Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and phytochemicals, flaxseed packs a nutritional punch!
Although flaxseed has been cultivated for centuries, it’s recently become extremely popular because of its numerous health benefits. This tiny seed packs a big nutritional punch! Although it has been touted to cure just about every disease from diabetes and heart disease to cancer, the full effects of flaxseed on the human body are still not completely known.
What is known for sure is that this tiny seed is rich in several important compounds like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and phytochemicals. All of these have very important health benefits so you should include flaxseed in your diet.
How to buy flaxseed
Flaxseed can be purchased at most natural foods stores or health food stores and comes whole, ground (milled) or as an oil. It also comes in golden or brown varieties but there’s no nutritional difference between the two. The whole seeds have a tough exterior, which makes them difficult to digest. Therefore, they tend to pass through the body without giving you much nutritional benefit. Our bodies absorb the ground form much better so ground flaxseed provides more health benefits. Pre-ground flaxseed however, has a short shelf life. So the best idea is to buy it whole and grind it up in a coffee or spice grinder as you need it. You can store unused flaxseed in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator.
How to eat flaxseed
You can sprinkle flaxseed on many foods like yogurt or oatmeal. Make yourself a yogurt parfait in the morning with Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and ground flaxseed. Stir ground flaxseed into hot soups, stews and pasta sauces. You can even use it in baking recipes and incorporate it into cakes, cookies and muffins. Try my Banana Flax Bread, which is packed with nutritious whole grains, Greek yogurt and flaxseed. When it’s baking in the oven, it will make your whole house smell divine!
It’s also a great addition to smoothies to add extra fiber and protein. Smoothies are a great way to incorporate nutritious ingredients into your diet and can be enjoyed as a snack or even a meal replacement depending on when you put in them. Check out my Quick Guide To Making Healthy Smoothies. To reap all of the health benefits of flaxseed, aim to eat 1-2 tablespoons a day.
There are 3 main components that make flaxseed so good for you:
- Fiber: Flaxseed is high in soluble and insoluble fiber. A diet high in fiber has several health benefits including helping to reduce cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure and promote heart health. Fiber also helps to regulate blood sugar levels. It’s also really important in maintaining bowel integrity and regularity. It may also play a role in preventing colorectal cancer.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential compounds that our bodies need to function. However, because we don’t naturally produce omega-3s, we must get them from our diet. Flaxseed contains high levels of alpha linoleic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that is partially converted to the omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that are mainly found in fatty fish like salmon. Omega-3s have incredible health benefits. They reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by several different mechanisms including lowering triglycerides and reducing blood clotting. They also are important for neurologic development, especially in fetal development and young children. Omega-3s may also help reduce the risk of dementia in the elderly but more studies are needed. Because they work to reduce inflammation, omega-3s may improve symptoms in diseases such as arthritis and asthma. Other good food sources of ALA are canola oil, soybean oil and walnuts.
- Phytochemicals: Flaxseed is packed with phytochemicals, which are compounds found in plants that are beneficial to the body. They are an especially rich source of lignans, which are compounds that mimic the action of the hormone estrogen in our bodies. Lignans also have strong antioxidant properties. The lignans in flaxseed may provide some protection against cancers that are sensitive to hormones such as breast cancer. Lignans also have an anti-inflammatory effect, which plays a role in preventing certain diseases like asthma. Lignans help reduce inflammation associated with plaque
Blueberry banana flaxseed smoothie
Now you know why I said this amazing little seed is packed with nutrition! If you’re looking for an easy way to incorporate it into your diet, try my Blueberry Banana Flaxseed Smoothie. Blueberries, another superfood, are higher in antioxidants than any other fruit. They’re also packed with fiber and several vitamins including Vitamin C. Greek yogurt adds tangy flavor and a boost of protein while the bananas, honey and almond extract add sweetness. Throw in some flaxseed and it’s the perfect, nutritious drink to get you going in the morning or anytime of day. Enjoy!
Blueberry Banana Flaxseed Smoothie
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 1 ripe banana, preferably frozen
- 1 cup blueberries
- ½ cup fat free Greek yogurt
- ¾ cup milk, any type
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 6 ice cubes
- Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
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