Flax has been the “it” girl of the nutrient world for a few years so you don’t need to hear that it’s good for you. A quick primer though in case you’ve forgotten why … Flax is a grain that is high in Omega 3 fatty acids. We don’t get enough Omega 3s. We get lots of Omega 6 from other grains like corn and from the meat of corn fed animals, and our bodies make our own Omega 9s, but the 3s (also high in salmon, sardines and walnuts) get short changed.
Omegas, by the way, are fats that the body uses to make hormone-like chemicals that are used to regulate pretty much every bodily function. If the Omegas are not in balance it can throw our body out of balance.
So flax is a great way to get to 3’s but it turns out that the form in which you eat flax, makes a difference.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- Whole seeds are not the way to go. They’re now in everything from cereal (where they get jiggled down to the bottom of the box so that the last serving before the box is empty is 90% seeds), to bread and muffins and pancake batter. But they won’t do you much good except provide insoluble fiber ie. roughage that cant’ be digested. They basically take a trip through your intestines with their protective armor in tact, so your body can’t access them and take advantage of their nutritional assets.
- Grinding them up into flax meal, breaks open the shell and allows your body to access the oil. You can buy them ground or do it yourself in a coffee or spice grinder. Flax meal though is less shelf stable than seeds which is why cereal makers add the seeds and not the flax meal.
- The oil is the most efficient way for your body to access the fatty acids. The oil does not however contain “lignans” which are a phytochemical found in the seeds and lost when the oil is extracted. If you’re eating flax meal as well as oil, you’re already getting the lignans, but if you only consume the oil, you might want to get the oil that has lignans added back in (which will be stated clearly on the front of the label.)
- Keep the oil and ground flax seeds in fridge as it breaks down easily in the heat.
- Don’t cook with the oil. It will reach its smoke point very quickly and most of the nutrients will be destroyed.
So that’s it on my end …. Anything you’ve learned about flax you want to share? What’s your fave way to eat it?
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