Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is Flax Seed The #1 Superfood?

Organic Flax Seed

Do you remember the first time you actually heard about flax seed and the fact that you can eat it?

Flax has been around for thousands of years.  How is it that ancient cultures knew of this tiny seed and all its health benefits?

According to Wikipedia, "Flax is grown both for its seeds and for its fiber. Various parts of the plant have been used to make fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets, hair gels, and soap."  You may also recognize flax, or otherwise known as linseed, as an oil in paints and varnishes.  Flax seed has also been used for cattle feed, most recently as an extra omega-3 boost for chickens (e.g., Omega-3 enriched eggs) and the plant itself is used as fiber (linen) - much as cotton is used.

In Elaine Magee's, MPH, RD article The Benefits of Flaxseed, she wrote that today, many consider flax seed as one of  "the most powerful plant foods on the planet."

Flax seed contains plant Omega-3, Fiber (soluble and insoluble), and Lignans (antioxidant and fiber-like benefits).  There are three stages in which raw seeds may be found; white and green seeds are harvested prior to full maturation, black seeds are the opposite and are harvested long after the seeds reach full maturity, and the ideal color range that you want to find is an amber or gold to a tan or brown in color.

Over at The World's Healthiest Foods they show us creative ways to add flax seed to our daily diet.  You may have already seen baked goods in the grocery store touting "Now Made with Flax Seed" or something to that effect.  Now you can do the same at home by simply sprinkling some on your food (cereal or smoothies) or adding some to your mixes such as muffins, cookies, breads, etc.

  • Among all 129 World's Healthiest Foods, flaxseeds comes out number one as a source of omega-3s!  
  • Researchers rank flaxseeds as the number one source of lignans. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, high-lignan content, and mucilage gums—are key factors in the unique health benefits of flaxseeds.

The World's Healthiest Foods believes "that a combination of nuts and seeds, including flax seeds, that adds up to 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces, or 42 grams) per day is a dietary step well worth taking for most people."

Possible Benefits of Flax Seed:

  • Reduce the risk of Heart disease
  • Aid in Digestion and Absorption of nutrients
  • Aid in Peri- and Post-Menopausal Symptoms
  • Reduce the risk of certain types of Cancer
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes
  • High Fiber content
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-Inflammatory
Cold-Milled Flax Seed

Many main-stream grocery stores are starting to carry flax seed in the health food aisle or mixed in with the baking or hot cereal aisles.  You can find flax seeds in their whole form or ground.  Either way, you will want to store your flax seeds in the refrigerator to maintain their quality and benefits.  I've read that whole flax seeds can last in a sealed container up to 12 months and ground flax seeds can last up to 16 weeks when stored in the refrigerator.

Although ground flax seed tends to be more prone to oxidation it seems to be the most commonly used method when adding to foods.  If you prefer to grind your own flax seed, you can do so with a small coffee or spice grinder.

Words of Caution:

When adding new items to your diet, be sure to check with your doctor first.  Also, go slow and add small amounts or change your diet slowly.  This will help with gastrointestinal discomfort such as bloating or in some cases flatulence.

Another really big thing to be sure to do is increase your water consumption because of the high fiber content in flax seed.  Not only that, our bodies are over 60 percent water (or something like that) so we really need to stay hydrated for our organs to work efficiently.

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