Flax seeds, also known as linseeds, come from an ancient plant that sprouts delicate pale blue flowers. It has been called the “gift of the Nile” because it was such a prized Egyptian crop for thousands of years. Flax can have a nutty flavor reminiscent of toasted coconut. But you don’t have to travel to Egypt to find it, you can buy flax seeds or ground flax seed or “meal”, at your local health food store, and sometimes in the gluten free isle of a standard grocery store. Flax seeds range in color from golden to brown, but both have a delicious nutty flavor when cooked. Yellow flax contains more ALA omega 3 compared to brown, but both types are good sources. Flax also contains other vital nutrients such as fiber, protein, magnesium, and iron.
Fabulous Fatty Acids
Heavy with plant based ALA or alphalinolenic acid omega-3, just 2 tablespoons a day can give you more than 100 % of your daily needs for ALA omega-3. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids promote bone health, work as mood enhancers, and decrease inflammation that my cause conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis. Studies show that flax can even help to control high blood pressure, and have been studied for their ability to lower cholesterol. But not all omega-3’s are equal when it comes to health. The ones with the biggest health benefits are found in fish like salmon and mackerel, which have the two long chain fatty acids docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA). Plant-derived omega-3s – the fatty acids found in flax seeds, olive oil and some leafy greens, like kale – are not absorbed as readily, but are still great for you. However all three forms of omega-3 are beneficial should be a staple in your diet.
Cooking with Flax
Flax must first be ground, in order to absorb it’s nutrients, whole flax seed simply passes through the body otherwise. To grind whole flax seeds, add them to a coffee grinder, and process until a fine meal forms about 10 seconds. Once you have your flax meal, sprinkle away to add nutrients to every day meals. Start with 2 tablespoons of ground flax, as flax can taste sour if used in high qualities. Add to breadcrumbs, spoon over cold or hot cereal, and sprinkle over frozen yogurt, or add to smoothies. In the mood for meatloaf? Stir in some flax to your meat mixture, for burgers or meatballs. Add 1 tablespoon of ground flax at the end of cooking, to thicken stews and chili.
Baking with Flax
If you have a vegan in the house, mix 1 tablespoon of ground flax with 1 tablespoon of cold water to use as an egg replacement in baking. To add to any baked good, swap out 1/4 cup of flour for 1/4 cup of ground flax, and add the flax along when you add the flour in the recipe. Flax blends well into oatmeal or chocolate chip cookie dough or in chocolate chip bars, gingerbread, or biscotti. For nut filled baked goods, like Hungarian nut roll swap out 2 tablespoons of the nuts and add in ground flax.
Flax like any seed, is high in healthy fats, which means it can go rancid easily if stored in the cupboard long term or if stored in a hot location. Keep your ground flax meal in an air-tight container in the fridge for handy, daily use or store in your freezer in a doubled zipper lock bag for extended storage, up to 6 months. If you open your flax, and it smell toxic, like paint thinner, it might be spoiled.