Flaxseeds and Other Power Foods

Over 100 years ago, flaxseed was a staple in the diet but it is estimated that the short shelf life of flax seed reduced its popularity. Today health conscious cooks have been adding flax to muffins, breads and smoothies to boost the nutritional content of these foods. Additionally, many whole grain baking companies are adding flaxseeds to bagels, cookie mixes and yeast breads.

Americans have been focusing on “good” fats and fiber. Good natural fats such as those found in certain legumes can help aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat-soluble vitamins are essential to health, organ function and overall wellness. Nutrition researchers and medical experts are urging Americans to add more omega-3 fatty acids like those found in flaxseed and fish in place of omega-6 fatty acids in their diet, such as corn and soybean oil. Taking in more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids in the family meal plan may cause the production of substances that cause inflammation, a growing concern in medical research. While the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the American diet is thought to be as high as 14:1 (14 grams of omega 6's for every gram of omega-3s), a ratio of no more than 3:1 (3 grams of omega-6s for every 1 gram of omega-3) is recommended. The United States government has not established guidelines for specific amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, but a number of international guidelines have been published and most Americans fall short.

It has been shown that an imbalance of these omega-6s and omega-3s fats may increase the susceptibility to heart disease as well as inflammatory conditions, like arthritis. Another benefit to the flaxseed is its rich content of soluble and insoluble fiber, a boost to anyone who has problems with regularity. There are several studies that have shown that flax seed, like oat bran, can be help lower blood cholesterol levels. Flaxseeds are also rich in lignans and phytoestrogens that might delay hormone-related cancers, such breast and prostate. In fact, the American National Cancer Institute believes that flaxseeds show promise in cancer prevention.

Flax Nutrition

One tablespoon of ground flaxseed has 36 calories, 1.8 grams of omega-3 fats and 2.2 grams of fiber. In contrast, a ½ teaspoon of flaxseed oil has 40 calories and no fiber. However, pregnant or lactating women should not eat lots of flax as well as those few with an allergic reaction to flaxseed.

Try adding more flaxseeds, freshly ground flaxseeds (flax meal), and flax oil, to many dishes when trying to include more healthy omega-3 fats and fiber to the family diet. Whole seeds cannot be digested, so they must be ground for nutritional benefits. A spice or coffee grinder works well. Refrigerate the whole ground flaxseed in an airtight container for up to 90 days. Most nutritionists believe that up to two tablespoons ground flaxseed daily is healthy for adults, but as always, check with your physician. If you choose to use flax oil, store it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life.

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