Flax, the 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 prehistoric cave in the 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 grow erect with 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 contains 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 nutritional value than grain. It has similar vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and omega-3 fatty acid composition, but the amount is very large.
The seed is the 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 flaxseed becomes rancid at room temperature within a week. So it is better to keep it in the refrigerator in sealed airtight containers.
The flax oil is highly unsaturated and it also becomes rancid. So it must be stored in the refrigerator in dark containers.
The organic flaxseed oil is the best option. The organic flaxseed oil available on Amazon is derived from the seeds of the Flax plant. The adults can take one tablespoon per day. It is the best plant source of polyunsaturated fatty acids as it is processed from the high-quality flaxseeds in a light-controlled atmosphere. In the absence of solvents, the seeds are pressed at very cold temperatures. It is the richest vegetarian source of Omega-3 fatty acids found in nature.
Contents in 100 grams of Ground Flax Seeds
450 kilo calories
Flaxseed has high contents of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium and three additional nutrients in abundance viz. omega 3 fatty acid, high fiber, and anti-carcinogenic substances.
1. Omega - 3 Fatty Acid
Omega-3 fats or Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are also called phytoestrogens which are deficient in modern diets. These fats are found in salmon and other fatty cold-water fish including flaxseeds and walnuts. The high contents of omega-3 fats in linseeds get converted into the own estrogen of the body and help to reduce hormone-linked cancers, such as breast or colon cancer.
It is converted into prostaglandins-hormone which strengthens the immune system and brain function, fights depression and asthma, neutralizes pre-menstrual syndrome and certain cancers.
A little intake of Omega-3 increases the inflammation which is reduced by its optimum intake. Otherwise, inflammation may cause several chronic diseases like heart problem, arthritis, asthma, and diabetes.
Other oils such as soy and corn oil contain omega-6 fatty acid.
2. High Fiber
It contains high fiber which is responsible for lowering the cholesterol and improving digestion. The flax fiber aids bowel movement and is ideal for sensitive intestinal tracts.
3. Anticancer Lignans
Flax seed has a 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, which gets broken by heating. But our body has the capacity to digest a certain amount of cyanide.
How to Store the Flax Seeds
The seeds, not exposed to large amounts of heat remain edible, for at least a year. The ground seeds stored away from heat and light will remain fresh for few months.
Other Health Benefits
1. About 25-50 gram flax per day lowers blood cholesterol.
2. It prevents blood spasm which causes a migraine and restores sleep pattern.
3. It helps to stabilize blood sugar and promotes proper functioning of the intestines.
4. It contains rich amounts of magnesium which helps in asthma by keeping air passage relaxed and open.
5. The rich amounts of lignans in the flax seed helps to prevent Type 2 diabetes by stabilizing the levels of blood sugar.
6. Within the intestines, the phytoestrogens including several antioxidants contained in flaxseed get converted into the substances that act as a natural HRT or Hormonal Replacement Therapy. This balancing of female hormones may even promote fertility, reduce pre-menopausal symptoms, and prevent breast and prostate cancer.
Recommended Daily Amount
Use 1-2 tablespoons daily.
Eating the whole seeds gives most benefits but ground seeds give the maximum.
Grind in grinder and store in an airtight opaque container in the refrigerator.
Flaxseed oil is cholesterol free but has a short shelf life.
It breaks down with heat and should not be used for cooking.
How to Eat Flax Seeds
§ Use moisture free seeds.
§ Add ground seeds to pieces of bread, cookies, and muffins.
§ Start with 1 teaspoon and go for two in 7-10 days.
§ Sprinkle flax seeds, whole or ground on hot or cold breakfast, cereals, salads, soups, yogurt, dressings etc.
Patients on tamoxifen, pregnant women, and those considering pregnancy should consult their physician.
© 2013 Sanjay Sharma