Allyn Wergin, RDN
Diabetes Education, Nutrition
Flaxseed may be small, but its health benefits are big. It contains numerous salubrious components, with highlighted nutrients being omega-3 fatty acid ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), fiber and lignans.
Omega-3 fatty acids are good fats that may help lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad) cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of certain cancers. Fiber can help relieve constipation, control cholesterol levels and keep you feeling full longer. Flaxseed also contains lignans, which provide antioxidant protection.
To ensure you are getting the most benefit out of flaxseed, it must be ground or crushed. This is because the body cannot break down the whole flaxseed to access the omega-3-containing oil. You can purchase flaxseed whole or ground as flaxseed meal. Whole seeds, oftentimes less expensive, can be ground using a coffee grinder or food processor. Once ground, flaxseed should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight, non-transparent container, as they are much more prone to oxidation and spoilage.
While there are no specific recommendations for flaxseed intake, 1-2 tablespoons a day is considered a healthy amount. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains 37 calories, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat (includes the omega-3 fatty acids), 0.5 gram of monounsaturated fat and 2 grams of dietary fiber.
Tips for including flaxseed in your diet:
- Bake ground flaxseed into baked goods, such as muffins, cookies and quick breads
- Add to hot or cold cereals
- Sprinkle on top of yogurt or into smoothies
- Mix into chili, sauces, gravies, or hide in burritos and lasagna
Flaxseed Muffins Recipe
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: 12 muffins
1 cup bran cereal, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2/3 cup skim milk, 2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup ground flaxseed, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup finely shredded carrot, 2 eggs (substitute 1/2 cup egg whites), 3/4 cup chopped apple, 1 tablespoon canola oil, 3 teaspoons baking powder.
- Heat the oven to 375 F. Place a paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups. Spray only the bottoms of baking cups with cooking spray — the muffins will stick if the baking cups aren’t sprayed.
- Place the cereal in re-sealable food-storage plastic bag. Seal the bag and crush the cereal with a rolling pin, meat mallet or in a food processor.
- In a large bowl, mix crushed cereal and milk. Let the mixture stand about 5 minutes or until the cereal is softened. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
- Divide the batter evenly among muffin cups.
- Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until the toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Immediately remove the muffins from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Serve warm.
Nutrition Information (per muffin):
Calories: 200; Total fat: 8 grams (saturated: 1 gram; monounsaturated: 2 grams; polyunsaturated: 5 grams); Sodium: 280 milligrams; Total carbohydrate: 28 grams; Dietary fiber: 7 grams; Sugar: 10 grams; Protein: 6 grams.
Tip: Store muffins tightly wrapped in freezer for up to two months.