15 August 2012

A true superfood: All about flax

Flax seeds! They seem to be somewhere on every grocery store's shelves nowadays. But why? Here's a list on the reasons why flax is so good for you:
  • They are a good source of fiber.
    Just one tablespoon of the seeds contains an average of 2 grams of fiber.
  • They are chock-full of omega-3s.
    As some of us may have heard time and time again, omega-3s are good for us! They are best known for reducing inflammation in the body by diminishing the blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). Omega-3s also keep our hair, skin, and nails healthy and they also maintain/improve our sight and intelligence. Flax is a great source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) omega-3s, which must be converted by the body to the more easily absorbed EPA (eicosopentaenoic acid).
  • They regulate digestion and improve nutrient absorption. In sync with fiber content, flax also has the ability to produce a gel-like viscosity when surrounded in liquid, which can line the intestinal wall and improve the absorption of nutrients as well as provide a steady passage of food through our intestines. Also, the fiber and lignans (mentioned below) can prevent colon cancer.
  • They keep our glucose levels balanced.
    Flax contains lecithin, which regulates blood sugar levels and keeps our cardiovascular system healthy.
  • They contain lignans.
    Lignans are part of the family of phytoestrogens and are known to have antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Flax seeds have the highest lignan content out there.
  • They can help lower LDL (or "bad") cholesterol levels.
    Flax seeds are high in soluble fiber, the type of fiber that binds with and gets rid of cholesterol in the body.
How to use flax seeds every day
  • Add them to smoothies.
    A tablespoon of ground flax is all you need but feel free to add more to your liking. Just make sure you add in a little at a time or else your smoothie might end up with a gummy viscosity.
  • Drizzle them on salads.
    Wait... drizzle flax seeds? Flax seed oil, that is. Just make sure not to overdo it since all oil is high in calories. A tablespoon is good enough.
  • Add them to baked goods.
    For those of you who are afraid that the nutrients in flax seeds will be destroyed in heat, never fear. According to WHFoods.com, flax can be heated up to 300F for 15 minutes and their nutrients will still be intact. This widens our options, doesn't it? Add flax to breads, muffins, pizza dough, granola... the list goes on. Some of us might find it easy to use flax as an egg substitute for baked goods. Get creative!
  • Mix them in water and drink up!
    This one might not be very pleasant for some of us; I sure had to get used to drinking plain water with flax. But this is the simplest way to add the nutrient-rich seed to our diets. All you have to do is add a tablespoon of finely ground flax seeds to every eight-ounces of water (personally, I do two cups of water with two tablespoons of flax before breakfast in the morning).
    One of the greatest reasons to drink this simple concoction is to improve regularity and reduce bloating and/or gas. And, really, with all the sulfur-rich foods that we eat every day, what vegan/vegetarian wouldn't want that?!
  • Buy and use a high-quality supplement.
    For those of us who are short on time and want all the benefits of flax, supplements are always an option.
In closing, so many health benefits are found in these tiny seeds and it's easy to have them be a part of our diet every day.

(Health information was obtained from Earl Mindell's "The Vitamin Bible," "PDR for Nutritional Supplements," and WHFoods.com)

Joanna Tenderro | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Google+
San Diego, CA Born and raised in San Diego, CA, Joanna has been vegan since mid-2010 and is passionate about nutrition, animal rights, eco-friendly living, and yoga. She's studying to major in the field of nutrition to counsel and educate those around her about living and eating healthy... the vegan way.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/healthaliciousness