The Folklore. Flaxseeds (flax), tiny and unassuming, may not garner a second glance, but this humble little seed is a big crowd pleaser. One of the oldest cultivated crops, flaxseed has been fully utilized by ancient civilizations. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen cloth made from the flax plant. Equally important was its use as food and medicine. Hippocrates, the Greek “Father of Medicine,” prescribed flax to ease intestinal issues, like constipation. It was also used to make a poultice to treat boils and abscesses. Flaxseed, known as linseed in Europe, is perhaps best coveted today for its impressive list of health benefits.
The Facts. The Latin name for flaxseed is Linum usitatissimum, which means “very useful.” There are brown and yellow or golden varieties. Both are sold as whole flax, milled flaxseed meal, and flaxseed oil. (In the U.S., linseed oil is an ingredient in paints and varnish and is used to treat wood. It’s not safe for human consumption.) Flax is packed with health-protecting superstars, including omega-3 fatty acids—it is the richest plant source—antioxidants, including beta-carotene, and both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Just one two-tablespoon serving of flax meal delivers 16% DV (Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories/day) of dietary fiber and only 60 calories.
The Findings. A good source of soluble fiber, flax has been shown to help reduce total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol (Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 2016). Several studies have linked flax consumption to lower blood pressure, another benefit that may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. A meta-analysis of 11 studies concluded that flax may help reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, but results may be greater when whole seeds are consumed for more than 12 weeks (Journal of Nutrition, 2015). Flax also shows anticancer potential. Animal and human clinical trials link flax to decreased cell growth and reduced tumor size (Frontiers in Nutrition, 2018).
The Finer Points. Available whole, milled into a meal or flour, and as oil, flax foods are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which means they can go rancid when exposed to heat, light, and air. Refrigerate or freeze for best quality and longest life. Enjoy flax or flaxmeal with most any food. Sprinkle onto cereal, yogurt, salad, roasted vegetables, mix into smoothies, soups and stews, or egg dishes and casseroles, or bake flax into muffins, cookies, and breads.
Ground Flax Seed (Flax Meal)
2 Tablespoons (13 g)
Dietary Fiber: 4 g (16% DV)
Note: g=gram, DV=Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories/day
Bran Flax Buns
1 Tbsp active dry
3⁄4 c lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
11⁄2 c boiling water
11⁄2 c milk
1⁄3 c brown sugar
2 tsp salt
11⁄2 c brown flaxseed meal
8 c whole wheat flour
- Set yeast in the warm water and sugar for 10 minutes.
- Pour boiling water over milk. Add egg, sugar, salt, and yeast mixture to liquid and blend.
- Mix half of the flour and the flaxseed meal together. Add this to the liquid mixture and beat for 10 minutes. Gradually add the rest of the flour a cup at a time, kneading to a medium stiff dough. Let rise for 45 minutes, punch down. Let rise again 35-45 minutes, punch down and let sit for an additional 20 minutes.
- Shape the buns and place on greased baking sheet. Let rise until doubled in size (an hour or more).
- Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
Makes 3 dozen buns
Nutrition Information Per Serving: 127 calories, 2 grams (g) fat, 0 g saturated fat, 23 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 74 milligrams sodium, 3 g sugar
Recipe adapted courtesy Bob’s Red Mill