When I started eating healthier, I seriously had no idea what an actual flax seed was or what it looked like (see the picture below), much less what good it could do for me. Come to find out, that although flax is full of fiber, it's actually pretty low in carbs and makes a great addition to a weight loss/health diet.
1. It's a great source of fiber
Most people don't get nearly enough fiber in their daily diets, which a kind of carbohydrate that helps you to feel full for a longer period of time. It also helps with digestion and keeping your bowels "regular" (yes, I mentioned bowels...go ahead and laugh). If you've never had flax before. though, start small and see how it effects you because it could cause a little bloating.
2. It's a wonderful plant source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid
These again: essential fatty acids i.e. the good kind of fats that your body needs but can't produce on its own. Omega-3, in particular, help with the anti-inflammatory system in our bodies. What does that mean? Keeping our bodily inflammation down means helping to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and some cancers. Each tablespoon of ground flax has 1.8g of plant omega-3 in it!
Just be aware that the omega-3 in flax is called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is a different kind of omega-3 than the kind I mentioned before that's found in fish which are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (ecosapentaenoic acid). Some people's systems have a hard time converting the ALA omega-3s into the DHA kind. That means that although flax a good plant source of omega-3, it's not completely able to replace other sources of omega-3 like fish or fish oil.
3. It one of the best sources of lignans
Lignans reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. When lignans break down in the intestines, they apparently convert into a substance that alters the way the body metabolizes estrogen so that it's made into a safer form and balances out female hormone.
While you can buy flax seeds whole, you may want to consider grinding them down or buying them pre-ground. Why? Because sometimes the coating of the seed itself actually allows it to pass through your digestive system without every getting broken down, which means that you won't be absorbing all the nutrients these health benefits come from. On the other hand, because the oils in flax seeds are unsaturated, they can apparently go rancid and flax seed meal (i.e. ground flax seed) goes rancid much faster than the whole seeds. Where the whole seeds can last up to a year if stored correctly, the ground flax seeds will only last a few months. Either way, you should store them in a cool dark place (preferably in an opaque container) to make them last longer. Some sites also suggest that you freeze ground flax seed in an airtight bag.
If you'd like to know more, LiveStrong has a list of links all leading to more information about flax and its benefits. Oddly enough, the first link leads to this page about the benefits of mixing blueberries and flax together...just like in the recipe below!
Blueberry Microwave Flax Muffin
- 1/4 C flax seed meal/ground flax seed
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 3 tbsp egg substitute/liquid egg whites (or 1 large egg, beaten)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup (or agave/honey, but maple pairs with the blueberries better)
- Small handful of blueberries (I used about 30g)
- Mix all the dry ingredients together in a small bowl, except blueberries.
- Add in liquids and mix together until incorporated.
- Stir in blueberries.
- Spray the inside of a microwave safe mug or bowl, then pour mixture into greased vessel.
- Microwave on high 90 seconds, adding more time if your microwave isn't very strong.
- Either eat your muffin out of the mug/bowl, or flip it onto a plate to eat. Serve with additional maype syrup, more blueberries, and/or some protein icing (the recipe for which can be found at the bottom of this post)!