When it comes to bulletproofing your nutrition, the health benefits of flaxseed are undeniable.
Simple. Economical. Effective. These tiny treasures deliver a power-packed punch of essential fatty acids, omega 3s, fiber and protein, and the benefits don’t stop there.
Health Benefits of Flaxseeds
One tablespoon of whole flaxseeds delivers 4 grams of healthy fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber and 2 grams of protein. Additionally, flax contains important micronutrients such as magnesium, phosphorous, thiamin and manganese.
Adding a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds to your morning protein shake or a batch of hearty muffins also provides a terrific source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is a form of omega 3 fat, which is converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Why all this science talk? Because studies have shown EPA provides protective, anti-inflammatory properties.
Flaxseed is also high in dietary fiber, and according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), scientific evidence convincingly shows that dietary fiber plays a role in lowering colorectal cancer risk due to its ability to make you feel fuller longer.
Healthy bacteria in your colon may also use dietary fiber to produce substances that protect colon cells. Limit your intake of flax to one to two tablespoons a day and drink plenty of water to avoid any digestive issues that may come with a fiber-rich food.
- Flaxseeds are a win-win for your body and in the kitchen. They can be purchased whole or ground, as flaxseed meal, flour and oil.
- The best way to eat flaxseeds is to grind them in a coffee or spice grinder, because your body has a hard time accessing the full nutritional benefit when eaten in seed form. The only down side is ground flaxseeds don’t stay fresh as long, so grind only the amount you need at one time and store the rest in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
- Whole flaxseeds can be stored for up to a year; ground flaxseeds for up to 30 days.
- Add to hot or cold cereals, yogurt or smoothies
- Sprinkle on salads or steamed veggies for a light, nutty flavor
- Add to baked muffins or other breads
- Drizzle flaxseed oil on salads, veggies, or add to smoothies.
- Flaxseeds can be used an egg substitute for baking. Whisk together 1 tablespoon of finely ground flaxseeds and 3 tablespoons of water until you get a gelatinous consistency for every 1 egg you want to sub in a recipe.
- Don’t cook with flaxseed oil, as it’s too delicate for high heat.
Following are a couple of my favorite flaxseed recipes.
Blueberry-Flax Buttermilk Pancakes
(Recipe from AICR.org)
These babies make for a hearty breakfast on a cool morning, with the nutty flavor and texture of flaxseed paired with blueberries. I opt for gluten-free (subbing rice flour), and if blueberries are not in season, I have subbed frozen blueberries. Just make sure you rinse, drain and pat them really dry before folding into the batter.*
- ¾ cup buckwheat flour
- ¾ cup whole-wheat flour or ¾ brown rice flour for a gluten-free option
- 2 tbsp. ground flaxseed
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 cup skim or low-fat buttermilk
- ¾ cup skim milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp. canola oil
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (rinsed and set aside*)
- Vegetable cooking spray
- Maple syrup as desired
- In large bowl, combine flours, ground flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In separate bowl, mix buttermilk, eggs, oil and honey.
- Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir until batter is lightly mixed. If batter seems too thick, add a splash more of skim milk to thin. A few lumps are OK. Over-mixing leads to herd pancakes. Fold in blueberries.
- Preheat large skillet over medium heat. Coat with cooking spray. Use about ¼ cup batter per pancake. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, or until small bubbles begin to appear. Flip and cook until golden brown. Makes 4-6 generous servings.
Nutrition (per pancake): 220 calories, 6 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 33 carbohydrate, 9 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 600 mg sodium.
FALL FLAX MUFFINS (Gluten Free)
(Recipe from Whole Foods Market)
Buttermilk, applesauce, currents (or raisins), warm spices and buckwheat flour bring a pleasing balance of flavors to these muffins. Makes 12 muffins.
- Brown rice flour, ¾ cup
- Buckwheat flour, ¾ cup
- ½ cup ground flaxseed
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Salt, ¼ teaspoon
- ½ cup currants (you can sub chopped raisins)
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup sunflower or canola oil
- ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, flaxseed, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and currants.
- In a second large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, applesauce and buttermilk. Add flour mixture to buttermilk mixture and stir until just combined.
- Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling. Makes 12 muffins.
Nutrition (1 muffin): 210 calories (70 from fat), 8g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 35mg cholesterol, 190mg sodium, 30g carbohydrates, (3 g dietary fiber, 15g sugar), 5g protein.