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Flaxseed - A Powerhouse of Health Benefits in a Little Seed

Posted Jan 22 2009 12:19pm
I was thinking today about how sometimes the smallest changes to our diets have the greatest effect on our overall health because these types of changes usually have little impact on our day-to-day lives and in general require little to no extra effort to execute, which helps us to stick with them, getting a bigger nutritional bang over time with little sweat at all. The types of changes I’m talking about are things like replacing half of the white flour in recipes with whole wheat flour, using low-fat dairy products versus the whole-fat kind or substituting apple sauce for some of the oil or butter in our baking – these little changes are not life-altering in the least, nor are they terribly difficult to do every time, but in the long run they have a truly positive impact on the health and well-being of our families. Let’s just say that asking them to become vegetarian overnight might be a bit trickier than sneaking a little flaxseed into their oatmeal -- which brings me to the real point of this post – flaxseed.

What is flaxseed?
For those of you not yet familiar with flaxseed, let me begin by explaining that flaxseed is a plant-based source. It can be consumed as a seed, ground into a meal or turned into oil. For my family’s personal needs I prefer to use it in the form of ground flaxseed meal, which can be purchased easily and relatively inexpensively right at your local supermarket. Also, ground flaxseed is considered more nutritious because the milling process makes the nutrients in the flaxseed “come alive” versus simply passing through the body with little impact at all.

Ground flaxseed has a subtle but pleasantly nutty flavor and can easily be sprinkled directly into oatmeal, yogurt, baked goods and even main dishes like meatloaf and soup. Because its flavor is so subtle the majority of kids will not even know that it is there, but the inclusion of flaxseed will give them a healthy and nutritious boost. A little flaxseed goes a long way (especially with kids) so one bag stored in the fridge will last a while.

Why flaxseed?
Flaxseed has many truly amazing health and nutrition benefits. Including:

  • Flaxseed is one of the best sources of lignans, which are potent anti-oxidants that have been proven to help to prevent heart disease, lower bad cholesterol and protect against certain types of cancers as well as they might also protect against Type 2 diabetes.

  • Flaxseed is a natural and powerful source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essencial to neurological functioning and since omega-3 fatty acids are not naturally produced in the body we must find it in our food source. Other beneficial sources of omega-3 are oily fish such as salmon, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, canola oil and soy.

  • It is also believed that Omega-3 can help to keep cholesterol levels healthy and stable as well as can fight against inflammation in our bodies which might help to keep chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and even asthma at bay.

  • Flaxseed is extremely fiber-rich. As discussed in previous posts, a diet rich in fiber will help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, keep blood sugar stabilized as well as help to maintain a healthy weight and keep all well in the GI tract.

Here is a flaxseed oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe I tried this week. Since my kids went back for seconds I'm assuming that they thought they were pretty good.


Oatmeal Chocolate Chip with Flax

Ingredients
1 cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped almonds (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Cream butter with sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time. Add vanilla until combined.
  • Whisk flours, oatmeal, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda together, salt. Blend dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if using.
  • Form into 1" balls and place in ungreased cookie sheet or parchment about 2" apart.
  • Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Rotate cookie sheets half way through baking.

For much, much more information on flaxseed and its benefits, uses and a great variety of recipes go to Healthy Flax.







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