How Flax Seeds are fish substitute for Vegans
Flax is also known as common flax or linseed. Flax plant has been known to man since stone ages. The flax fiber is one of the oldest fiber in the world, and its use for linen production dates back to Egyptian times. About 36,000 years old pre-historic cave in Republic of Georgia has yielded the earliest known spun,dyed and knotted flax fiber. The temple walls at Thebes have pictures of flax flowers. Thereafter the Greeks and Romans used flax in cooking. Later on the Puritans introduced it in North America and then it spread to Canada, which is now the major producer of flax.
About Flax Plant
The slender stems of flax plant grows erect up to an average height of 1.2 m.
The leaves are bluish-grey or green, wider in the middle and about 40 cm long and 3 mm broad.
The flowers are sometimes bright red but often pure blue up to 25 mm in diameter with five petals.
The fruit is 4-7 mm long and round and 5- 9 mm in diameter, with several glossy seeds like an apple.
The flax seeds are brown and yellow or golden.
The yellow flax has very low contents of omega-3 fatty acid. The oil produced from seeds is one of the oldest vegetable oil used as drying oil in paints.
The flax seed has more nutrition value than grain. It has similar vitamin,mineral,antioxidant and omega-3 fatty acid composition like grain but the amount is very large. One hundred grams of ground flax seed contains 41 grams of fat, 28 grams of fiber, 20 grams of protein and gives 450 kilo calories of energy.
The seed is best for low sugar or starch intake due to lesser carbohydrates in it. The healthy fat and high fiber contents make it a satisfying food for weight loss.
The sprouts of flax seed are also edible. Whole flax seeds are chemically stable, but ground flax seed becomes rancid at room temperature within a week, so it is better to keep it in refrigerator in sealed airtight containers.
Flax seed has high contents of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium and three additional nutrients in abundance.
These are high contents of alpha linolinic acid (ALA), that is omega-3 fats or phyto-estrogen which get converted to body's own estrogen and reduce hormone linked cancers, such as breast or colon cancer.
It contains high fiber which is responsible for lowering the cholesterol.
Omega-3 fat found in salmon and other fatty cold-water fish, is deficient in modern diets.
It gets converted to prostaglandins-hormone which help immune system and brain function,fights depression and asthma, neutralizes pre-menstrual syndrome and certain cancers.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a key force against body inflammations.Inflammation is responsible for many chronic diseases including heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and even some cancers.
This inflammation is enhanced by having too little omega-3 intake such as in fish, flax, and walnuts. Other oils such as soy and corn oil contain omega-6 fatty acid.
Flax seed has greater amount of lignans,that is up to 800 times more in any plant food. Lignans are natural anti-cancer compounds which block the formation of enzymes involved in hormone metabolism and stop the growth and spread of tumor cells.
Use of lignans in adolescence reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Flax contains little amount of cyanide compounds,but heat breaks down these compounds. Our body has the capacity to neutralize certain amount of cyanide.
Flax oil is highly unsaturated and becomes rancid and must be stored in refrigerator in dark containers.
Best way of storage is seed itself.
The seeds, not exposed to large amounts of heat remain edible, for at least a year.
The meal, stored away from heat and light will remain fresh for few months.
About 25-50 gram flax per day lowers blood cholesterol.
It prevents blood spasm which causes migraine and restores sleep pattern.
The flax fiber aids bowel movement and is ideal for sensitive intestinal tracts.
It helps to stabilize blood sugar and promotes proper functioning of the intestines.
It is good source of magnesium which is helpful in asthma by keeping air passage relaxed and open.
The phytoestrogens including many antioxidants in flax seed get converted in our intestines, into substances that tend to balance female hormones and may even promote fertility, reduce pre-menopausal symptoms, and helps in preventing breast and prostate cancer.
Being our best source of lignans, the flax seed helps to prevent Type 2 diabetes by stabilizing blood-sugar levels.
Recommended Daily Amount
Use 1-2 tablespoons daily.
Eating whole seeds give most benefits but ground seeds give maximum.
Grind in grinder and store in an airtight opaque container in refrigerator.
Flax seed oil is cholesterol free but has short shelf life.
It breaks down with heat and should not be used for cooking.
How to Take Flax Seeds
§ Use moisture free seeds.
§ Add ground seeds to breads, cookies and muffins.
§ Start with 1 teaspoon and go for two in 7-10 days.
§ Sprinkle flax seeds whole / ground on hot /cold breakfast, cereals, salads, soups, yogurt, dressings etc.
Patients on tamoxifen, pregnant women and those considering pregnancy should consult their physician.
© 2013 Sanjay Sharma
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