For a simple seed, flaxseed packs a powerful punch. So powerful, in fact, that it deserves to be heralded as one of the world’s healthiest foods.
The flax plant grows to be about 2 feet tall and is known for more than it’s nutritious seeds. The fibrous stalk has been used for centuries for its ability to be used for textile making. Linen is a textile made from the fibres of the flax plant. Linen is laborious to manufacture, but the fibre is very strong, absorbent and dries faster than cotton. Garments made of linen are valued for their exceptional coolness and freshness in hot and humid weather.
Flaxseed has a centuries-long history, especially in textile-making. However, legend has it that Charles the Great ordered his subjects to eat flaxseed for the plant’s health benefits, so there’s obviously a long history of eating the seeds too. Historians believe the flax plant was probably first grown in Egypt before cultivation spread over much of the world. In earlier times, the flax plant was grown primarily to make cloth, but now it’s mostly grown for the seeds, at least in North America. It used to be that people saw fibre and thought about making cloth or other textiles, but in our super-processed world, we pay more attention to dietary fibre.
Not only is flax a good source of fibre, but it is also a nutritional powerhouse containing omega-3 essential fatty acids. The nutritional content of flaxseed is similar to the more expensive chia seeds, and flaxseed has a higher omega-3 content. Most of the health benefits of flaxseed are thought to be from the omega-3s.
The nutritional content of 1 tablespoon of flaxseed.
Protein: 1.3 grams
Carbs: 2 grams
Fibre: 1.9 grams
Total fat: 3 grams
Monounsaturated fat: 0.5 grams
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.0 grams
Omega-3 fatty acids: 1,597 mg
Vitamin B1: 8% of the RDI
Vitamin B6: 2% of the RDI
Folate: 2% of the RDI
Calcium: 2% of the RDI
Iron: 2% of the RDI
Magnesium: 7% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 4% of the RDI
Potassium: 2% of the RDI
Need us to tell you more? Well, here are other reasons why you need flax in your life!
So How Do You Eat Flaxseeds?
Given all the many health benefits, you’re probably wondering how to go about adding this superfood to your diet. Here are some of the best-proven ways to add flaxseed to your meals and snacks.
Most people find that the ground seeds are easier to digest than the whole seeds. The truth is is that you need to grind the seeds in order to release their nutritional benefits or roast them to break the hard seed coat, which is very difficult to break while chewing. Most nutrition experts recommend ground over whole flaxseed because the ground form is easier to digest. Whole flaxseed may pass through your intestine undigested, which means you won’t get all the benefits. You can buy the whole seeds and throw them into a food mill or coffee grinder. Or buy the seeds already ground, for a more convenient option. Store them in your fridge or freezer to keep the natural fatty oils that release from going rancid.
The recommended “dosage” is one to two tablespoons of flax meal (ground flaxseed) per day. And there are so many ways to do that, you may actually need to watch that you aren’t getting too much more than that until your digestive system gets used to the additional fibre. Flaxseed oil is around the same dosage minus the fibre benefit.
With its deliciously nutty flavour, flaxseed makes a great addition to bread, cakes, and any other of your favourite baked goods. Roasted – you can add the super-seeds to your cereal, granola, on top of your salad or use them for snacking. Throw a tablespoon or so into a smoothie or add it to your protein shake. Whisk some ground flaxseed into your salad dressing. Add a punch of fibre to your yoghurt, or super-power your dessert. If you are making a thick and creamy smoothie drink, you can easily sneak in a little flaxseed and no one will know. Or add it to your morning orange juice.
Remember, because of the relatively high-fat content, flaxseed will quickly taste rancid unless stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Even if you don’t mind the taste, we recommend storing in the fridge or freezer because that will help prevent the fats from breaking down and becoming less effective.
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