De-mystifying products

By: Kim Beavers Email
By: Kim Beavers Email

Have you ever wondered through the grocery aisle and wondered, “What is this?” I sure have, so we are checking out a few of those random products that bring questions to mind.

Let’s talk flaxseed. Now I know what flaxseed is and have talked about it before, but now I see golden flaxseed on the self. Here are some facts about flax:

  • Nutritionally speaking both golden and brown flaxseeds are the same.

  • They both contain fiber, lignans and omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-lenolenic acid or ALA).

  • Fiber has been shown to lower the less health “bad” LDL cholesterol without negatively impacting the healthier “good” HDL cholesterol.

  • Lignans are an important antioxidant (antioxidants decrease the damaging effects of oxygen in tissues).

  • ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is found in plant foods (flax, walnuts and greens).

  • Some companies advertise 1 percent higher oil content in golden flaxseeds versus brown. Some people prefer to use golden flaxseed in baked goods from a visual standpoint (thus eliminating random brown bits in baked goods). But essentially, the choice between the two is a personal one.

  • If you purchase the whole flaxseeds, you must grind them before consuming them for the healthy components to be bioavailable. Ground flax is sold as “flax meal” and is a convenient way to add flax to you baked goods, smoothies or cereals.

  • Once opened, store flaxseeds and flax meal in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain the nutritional components and keep it fresh longer.

Flaxseed oil:
Flaxseed oil is also available in the organic section of the grocery store. Here is some information to answer your questions on flax oil.

Flaxseed oil contains 7,000 mg of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) per tablespoon and contains 130 calories. One tablespoon of flax contains 1,200 mg alpha-linolenic acid. It is recommended to get 2,200 mg of ALA per day in your diet.

  • Flaxseed oil lacks the fiber provided by ground flax seed.

  • Flaxseed oil may slow the rate your body absorbs oral medication if taken at the same time (inform your doctor and pharmacist you are taking flax oil and avoid taking it the same time you take medication).

  • Flaxseed -- not flax oil -- also contains a group of chemicals called lignans that may play a role in the prevention of cancer.

The bottom line: Flaxseed contains more health benefits than the oil and flaxseed should be consumed ground versus whole. Enjoy!

Coconut water:
Many people believe that coconut water is nature’s sports drink. In fact it does contain more potassium than a banana (50 percent more) as well as magnesium and phosphorus. For that reason, coconut water ends up being a good post-exercise electrolyte beverage containing only 60 calories.

The bottom line: Many of us do not exercise enough to warrant a sports drink, however the calories are low enough in coconut water that you can get by with drinking it without blowing the calorie-burning effects of your workout. And for those that do exercise intensely enough to need an electrolyte beverage, coconut water may fit the bill nicely.

Braggs Aminos:
The ingredients in this soy sauce alternative are vegetable protein from soybeans and purified water. It contains amino acids (like many other foods). Essential amino acids must be supplied in the diet because our bodies are unable to make them. By consuming a variety of foods from all food groups, we consume sufficient amounts of the essential amino acids.

The nutrient of note that is not advertised on the front of Bragg Liquid Aminos is the sodium content. One teaspoon contains 320 mg sodium. Reduced sodium soy sauce contains less sodium at 260 mg per teaspoon. Braggs Aminos are gluten free and some soy sauce is not (but many are).

The bottom line: The choice of condiment is a personal preference and all salty condiments should be used sparingly.

Brown Rice Syrup:
Brown rice syrup is a sweetener. Two tablespoons have 150 calories, 36g carbohydrate and it is not a significant source of any other nutrients. In fact, sugar actually has a few less calories than brown rice syrup (60 calories less). Brown rice syrup does give the impression of being healthy, but in reality, it is sugar and we should get our brown rice from the dry goods aisle.

The bottom line: We all need to limit added sugars in our diet so sugar, honey or brown rice syrup should all be used in moderation, and again, the choice depends on your personal preference and budget.

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