Let’s explore the world of special ingredients together! We’ll do the research and make some mistakes in the kitchen so you don’t have to. Today, experiment with flaxseeds, a seed with plenty of culinary clout.
If you’ve seen and heard the hype surrounding flaxseeds but don’t know how to incorporate these nutritional powerhouses in to your diet, read on. Find out which form of flaxseed most appeals to you (whole seeds, ground seeds or oil) and how adding flax to some foods you eat every day is simple and easy.
Like most seeds that are considered superfoods, flaxseeds are packed with nutrients including fiber, lignans and omega-3s. Unlike its tiny counterpart, the chia seed, flaxseeds have a smooth, yet hard outer coating, and in order to absorb the nutrients in the seeds they must be broken open by grinding. If flaxseeds are consumed completely whole, the body cannot absorb the nutrients in the seeds and they will pass through undigested. You can grind your own seeds at home with a spice grinder or purchase ready-to-use flaxseed meal. Keep ground flax in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer, preferably in an opaque container to preserve the healthy fats found in the seeds and overall freshness.
There are golden and brown varieties of flaxseeds. Though there is little nutritional difference between the two, some people prefer the golden seeds simply for aesthetic reasons. Flaxseeds are slightly sweet and nutty in flavor. You can lightly toast the whole seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to keep them from burning. Toasting the seeds helps break down the outer shell, which makes them crunchier and easier to chew and digest.
For quick reference, 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal contains:
16% of the daily recommended fiber intake
2 grams protein
Alpha-linolenic acid, which is used to form long chain omega-3 fatty acids in the body. It’s important to consume essential fatty acids since our bodies cannot produce them on their own.
Lignans, protective components similar to antioxidants. Flaxseeds contain more lignans per serving than any other food.
You can add flaxseeds to your diet in lots of easy ways — by sprinkling on top of oatmeal, cereal or yogurt, folding into muffin or bread batters like in our Flax and Honey Banana Bread. (Cooking flaxseeds does not interfere with their nutritional value.) Or add some to a morning smoothie, which I do every day. Try our Blueberry-Banana Smoothie or my go-to smoothie recipe below. Feel free to substitute your favorite fresh or frozen fruit and fruit juices:
1 to 2 kale leaves, stems and tough ribs removed
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
In a blender, blend until ingredients are totally combined and smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Another neat use of flaxseeds is as an egg substitute in vegan baking. This method is great for quick breads, bread puddings and other hearty baked goods. The flaxseeds do not impart much flavor in these types of foods, but could stand out more in white cakes and cookies. For each egg you’re replacing, mix 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons water. Let sit for 5 minutes until the mixture is gelatinous; you can also place in the fridge to help the mixture set up. This works well because the hull of the seed contains a gel-like material that when combined with water or other liquids such as nondairy milk have a thickening power, which has a similar effect to using cornstarch or arrowroot powder.
How do you use flaxseeds? Do you prefer using whole flaxseeds, flaxseed meal or flaxseed oil? What’s your favorite trick for using flaxseeds as an egg replacer?