Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Seed that Does A Body Good

First, I want to thank everyone for the advice and support you have showed in response to my post yesterday. While I am still getting to the gym almost every day for strength training and an hour or so on the elliptical, it's the running that I need to get back to. I know that I love running, I just have to get motivated. I hear the sun and 'warm' weather is headed our way at the end of the week, so I will get myself outside for a run. I think I'll follow Jocelyn's lead and display my marathon medal where I'll see it each morning. Perhaps that will help too!

Now, on to today's post.

When I write about the oats, granola, yogurt and other foods I eat, I often mention using flax seeds. A few people have asked about these little health heros that go back as far as 3000 B.C., and many others use them but don't really know why, so today I'm going to change that.

What are flax seeds?
There are three main active 'ingredients' in the seeds - (1) Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Alpha-Linolenic acid is found in flax seeds. 1tb of flax seeds provides 1.8 grams of Omega-3's. (2) Lignans. Chemical compounds that are estrogen-like chemicals found in plants with antioxidant qualities. They are 75-8000 times more effective in flax seeds than in other plants. (3) Fiber. Both soluble and insoluble.

Why should we eat flax seeds?
While none of these are 100%, there are several reasons to include flax seeds in your diet on a regular basis. Flax seeds may reduce the risk of some cancers, such as breast, prostate, and colon cancers, as well as cardiovascular and lung disease.
The Omega-3 fatty acids help to control cholesterol levels, prevent the hardening of arteries, maintain natural heart beats, and may help to reduce blood sugar levels. Lignans are thought to help protect against cancers by blocking enzymes that metabolize hormones and they can also interfere with the growth and spreading of tumors cells. Both lignans and the ALA Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflamatory properties. And we all know fiber helps to protect against heart disease, constipation, diabetes and diverticular disease.

Should anyone not eat flax seeds?
Until more confirmed results on studies are available, many researchers and health professionals suggest that pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding should not add flax seeds to their diets.

How to buy flax seeds.
You may see flax oil available at your local health food store or pharmacy in the supplement aisle. Skip it. In most cases, ground flax seeds are more effective. With that said, flax seeds are available ground and whole. You can buy either but because our digestive systems are unable to digest full flax seeds, grind whole seeds before eating them. An electric coffee grinder works well. Also, they are sold as ground, milled and meal. All three labels are for the same consistency. Do go for either brown or golden. The only difference between the two is the color. When you purchase processed foods that advertise 'flax seeds,' check the ingredient list to make sure they are ground rather than whole. Products such as breads, crackers, cereal, pasta, and more can contain flax seeds, just make sure it is the kind you can digest! Always store flax seeds in a dark, cool place, but once you've opened your package of ground flax seeds, it is best to store them in the freezer to keep them fresh as long as possible. They can be found in health food stores and perhaps some larger grocery stores as well.

What are the best ways to enjoy flax seeds and reap all the benefits?
Ground flax seeds can be added to all sorts of foods - yogurt, granola, oats, smoothies, chili, soup meatloaf, meatballs, caseroles, and much more. They can also be used when baking cookies, muffins, waffles, pancakes and more. The flavor is not overwhelming, so you can add this healthy ingredient into almost anything! Technically, heating fatty acids can alter the structure and effectiveness of them, but at standard cooking temperatures and times, this shouldn't be an issue. Flax seeds are fairly high in calories and fat and many health professionals say studies show the most effectiveness when participants have 1-2tbs per day, but even a bit added into your meals each day is helpful!

Do you have any favorite recipes or uses for flax seeds? If you haven't used them before, has this inspired you to give them a try?

from our kitchen
these cookies include flax seeds
and so does this granola


Jocelyn said...

I had heard flax seed was good for you - probably read about it in your blog - so a week or two ago I got whole organic flax seed. I think ground would have been better I still will put it in my yogurt or sprinkle some on my sandwich. Now I know I'm not crazy after reading this! :)

Katie @ Health for the Whole Self said...

Thanks for this info! The first time I bought flax seeds I had no idea what I was doing - I bought them whole and didn't grind them up, so they were just going right through me! Oops! I know better now :)

Julie said...

Hi Lisa,
I am a huge fan of flax seeds:) I put them in many different foods. I love Trader Joe's different variety of flax seed chips!! Great post with good information:)

Ashley said...

good to know! i bought a package but i haven't used any yet :) I will have to try and incorporate them into my daily foods! Good job for getting to the gym :)

Maureen said...

Thanks for stopping by! I'll keep checking yours out too! I like your info!

My best friend works at Goldman Sachs in the city and I love NYC!!

NY Wolve said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog too. I run alot at Equinox -- even though I have a treadmill at home.

As for flax, I am not that much into it. I did find a fantastic flax and other seed mix that is simply fantastic (meaning even I like it, a meat hungry, anti health food kind of guy). I'll post the name of it later, when I can find my bag of it.

This winter has been a bear to stay motivated. I fell off the wagon for about two months and still paying for it. But the winter will be over soon. I hope.

Peter Cole said...

Do you do seed review requests? :)

A few days ago Jenny and I were wondering about the benefits of chia seeds, whether or not it was hippy talk or if it really is beneficial.