Flaxseed – tiny but mighty.
Flaxseed is one of mankind’s oldest crops, an ancient medicine and a modern health food. Hippocrates advocated flax for the relief of abdominal pains, while modern studies suggest flaxseed may have a protective effect against breast, prostate and colon cancer, as it appears the plant-based omega 3 fatty acid found in flaxseed (ALA) could inhibit tumour incidence and growth.
Flaxseed is the richest dietary source of lignans (chemical compounds found in plants). The lignans in flaxseed may provide some protection against cancers by blocking enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism and interfering with the spread and growth of tumour cells. Flaxseed is also a good source of fibre, which is thought to help reduce cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. According to the Mayo Clinic, soluble fiber dissolves to produce a gel-like substance that can help reduce cholesterol and glucose levels.
Flaxseed also has antioxidant properties, which may contribute to protect against cancer and heart disease, while several studies have suggested that diets rich in flaxseed omega-3s could help prevent hardening of the arteries. Flaxseed nutrients are better absorbed when ground into meal. You can use whole flaxseeds and flaxseed meal for cooking, however using flaxseed oil is not recommended for cooking as heat can turn the healthy fats into harmful ones. Instead use flaxseed oil in salad dressing or drizzled over vegetables.
How to work flaxseed into your daily eating routine
At breakfast: add a teaspoon of flaxseeds to oats, muesli, porridge or perhaps a smoothie or yogurt.
At lunch: add to a soup.
At dinner: stir flaxseeds into casseroles, chilli, stews, meatballs or meatloaf. For a dish serving 4 people add 2-4 tablespoons.
NOTE: Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding should consult their doctor or dietian before adding flaxseeds to their diet.
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