolenic acid, is an essential omega-3 fatty acid. Unbalanced western diets full of unhealthy high-fat foods can lead to an imbalance in our omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Too much omega-6 can lead to generational obesity. ALAs help balance and may reduce the risk of heart disease. The recommended amount of ALA is 1.6 grams/day for men and 1.1 grams for women.
- Lignans — a potent antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage. Flaxseeds contain 100 times more lignans than its next closest food source, oat bran. The metabolite, Enterolactone, found in lignans may also reduce the risk of prostate cancer. There is also encouraging research showing lignans may help prevent a common form of hair loss in men. A six month study found that SDG (primary lignan in flaxseed) “can prevnt androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness) by slowing down the production of DHT (enzyme responsible for shrinking hair follicles). Women also gain the benefits of lignans with potential breast cancer risk, pms, and menopausal issues.
- Fiber - flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, both vital to maintaining healthy digestion and proper elimination.
- Protein — whole flaxseeds contain 8 grams of protein in 1/4 cup.
A few years ago I got excited about flaxseeds and bought a big bag from the whole grocer. I stored them in the freezer and there they remained until I cleaned out all unidentifiable items. The bag landed in the trash. My biggest issue was that I didn’t know how to incorporate these seeds into my daily diet. Here are some tips to fuel up with flax:
- Whole flaxseeds — soak 1 cup whole flaxseeds in 1/2 cup water overnight. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 275º for 50 minutes to make a flaxseed granola that you can add to your morning cereal.
- Ground flaxseed — sprinkle over cereal, add to yogurt, include in baked good recipes to boost nutrient and fiber content. You can replace 1/4 — 1/2 cup of flour with ground flaxseed for every 2 cups of flour required in a recipe.
- Flaxseed Oil — add to non-cooked foods like smoothies, salad dressings, etc. Do not use the oil for cooking, however, as the high heat breaks down the oil’s benefits. Recommended intake is one tablespoon per 100 pounds of body weight.
- Supplementing — if you supplement with flaxseed, suggested servings are 1–2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed per day.
Flaxseeds have a nutty quality that adds great texture and flavor to foods. I now have a brand new bag of flaxseeds that I happily use on a regular basis much to the dismay of the squirrels and chipmunks in my backyard!
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“I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”
Copyright © 2013 by Christine A.Toriello, all rights reserved.