Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Quest for Good Nutrition - Ode to Flax

For those friends of ours who have had or will have a sample of my cooking, it seems fair to warn you that you have been or will be consuming flax seed. Over the last couple of years I have been cooking more and more with flax, or rather ground brown flax seed. I put a tablespoon of it in everything I bake, from cookies, to bread, to pancakes. It does not change the texture, taste, or cooking requirements of these items so its a quick and easy change.

I also use flax seed oil whenever I make salad dressing. The oil smokes at higher temperatures so I do not recommend it for cooking but in salad dressings and other recipes that do not require heat, it is great. The taste, though different from olive oil, is just fine.

Why go the trouble you ask? Well, my patented mommy answer is that it's good for you. However, for those who require a bit more data, I will elaborate.

Brown flax seeds contain high levels of lignans and omega-3 fatty acids. There is a golden or yellow flax seed variety but it does not contain the high levels of good stuff that the brown does, so I don't use it. According to some studies, lignans benefit the heart, possess anti-cancer properties, and, in mouse studies, reduced the growth rate of in some tumor types. Flax seed may also lower cholesterol levels (good for those with a history of heart disease) and helps stabilize blood sugar levels (lessening the severity of diabetes and hypoglycemia). Add to all of this laxative properties due to dietary fiber content and it really hard to find a reason not to add it to our diet a tablespoon full at a time.

For the sake of completeness, I should say that consuming large quantities not necessarily recommended because the high fiber may cause constipation for those that don't drink enough water. I have also read warnings about large amounts of flax interfering with oral medications. By large amounts, I mean replacing your wheat consumption with flax seed meal, not a mere tablespoon or two per loaf of bread. Thus, since I don't use large quantities of the stuff, I am confident that I am cooking beneficially.

I find my ground flax seed meal in the health food section of our local grocery store. Out of the brands the store carries, Bob's Red Mill brand has the best price so far, though I still check the numbers periodically. If you can't find Bob's Red Mill at your local store you can order from them directly via the internet. I get a 1 pound bag at a time and it lasts about 2 months depending on how much baking I do and how pancake mornings my youngest son requests. Store it in a sealed container or in the refrigerator to prevent it from going rancid. Happy cooking!

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