Can you heat it? Is it better ground or whole? Answers to these and more flax questions below:
Do I have to buy the oil refrigerated?
Do I have to grind the seeds
Can I buy them already ground?
Is it OK to cook with flax oil?
What about the seeds? Does cooking destroy the healthful fats?
What’s the difference between golden and brown flaxseeds?
What’s the best way to eat flax?
During the Roman Empire, the health benefits of flax were celebrated. By the early 19th century in America, flax had been demoted to a versatile commodity, grown primarily in cooler northern states. Prized for its soft but durable fiber and its oil-rich seeds, flax was used in consumer goods ranging from fine linens and banknotes to cigarette rolling papers, paint binders, and glazing putty.
Given its versatile history, it’s only fitting that flax—now prized for its dense nutritional value—has an equally broad presence. Several thousand years ago, Hippocrates praised flax oil for its medicinal value. Fifty years ago, you’d find flax oil mainly on the shelves of your local paint store, labeled as linseed oil. These days, you’ll find flax oil and seeds on your natural grocer’s shelves in food items ranging from bread and crackers to mayonnaise.
The Nutritional Flax
Flaxseeds are rich in high-quality protein and soluble fiber, as well as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat that’s a precursor to eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA, the form of omega-3 found in fish oil.
Flaxseeds are also a highly concentrated source of lignans, phytonutrients that modulate hormone metabolism. Flax lignans have some potential anticancer properties, especially in relation to colon and breast cancers. Lignans also help promote normal ovulation and restore hormone balance, and flaxseeds may protect postmenopausal women from cardiovascular disease.
Much of this sneaky appearance of flax has to do with flax’s lack of overt culinary appeal. It doesn’t have the frankly seductive presence of, say, fresh raspberries or figs. Handled poorly
(e.g., coarsely ground and tossed into smoothies, which is how most people use it)flax can be gritty, bitter, and harsh. In the right company, though, it’s warm and nutty, with a deep, earthy flavor that hints of browned butter. Some of our favorite flax foods include:
Barlean’s innovative Omega Swirl Omega-3 Flax Oil Supplement in Strawberry-Banana is a dessert-style flax oil that provides 2,620 mg of omega-3 fats from flaxseed oil. Another plus: there’s no sugar in this 100 percent organic, vegetarian oil. Try it by itself, or mix in yogurt, smoothies, or spoon over fresh fruit.
In June 2009, All Better Nutrition readers can receive a free sample with an informative brochure. Simply e-mail your name, address, and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org; please specify “BN” in the subject line.