The Humble Superfood: Flaxseed and How to Eat It
Flaxseed has appeared on the healthy eaters’ radar a few years ago but did not attract as much attention as chia seeds. And that’s a shame, because much cheaper flaxseed is just as great for you: from lowering blood pressure to restoring your liver, flaxseed can do it all!
Flax has been grown in Eurasia for millennia: in Ancient Egypt, the transparent white clothing worn by pharaohs was made of linen – that is, flax fiber. However, only now scientists begin to realise its true nutritional value. Here are just some of its many uses:
- Metabolism booster. Flaxseed contains great quantities of fiber, both in soluble and insoluble form. Fiber is essential to prevent constipation, bloating, and gas (we have already written about soluble fiber).
- Lose weight. It’s been shown that higher intake of fiber creates a feeling of fullness and slows digestion, so that you can go longer without feeling hungry.
- Reduce “bad” cholesterol. All seeds contain a lot of fat, but it is good fat. Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which, according to many studies, prevent bad cholesterol from accumulating in blood vessels, as well as reduce the risk of stroke.
- Help your brain. Yet another of omega-3 benefits: it is essential for preserving good memory and cognitive function, especially in old age.
- Prevent liver disease. Flaxseed is one of the best sources of lignans – compounds that have been shown to protect the liver and prevent breast and prostate cancer.
- Great source of vitamin B1 and magnesium. Both these nutrients are essential for our whole body: magnesium is responsible for bone health, and calcium absorption, while vitamin B1 (thiamine) is necessary for the immune system. One tablespoon of seeds contains up to 10% of the recommended daily amount.
- Large amounts of protein. Plant proteins, found in seeds and beans, are just as good as animal proteins, and perhaps even better for building muscle mass (see this study, for example). However, you wouldn’t want to make flaxseed your main source of protein: 100 grams contain a whopping 530 calories!
Grind it first!
Hopefully, you are convinced that adding some flaxseed to your diet is a great idea. However, a lot of people are eating it all wrong! It is often advised to just sprinkle the seeds onto salads in smoothies. However, our body simply does not digest whole flaxseed – it passes through your intestine unchanged. Thus, you will be missing out on all its nutritional value. Chia seeds can be eaten whole, but flax seeds have to be ground.
You can buy pre-ground flaxseed in health stores, but note that they go rancid a few weeks after being ground. It is much better to buy them whole and grind them as you need them in a blender of a coffee grinder. Keep them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
A versatile ingredient
Flaxseed does not have much of a taste, so you can add pretty much to anything: drinks, salads, pancake batter, omelettes (here are some more delicious ideas)… Do not go over the top, though: remember, it contains a lot of calories, so one tablespoon a day is probably enough.
Seeds and nuts are a fantastic addition to the diet, but remember that variety is key. To ensure long-lasting health, glowing skin, and good memory for your whole lifetime, you need to include lean meat and fish, dairy, legumes, and a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. In a certain sense, they are all superfoods.