We are very excited to bring you What is it Wednesdays! Every other Wednesday, we’ll explore a different ingredient or product in depth. We’ll be covering the benefits, uses and common misconceptions about each. If you have any requests, leave them in the comments and we’ll work them into the schedule.
While chia seed may be the power seed darling in the media these days, we wanted to remind you about another fabulous power seed—flax seeds! Flax seeds are a wonderful source of omega-3’s offering up 1800 mg per 2 tablespoon serving. They are also a fantastic source of fiber, with a nice blend of insoluble and soluble fiber.
Why are omega-3’s important anyway? Omega-3 fatty acids are broken down into three specific acids- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). These acids work together to support brain development, the functioning of the immune system, cardiovascular health and are beneficial for healthy skin, hair and nails. How they work together is complicated, but the short version is that our bodies can make EPA and DHA, but cannot make ALA. ALA is the backbone for EPA and DHA, and must be consumed in our food. Read more about the interplay between these acids here.
The conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA is harder for the very young and the elderly, which means people in those categories have to be sure to get enough ALA in the first place. Fish, and their subsequent oil, are one of the most common sources of all three omega-3’s. Sure, that’s great, but that doesn’t work for vegetarians or vegans. Also, have you tried fish oil? Gross. That’s why brands now market lemon and strawberry flavored fish oil so you can eat it and not taste the fish. I love fish, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not a fan of a fish-flavored salad. I digress… There are many plant-based sources of ALA (which, let me remind you, your body will turn into EPA and DHA) including FLAX seeds, chia seed, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, and, I just learned today, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts (albeit not as much as the seeds).
Why would you pick flax seeds over any other plant-based source? Flax is an excellent source of dietary fiber. Coupled with the omega-3, the soluble fiber and insoluble fiber work together to absorb and remove cholesterol from the blood stream (healthy heart!) and keep your digestive house neat and tidy. Yes, chia seeds will do that, too, but flax seed is much more affordable and just as effective. You just need to be sure to eat ground flax seed. The flax plant is solely interested in propagating the world with more flax plants, and the human body cannot break down the flax seed. You get virtually no benefit from eating the whole seeds, though they are quite tasty.
Luckily for you, Bob’s Red Mill mills whole flax seeds for you. Our flax seed meal is freshly milled using a technology that maintains the cool temperatures needed to keep the oil from oxidizing. I can’t speak for all other brands, but many brands press the oil from the seeds before grinding, so you’re not really getting the whole package as nature intended. We offer several varieties- brown, golden and organic versions of both. The only difference between the two colors is just that, the color. Some prefer the golden for baked goods, as it blends better.
Flaxseed meal is very versatile and is an excellent egg replacer in baked goods (recipe below) and can be sprinkled on salads, hot cereal, smoothies. Some folks around here just mix their 2 tablespoons into water or juice and drink it like an elixir. Personally, I prefer the mixed-in route. We have loads of great recipes for how to incorporate this power house seed into your diet on our website. Be sure to snag a $1.00 off coupon on our homepage, as well.
Flaxseed Meal “Egg”
For one egg, combine 1 Tbsp of Flaxseed Meal with 3 Tbsp of water. Let stand 3-5 minutes. Use as you would an egg in baking. This works best for muffins, quick breads, cookies, pancakes, etc. It is not the best choice for a cake, which relies heavily on eggs for rising or anything that has a fine, delicate texture.