Flax seeds have been popular for awhile and are an excellent way to add fiber plant lignans (phytochemicals that have been found to be beneficial to health) and omega-3s to your diet. Adding 2 tablespoons of these tiny wonders to your diet provides 3 ½ grams of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, and 4 grams of fiber. The omega-3s found in this food may potentially have heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory properties. The fiber in these seeds promotes digestive health and may also help to lower cholesterol. Plant lignans may also have some protective effects for both the heart and certain cancers.
Buy flax already milled (known as flaxmeal) or get them whole and mill them yourself in a coffee grinder to get the most health benefits (we can’t digest whole seeds). Add a tablespoon or two of milled seeds to breakfast cereal, shakes or smoothies, sandwich condiments, or baked goods. Store them in an airtight container and refrigerate for maximum freshness.
Ground flax can also be used as replacements when you are baking:
Flax seeds can be found at Kroger in the natural foods section between the produce and the deli counter. You can also find foods that have been fortified with flax throughout the store. Breads, cereals, milk, and even eggs are all products that you can find with the added omega-3 benefit of flax. Just look for "flax" or "omega-3" on the label.
Golden flax seeds have a much more subdued taste than do the traditional brown flax, which have a nutty, earthy flavor. Use the yellow flax in foods that you already love and add brown flax to dishes that need a little something extra to round out the experience.
Flax seeds are great additions to the diet but they are not the only powerful seeds, chia seeds are newly popular additions to the diet. Chia seeds are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, minerals, and antioxidants. And in case you are wondering the chia seeds are the same seeds that became popular in the 70s because of the clay figurine known as the “Chia Pet”.
Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthy diet may help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure and promote weight loss.
However, there are not many published studies on the health benefits of consuming chia seeds, so stay tuned as this topic in nutrition is investigated further.
The bottom line in the consumption of either flax seed or chia seeds is similar to all other food recommendations. Begin with an overall healthy diet-- eat a variety of foods, maintain a diet high in produce, with moderate intakes of lean meat, lower fat dairy and a variety of fish (fish is important for getting in the DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids).
Including 1-2 tablespoons of flax or chia seeds is a great way to get in your ALA omega-3 fatty acids. The amount that you should aim for depends on what other ALA sources you are eating. Walnuts, soybeans, canola oil are also good sources of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.
See universityhealth.org/ewwk for some of these tasty flax recipes.
Until next time: Eat well. Live well.