Flaxseed: A Tablespoon A Day
January 05, 2011 - Elissa Goodman
Everyone seems to be talking about flaxseed these days and there's good reason. In fact, I recommend adding it to all of my client’s diets. Here's the lowdown on why, as well as some tips for incorporating the nutritious seeds into your diet.
For such a tiny seed, flax packs a powerful punch, providing an important essential omega-3 fatty acid and about 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon of whole flaxseed. A handful of studies have found that flaxseed decreases inflammation, reduces blood sugar, and insulin levels, and also lowers cholesterol.
Taking care of a highly unsaturated, delicate oil like flaxseed oil means keeping it refrigerated (and always buying an oil that's been refrigerated in the store), opening it only when in use, and keeping it tightly capped when not. Delicate, highly unsaturated oils should also always be stored in an opaque container so that they can be better protected from light, which can cause rancidity.
Smell and taste all oils before use. If oil smells like oil-based paint or leaves a scratchy sensation in the back of your throat, it has already become rancid and should be discarded.
In the case of flaxseed oils and other delicate, highly unsaturated oils, I like purchasing product amounts that can be used within approximately one month's period of time, despite the claims of manufacturers that their oils, when refrigerated, will last for much longer. This one-month rule might also mean that you will need to buy the oil in a smaller quantity.
Finally, when it comes to dietary supplements, flax oil capsules, or combination oil products sold in opaque, gel capsules are more stable than flax oil sold as a bulk liquid. When refrigerated, these capsules will usually remain stable for at least six months, and it's usually not problematic if the retailer has left them on the shelf at room temperature before you purchased them.
One of the best ways to benefit from flaxseeds is to buy organic seeds and grind them in a coffee grinder right before use. This practice will not only help to preserve the quality of the oil found in the flaxseeds and reduce the likelihood of rancidity, but it'll also provide you with the much broader benefits of a whole natural food. Flaxseeds contain a wide variety of nutrients in addition to their oils, including lignins, fibers, vitamins, minerals and other key phytonutrients.
Try mixing flaxseed in the following:
Cold and hot cereals
Pancake and muffin batter
My favorite brands are Barleans for oil and Sun FiPro for ground flaxseeds.
Lastly, remember to stay well-hydrated as the flax absorbs water (10-14 times its weight). Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is essential.
Elissa Goodman is an LA-based Integrative Nutritionist. For more on her practice, check out her website.
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