What the Flax?!
So this week I learned a new term and I am loving it.
Functional Food: A functional food is similar to conventional food but it has shown benefits in fighting or improving disease processes. It can be added or consumed in conjunction with conventional foods versus in place of them.
This is flax. Flax has been shown to improve lipid markers, has anti-tumor, anti-cancer, anti-hypertensive properties, blood sugar lowering properties, and has been shown to improve symptoms of IBS as well as improving leptin resistance and showing anti-obesigenic properties. It also contains phytoestrogens which bind to estrogen receptors and can help process excessive estrogens in the body protecting from estrogen or hormone based cancers.
Wait, what?! One little seed can do all that. Yes it can. Flax is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, PUFA's (polyunsaturated fats) and even has some MUFA's (monounsaturated fats). The entire plant can be used to not only provide a healthy food source but also in making feed for animals, and clothing or fabrics. It has been used for thousands of years to heal in ancient and Ayurveda. It provides low protein in the grand scheme of seeds, and nuts, but that is not why one would want to consume flax.
What is the down side to adding this functional food to your diet?
I could not find a single reason why you would want to avoid it. It is rich in fiber, low in carbs, and adds a nutrient punch to everything you include it in. There are two types of flax and both have similar benefits. I find the golden flax a bit more palatable when using it as a base for things like pancakes, or even crackers, but the regular brown flax is also delicious. It has a slightly nutty flavor to it and adds a richness to whatever you add it to.
The oil can be used to make salad dressings just remember not to cook with it. It has a very low cook point and will oxidize readily if heated. This does not happen as readily in the seeds or milled flax as the oils are protected when they are cooked in the whole/milled seed. They are more readily digested when milled due to the toughness of the whole seed I would recommend using milled flax to cook with versus the whole seeds.
When consuming the oil you will want to assure it isn't oxidized so please get it in a dark bottle, and put it in the fridge to protect it once it is exposed to air.
The last thing to consider would be that the ALA in flax is not easily converted to DHA/EPA by everyone, therefore I would recommend continuing with fish oil, or spirulina for DHA/EPA as these are truly needed for healthy fetal development, brain function, cell membrane function, cardiovascular health, and overall healthy aging.
It really does not have to be one or the other, and if you are a strict vegan I would recommend making sure you include flax in your diet. The cool thing about that though is even if you a vegan you can include blue green algae in your diet and get the amazing benefits of both.
Now will all of that fun info I will leave you with my favorite recipe to include flax in. Guess what my kids even love them!
Flax Apple Cakes
1 cup milled flax golden or brown
2 TBS olive oil
1/2-1 shredded apple or zucchini (low carb option)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
Crack eggs and mix well with oil and vanilla, add in flax and shredded fruit or veggie, and salt.
Mix well, let sit about 5 min.
Cook up your pancakes in a frying pan with bit of oil on medium-low to medium.