Health benefits of flaxseed
The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
Aug. 22--Flaxseed is a trendy ingredient used to help prevent cardiovascular disease.
It's a topic that is close to the heart of graduate dietitian Bethany A. Dario. Last spring the Boston University alumna assisted in a food presentation for the Perrysburg Schools Wellness Committee as part of her nutrition therapy dietetic internship at the Cleveland Clinic.
She thinks the benefits of flax are evident, yet the public knows little about flaxseed, which is composed of 42 percent fat. The majority of the fat in flaxseed is polyunsaturated, which helps protect against sudden death from heart attack. Most of this is in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, which the human body cannot create and which is a precursor to omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s can help protect against stroke and help people lower their triglycerides, too.
"I began by recommending purchasing ground or milled flax, because the hull of the whole seed is very difficult to digest," Ms. Dario says. Ground or milled flax may be bought, or whole seeds may be ground in a coffee grinder.
Ms. Dario recommends adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of flax to ready-to-eat products such as oatmeal, salad, yogurt, cereal and milk, pancakes, French toast, waffles, or trail mix. Ground or milled flax also may be used to coat fish or chicken, or mixed into a gravy or stuffing.
Ms. Dario told of how a chef incorporated ground flaxseed into a whole-wheat bread recipe. After the bread was baked, the chef sliced it and coated it with an egg white, milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon mixture. He then prepared French toast with an organic maple syrup. Thus a generally high-fat, high-cholesterol food was transformed into a heart-healthy, reduced-calorie dish.
"Flaxseed has its own flavor and nutty taste," she said in a phone interview.
Note that too much flax produces too much fiber. Though flax is considered a digestive aid, for some people it has a laxative effect, according to the Food Lover's Companion.
Despite the healthy nature of flaxseed, both ground or milled, few cookbook recipes use it. Those that do are often in the "healthy cooking" category.