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The Flax Facts

By Heidi Sipe RD, LD, Rainbow Foods Dietitian

STRESSFREE LIVING SEPTEMBER 2002 - Health & Nutrition

Flaxseed is a flowering crop grown in northern climates, and has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. The demand for these oil-rich seeds is increasing as people become aware of the numerous health benefits. Studies show flaxseed reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke. It also has a positive influence on immunity and constipation. There are two forms of flaxseed; whole and milled (powder). Whole seeds are reddish-brow or golden in color and have hard shells to protect its healthy oils, and when ground, form a course powder. Most recipes will call for ground flaxseed, which have more nutritional benefit than the whole seed. Flax oil provides omega-3 fatty acids, however it lacks the fiber and cancer-fighting agents of its whole seed counterpart. Health-conscious consumers are finding flaxseed-enriched commercial products such as bread, bagels, muffins, cereal and cookies more readily available. In addition to the many health benefits, it also enhances the taste of these products. The next time you bake, use whole or milled flaxseed found in your natural foods section at Rainbow Foods. Ground flaxseed contains healthy amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, all of which help relieve constipation, lower the risk for heart disease, cancer and stroke, and increases the immune system. Flaxseed is gluten-free and has about 80 calories per tablespoon.

Fiber The American Heart Association recommends 25-35 grams per day and the typical American consumes less than ten. In preventing constipation, flaxseed is an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids New research suggests that flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, offering protective effects against both coronary heart disease and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids, also found in fish, have also been shown to protect against high blood pressure, inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disorders.

Lignans Flaxseed is one of the richest sources of lignans. These phytoestrogens, when combined with fiber have lower rates of hormone-dependent cancers such as breast and prostate cancer. Whole flaxseed can be stored at room temperature for up to one year and once ground, should be used within 90 days. Using a coffee grinder, blender or food processor, grind the amount of flaxseed needed and store the remaining powder in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. In addition to baked goods, there are many quick and easy ways to incorporate flaxseed into your diet. Simply mix two tablespoons of ground flaxseed with applesauce, yogurt, oatmeal or juice and you are on your way to a healthy lifestyle. by Heidi Sipe RD, LD, Rainbow Foods Dietitian