Flax seeds are gaining quite the reputation in Lebanon and more people are aware of these seeds, asking more about them and incorporating them in their diets! So why not try me some flax seeds!
Flax seeds are seeds that come in either brown or yellow golden color. There is not much difference in nutritional content between the 2 but they are a great reputation in preventing and aiding heart diseases, cancers, diabetes and inflammation because of their content of omega-3 essential (alpha-linolenic acid - ALA) fatty acids which are the "good" heart-healthy types of fats. In fact, omega 3 can be found in fish, walnuts as well as flax seeds! So if you’re not much into eating fish, dig in some flax seeds to increase your omega-3 intake. Flax seeds are also rich in phytochemicals such as lignans, which have phytoestrogen and antioxidant potentials as well as fibers, vitamin B family, magnesium, copper and manganese!
Some call flax seeds ‘the most powerful plant foods on the planet’ so what are the potential benefits of flax seeds?
Even though more studies are needed, research is showing that flax seeds may have important roles in:
Cancer – Recent studies have suggested that flax seed may have a protective effect against cancer, especially breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. It is because of its content of antioxidants as and omega-3 that it may help in inhibiting tumor incidence and growth. Its content of lignans also helps by interfering with the growth and spread of tumor cells.
Cardiovascular Disease – Omega-3 and certain amino acids found in flax seed may help your heart and blood vessels by lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, normalizing heartbeats, reducing the risk of hardening of blood vessels and reducing the deposition of plaques.
Diabetes – Preliminary studies also suggests that daily intake of the lignans in flax seed may modestly improve blood sugar which might aid in preventing and controlling diabetes type 2.
Inflammation – Because flax seed may aid in decreasing and preventing inflammation, they may be helpful for all inflammatory diseases such as such as arthritis, asthma or even Parkinson’s.
Digestive Health - 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds provides you with 8 % of your daily intake of fibers thus helping in constipation, irritable bowl syndrome, diverticulitis, inflammation of the lining of the stomach or lower intestines, etc. However, keep in mind that if you are new to high fiber diets, you have to increase your intake gradually and not all at once.
Note that till now, research suggests that pregnant and lactating mothers avoid adding flax to their diets because there are still no reliable clinical evidence of its effect. Moreover, if you are taking any medication, it is important to consult with your doctor for any possible interactions with drugs.
So how can we use flax seeds in our diet?
It's better to consume the seeds rather than flax oil. The oil gets rancid really quickly, plus you don’t really get the benefits of the rich components the seeds offer– some of which still not discovered! However, the optimum dose to obtain health benefits is still not yet determined, so for now, 1 to 2 tablespoons per day is suggested.
You can either buy whole flax seed (can also be labeled as linseed or بذر الكتان) or you can buy milled or ground flax seed called ‘flax meal’, but I actually prefer to buy whole ones. I found the Naturalia brand in the supermarket and the bag you see on the right contains 500 grams for 6750 LL (4.5 USD). I didn’t actually find the golden yellow type of flax seeds, Charcutier only had the brown ones, but hey, literature says they have the similar nutrition facts, so brown it is!
The fact is that when flax seed is eaten whole, it is more likely to pass through your digestive tract undigested, which means your body doesn't get all its benefits. However, whole flax seed has a longer shelf life because the outside shell in whole flax seed appears to keep the fatty acids inside well protected. Therefore, I bought the seeds and when I’ll have some, I’ll just crush them before incorporating them in my meal.
So to increase your intake of fibers, lignans and above all omega-3, a good idea would be to add ground flaxseed:
- In your salads, yogurt, dressings, cereals, soups, shakes and smoothies. I just ground 1 tbsp of flaxseed to my fattoush and it blended it quite perfectly! Its taste is more neutral, I tried some alone but with the fattouch it gave a delicious texture.
- Hidden in dark moist dishes like in many Lebanese stews, sauces or gravies – the ground flaxseed will go unnoticed while boosting your omega-3!
- In baking, you can add flaxseed with your flour for cakes, breads, muffins, pancakes or even man2ouche's dough
- As an egg substitute by mixing 1 tbsp of ground flax with 3 tbsp of water (or any other liquid) and mixing well till it’s gelatinous and homogeneous. This is a vegan trick in baking, but you don’t have to be vegan to sneak some flax in your baked goods and benefit from this substitution!
|Flaxseeds with my Fattouch|
|Flaxseeds placed in |
a jar for storage
The whole point is to add flax once in a while, or more often in your diet. It can be easily hidden in food, especially dark ones like I said. I even convinced mom to add them with the fasolia w rez (Beans and rice) she’s making in couple of days! Mom doesn’t like fish and rarely has walnuts, so adding these flaxseeds is a smart investment. 1 ground tablespoon has 37 calories.
Moreover, make sure to keep your whole flaxseed in a dark, cool place until you grind it. But as long as it is dry and of good quality, whole flaxseed can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. You can also keep ground flax in a plastic sealable bag in your freezer to keep it from going rancid.
Flaxseed is nutritionally rich but it’s not a magic bullet, actually no single food is – it’s the combination of a whole dietary habits and lifestyle that affects your health. However, throwing in flaxseed in your diet can be a smart and healthy habit to adapt once in a while!