What is it Wednesday: Flaxseed

 So I skipped the last two weeks but What is it Wednesday is BACK this week.  I was getting tired of researching questionable chemicals so this week’s topic is about flaxseed.

Flax seems to be all the rage these days.  I preach the benefits of it often.  But how much do you really know about flaxseed?  Where does it come from?  How is it grown?  Let’s find out.

Flaxseed comes from a plant.  Wikipedia tells me that the flax plant is around 4 feet tall with slender stems.  The flowers are pale blue.  The fruit is a dry capsule which contains several of the seeds inside.  I lifted this picture of the capsules from the Wikipedia page:

According to this article, most flax is grown in northern Europe and Russia.  In the U.S. it is grown in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Flax is grown for both its seed and its fibers.  I had no idea that flax fibers were used to make fabric and paper among other things.

Flax seeds can either be brown or golden.  The seeds can be purchased as whole seeds or already ground into flaxseed meal.  If you purchase whole seeds you can grind them on your own in a spice grinder or coffee grinder.

I use flax in my kitchen all the time.  I buy flaxseed meal by the bag.  I like the Bob’s Red Mill brand.  I believe it is less than $2 for a 16oz bag that lasts me several months.

Ground flax has tons of health benefits.  For one, it is a plant-based source of Omega-3 fatty acids.  The same heart-healthy fatty acids that are found in salmon.  It also contains lignans.  Lignans are estrogen-like chemicals and also act as antioxidants (per Wikipedia).  Finally flax contains tons of fiber per serving.  Fiber has been shown to reduce risk of colon cancer.

In all, flaxseed may protect you against certain cancers and improve your heart health because of these three powerhouses of nutrition.

Click here to read the full WebMD article on the benefits of flaxseed.

Here is what milled flaxseed looks like:

It’s basically a brown powdery substance.  It’s very light and fluffy.

Because it’s a light and powdery substance, flax is very easy to incorporate into your regular diet.  Simply stir 1-2 tablespoons into things you already eat like yogurt, cereal, smoothies, baked goods, pancakes, waffles and sauces.

Flax can be used as an egg substitute in baked goods.  Simply combine 1 tablespoon of ground flax with 3 tablespoons of water.  Let it set and gel for a bit, then add it to the recipe as you would an egg.  I’ve used this trick many times.

Whole flax seeds can be kept at room temperature.  Flaxseed mill (like the bag I buy) can be kept at room temperature until opened, but then it must be refrigerated.

So do you eat flax on a regular basis?  Do you think it’s a beneficial part of your diet?  I try to eat it several times a week myself.

For more information read this article about flax on the American Cancer Society’s website.


6 thoughts on “What is it Wednesday: Flaxseed

  1. Perhaps this is an ignorant question, but what is the effect (if any) on males of higher levels of lignins and other estrogen-like chemicals? I seem to recall that soy also has higher levels of female-like chemical compounds, and I’m wondering if there is any research into how this interacts with the higher testosterone and other male hormones that we guys have higher concentrations of. I do realize that guys and girls have both types of chemicals present, it’s more a question of relative concentrations.

    1. Excellent question! I honestly have no idea but I know Benzo has done some reading on soy and how it affects males (with the estrogen component). I’ll ask him tonight and let you know! Or maybe I’ll coax him into commenting. 🙂

    2. I am currently trying to start up a new blog and I have a post drafted that talks about the affects of soy. Here is what I will soon (hopefully) post in a sneak peak format…

      “And guys, don’t worry about the claims that too much soy can cause you to grow breasts (well, really, the claims are that soy will cause men to have higher estrogen levels and lower testosterone levels). According to an article published in the February 2006 issue of Muscle and Fitness, a study done by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (Newark) was flawed. This study concluded, contradicting some 15 other studies that resulted in the claims that soy protein had no affect on male testosterone levels, that this wasn’t the case and that males taking the plant-based protein should be aware of these testosterone lowering affects. Muscle and Fitness dissected this study with the utmost scrutiny and found that poor subject selection, misprints and an overall severely flawed study gave these claims no foundation.”

      Now, as far as lignans are concerned, I don’t even know what a lignan is. Is it related to a chittlin?? Anyway, I wasn’t able to find a lot of stuff about it, but one website had some stuff about its benefits when it comes to prostate cancer. Go here to read about it, but like most stuff on the web, I would find multiple research to back it up and not just rely on one site’s claims.

      1. According to Wikipedia, a lignan is “one of the major class of phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-like chemicals and also act as antioxidants.” I think that’s how the estrogen concern and link back to soy came into play.

        I will also throw in that I read one of Benzo’s Men’s Health magazines one time and there was a really interesting article about a guy who drank too much soy milk and actually did have some health problems as a result. But this guy was drinking like 8 glasses of soy milk every day. So I think as long as you don’t go soy-crazy it’s fine.

  2. I love to use ground flax seed. I use the same version Amy pictured and I toss it into almost all my baked goods from chocolate chip cookies to pizza dough. I have never heard of the egg replacement trick, but I’m looking forward to trying that. I’d also be curious to know Benzo’s thoughts on Dan’s comment about testosterone levels.

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