Flaxseeds (aka Linseeds) fall into the superfood group. They have a light, nutty taste and happen to be one of the oldest crops in the world. These seeds come in 2 varieties- golden or brown, but both have similar nutrition and benefits. You can buy flax as whole seeds or already ground up. The best way to eat them is ground, as the whole seeds can pass through the digestive tract undigested, so you miss out on many of their benefits.
Flaxseeds provide protein, fiber, healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, plus lots of vitamins and minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc to name a few). Two tablespoons (20 grams, the recommended daily dose) contains 4 grams of protein and 8% of the daily fiber requirement for women. These little guys also expand in your belly, which helps you feel full. For vegetarians, vegans, or anyone else who doesn’t eat fish, these are a great source of ALA (an omega 3 fatty acid) that your body can’t make and can only be found in food. These omega-3s are important for everyone, but essential for pregnancy and the developing fetus. It is important to note that fish is still the best source of ALA.
Flaxseeds are great for maintaining healthy bones and a healthy heart. They have antioxidant properties, which help fight free radical damage. The high fiber content (both soluble and insoluble) helps regulate blood sugar and prevents constipation by keeping bowel movements regular. Current studies are looking at the benefits of flax seeds in decreasing cholesterol and possibly lowering the risk of certain cancers.1
Eat flaxseeds in ground form to get all their benefits
Store in the refrigerator to help them last longer
Drink sufficient water to help keep things moving (due to the high fiber)
How to eat— add to foods you eat regularly:
Breakfast cereal or porridge
Mix into yogurt
Sprinkle on salads
Bake into cookies, muffins, breads, pancakes
Mix into meatballs
2 Tbs (20g) per day
Start small and increase until your digestive tract gets used to the high fiber content
Possible side effects:gas, stomach pains, constipation, bloating, diarrhea
Limit to 50g (5 TBS) per day if raw*
Avoid if you have crohn’s disease or a bowel obstruction
Stick to the recommended daily dose if you are pregnant or breastfeeding**
*due to possible trace amounts of toxins. Cooking/baking destroys these
**Flaxseed is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and omega-3s are essential to baby’s cognitive development. However, keep to the recommended daily serving. Ingesting large quantities could be harmful. Always check with your doctor or midwife for prenatal guidelines during your pregnancy.
1 There is some controversy surrounding estrogens and breast cancer. Flaxseed contains lignans, a phytoestrogen -which is a plant nutrient similar to the female hormone estrogen. These lignans can have estrogenic effects on the body so there is concern about whether it is safe for women with breast cancer to eat flaxseeds. According to current research and oncologynutrition.org, these lignans can make the body produce less active forms of estrogen, which may reduce the risk of breast cancer in postmenopasual women. Research also indicates that eating ground flaxseeds (as part of a healthy diet) may decrease cell growth in breast tissue, also reducing the the risk of breast cancer. Further, evidence is hopeful for the positive relationship between flaxseeds and less aggressive tumors in women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
As always, consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.
Super Easy Banana Flaxseed Pancakes
Makes 10-12 mini pancakes
1 medium ripe banana, mashed
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
Dash vanilla extract
Mix all together in a bowl. The batter will be thick and a little lumpy.
Heat a griddle over medium high and get it nice and hot. Spray with coconut oil. Spoon the batter onto the hot pan. Cook 2-3 minutes until golden brown and edges look solid, then flip. Cook another 2 minutes until golden.
*these pancakes take a little longer than traditional pancakes to cook, so give them time before flipping or they will fall apart
*can use 1 medium egg plus a teaspoon of milk in place of medium eggs