Flaxseed seems to be shrouded in mystery to most. It is deemed one of the healthiest foods you can eat on a regular basis, possessing incredibly healthy properties. It’s difficult to know exactly what to do with flaxseed, and incorporate more into your diet, though, if you’ve never heard of it. This proves to be easier than you might think – read on to learn more about all things flaxseed!
Flaxseed History and Culture
Flaxseed has been around in some form since 30,000 BC. During this time, it is difficult to know if flaxseed was actually consumed, but the fiber from flax was dyed and used to weave with. The earliest known time actual flaxseed was consumed was during the Roman Empire, when even then it was considered an extremely healthy food. It was also cultivated by Egyptians around this time. With the fall of Rome, though, so fell the popularity of flaxseed. Charlemagne later reinstated its lost popularity in his empire, mandating its consumption with his people. Flaxseed came to the US with the settlers, and ended up making its way to Canada in the 1600’s. Canada is now the leading producer of flaxseed worldwide. China, India, and the US follow after Canada.
Flaxseed Health and Nutrition
Flaxseed, like most seeds, is very calorically dense. I mere 10 gram serving (about 1 tablespoon) has 55 calories in it, but a whole bunch of great nutrients to go along with it. That same 55 calories has 11%DV dietary fiber, 7%DV healthy fats, manganese, magnesium, folates, copper, phosphorous, and vitamin B6. You could easily double your serving to two tablespoons, and double all that nutritional goodness right along with it.
The type of fat that flaxseed contains is one of the omega-3 fatty acids – ALA. ALA can easily be converted in the body to EPA, another one of the omega-3’s, so it can serve in this capacity, as well, performing a kind of double duty. Omega-3’s can be hard to come by in the vegetarian and vegan diet, as they are most readily available in animal products. Fish, especially, is heavy in omega-3’s. Flaxseed, then, is a great alternative for obtaining proper levels of two of the three omega-3’s. ALA’s improve a number of functions in the body. One, is that they have anti-inflammatory properties. Excessive inflammation in the cardiovascular system can lead to heart disease, and this anti-inflammatory fat will help regulate this function. ALA can also help improve bone health, strengthening bones.
The omega-3 content of flaxseed also helps to protect against colon cancer. It lines the cells in the colon and protects them from harmful oxidation caused by free radicals in the body.
Studies also indicate that consuming two tablespoons of flaxseed a day can go a long way in lowering cholesterol – doing just as good a job as some prescription drugs. The dietary fiber content in flaxseed also helps reduce cholesterol, making it a highly effective food in helping protect the heart.
Eating More Flaxseed
Incorporating two tablespoons of flaxseed in your diet a day will do wonders for your health. Doing so is pretty easy. Simply add flaxseed to foods that you already make. If you make a shake in the morning, add it to this – it will barely effect the flavor. If you bake regularly, add a generous amount into the mix. You can also add flaxseed to your vegetables after you’ve cooked them up – it will give them a more savory, deep flavor. Probably the easiest way, though, is to add them to your daily bowl of oatmeal or cereal in the morning. A great way to start the day off.
It’s recommended that you buy whole flaxseed, rather than ground. Although they offer the same nutritional qualities, whole flaxseed will keep much longer on the shelf than ground flaxseed. Ground flaxseed must also be refrigerated, while whole can simply be put in the pantry in an air tight container. Flaxseed can be purchased from the bulk section or pre-packaged. Neither one is better than the other, but bulk prices are typically much lower. Just make sure the bin is clean and there is no moisture present.