April 26, 2007

All-Star of the Day: Flaxseed

I can't think of a simpler and better way to get more nutrition in your diet than by adding flaxseed to your meals.

Even the pickiest of eaters approve of their non-intrusive flavor and consistency.

Since flaxseed's highly healthful contents are protected by a thick shell, the best way to eat -- and easiest way to buy -- it is as a milled or ground product.

Whereas the outer shell passes undigested through our body, the center is much more easily absorbed -- and offers some powerhouse nutrients.

Two tablespoons of flaxseed provide 4 grams (20 percent) of fiber and almost 150% of the omega-3 fatty acids we need in just 95 calories!

You might have heard a lot about omega-3 fatty acids (they have replaced whole grains as the new “hot topic” in nutrition).

Let's do a little "Omega 101," shall we?

Omega-3's are wonderful essential fatty acids (yes, 'wonderful' and 'fatty' can be in the same sentence!).

Why? It has amazing anti-inflammation properties (and thus a strong defense against asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and migraine headaches) and helps prevent the formation of blood clots (thereby decreasing our risk of heart attacks and strokes).

The newest research on omega-3's has also shown a link between their consumption and the slowing down of bone loss
, especially among pre-menopausal women.

Although omega-3' are often linked with fatty fish like salmon, flaxseed have lots of alpha linoleic acid, the precursor to eicosapentaenoic acid (the omega-3 found in fatty fish).

Omega-3's are essential, meaning the body can not produce them on its own (unlike cholesterol, which we make on a daily basis and thus do not need to get from our food).

However, the average adult in the United States is consuming 1.6 grams of Omega-3 fats a day -- falling way short of the recommended minimum of 2.85 grams a day set forth by the American Heart Association.

That is not all flaxseed has to offer, though. High in the mineral magnesium, it is a good nutritional tool to combat asthma symptoms and keep blood pressure stable.

Flaxseed is also high in special plant compounds named lignans.

Women should pay special attention, since lignans contain phytoestrogens, an estrogen-like hormone that, in several studies, has been shown to decrease the formation of cell mutations related to the onset of breast cancer. One specific phytoestrogen in flaxseed known as SDG successfully ceased the formation of mammary tumors in rats.

In fact, a study published in the February 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that just one ounce of ground flaxseed every day over a 4-month period raises breast cancer protective hormones.

No matter what your sex, the insoluble (digestive-system-cleaning) and soluble (bad-cholesterol-flushing) fiber in flaxseed is worth raving about.

Remember, though, they are "all-star", so they also offer a special type of soluble fiber called mucilage which functions as a natural laxative.

Here is the easiest part: all you need to do is buy ground flaxseed meal (sold at many commercial supermarkets and health food stores).

Even if you are unable to boil water without screwing up, you can add flaxseed to your diet. Sprinkle it on cereal, oatmeal, soups or salads, blend it into smoothies, or mix it with yogurt.

Be sure to store flaxseed in the refrigerator once opened, though, since it spoils quickly and loses its nutritional properties if left out at room temperature once opened.

Flax all, folks!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bought a package of linseed just yesterday, as it happens, thinking that I might add it to my morning cereal. I hadn't read this entry then, however, and I purchased whole seeds rather than ground ones. If the shell is undigestible will I be getting any benefits from eating this other than the fibre they provide? It sounds like all the good stuff's locked away behind that tough shell.