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Volume III
July 15, 2011

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

Flax - Health Food on Steriods!

By Alice Osborne

Let’s talk flax—this a health food on steroids for sure. Consider this:

Flax Fights Cholesterol: The consumption of flaxseed is associated with a reduction in total cholesterol, including the LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. Study after study has shown a positive response to eating ground flax seed daily. Eating low fat foods, increasing your exercise, limiting the salt, sugar and eating flax seed daily are a few ways that you can win the battle against high cholesterol.

Flax Fights Diabetes: Nutritionists are instructing their diabetic patients to eat flax daily. It has been discovered that the omega-3 fat and high fiber in flax may play a role in the fight against diabetes. In a study conducted by the University of Toronto, participants who ate flaxseed bread had blood sugar levels 28% lower an hour after eating than their counterparts who ate bread made with wheat flour!

Flax Fights Cancer: Flaxseed is high in lignans, up to 800 times the amount as in any tested plant food. Lignans (a phytoestrogen) have been called by H. Adlercreutz (in his article “Phytoestrogens: Epidemiology and a Possible Role in Cancer Protection”), natural cancer-protective compounds. Flax seed is also high in alpha linolenic acid (ALA) which has been found to be promising as a cancer fighting agent.

The American National Cancer Institute has singled out flaxseed as one of six foods that deserve special study. Flax seed's high fiber aspect is also beneficial in the fight against colon cancer. Epidemiological studies note that diet plays a major role in the incidence of colon cancer. Research has shown that increasing the amount of fiber in your diet reduces your colon-cancer risk. Flax seed, high in fiber, lignans, alpha linolenic acid, is a key player in the fight against cancer, particularly breast and colon cancer.

Flax Fights Constipation: Flax is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. One ounce of flax provides 32% of the USDA’s reference daily intake of fiber. Flax promotes regular bowel movements because it is high in insoluble fiber. Flaxseed's all natural fiber helps to absorb water, thereby softening the stool and allowing it to pass through the colon quickly.

When adding fiber to your diet, it is important to make sure that you are drinking at least eight glasses of water daily. Without enough liquids, fiber can actually cause constipation! In the fight against constipation exercise, eat fruits and vegetables, drink eight glasses of water daily and add two to four tablespoons of flax to your daily regime!

Flax Fights inflammation: Flax is high in Omega 3 essential fatty acids. That’s good news for people who suffer from inflammatory disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis. Health experts, such as former Surgeon General C. Evertt Koop, recommend eating foods high in Omega 3’s for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. It is the inflammation within the joints that cause so much of the pain associated with arthritis. The January 1996 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that the participants in a study that took flax oil daily reduced inflammatory responses by as much as 30%.

Flax Fights Menopausal Symptoms: Hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, moodiness…ah, the joys of menopause. Can flax really help? Yes it can! Flax, like soy, is a phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like substances that are found in plants. Flax is the richest known plant source of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens act as a natural hormone therapy and help to stabilize hormonal levels. This stabilization of hormonal levels helps to lesson the symptoms of menopause.

Flax fights Heart Disease: Heart disease, the number one killer in America, has claimed the lives of too many of our family and friends. Years of a sedentary lifestyle, super size meals and processed foods has finally caught up with us. Can flax help? Yes it can. Numerous studies have been done on the effect of flax on heart disease, yielding many positive findings.

Flax has been found to help reduce total cholesterol, LDL levels (the bad cholesterol), triglycerides. Flax helps to reduce clotting time and thereby reduces the chance for heart attacks and strokes. Regular intake of flax protects against arrhythmias and helps keep the arteries clear and pliable!

Flax and the Immune System: Across the table, your co-worker sneezes, no tissue in sight, you feel a light spray hit your face and shudder. Standing in a crowded elevator, in a busy mall, or in an airplane, you sometimes feel like you can’t escape getting at least one or two colds each year…or can you? Research has found that eating flax daily favorably affects immunity, the body’s ability to defend itself successfully against bacteria and viruses. Two components of flax, lignans and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), have been found to affect immune cells and compounds that control immune reaction.

Flax fights "the blues": It’s that tired feeling that a good night's rest won’t shake… that listless down in the dumps feeling that you just can’t get rid of. We call it “the blues”, otherwise known as atypical depression, the most common form of depression. Preliminary research suggests that eating a diet rich in flax could slash your risk of ever feeling “down in the dumps”. Follow up studies show that just 2-3 tablespoons of flax daily can help up to 2/3rds of severely depressed women bounce back within eight weeks.

Flax, says Udo Erasmus, PhD, has a mood boosting ingredient: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that is essential for the proper function of brain cells, yet up to 85% of women aren’t getting enough of it. Early research conducted by Dr. Martha Clare Morris of Chicago’s Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center notes that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is believed to be important for brain development. She stated that participants in the study saw a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s from eating a diet high in Omege-3 fatty acids (flax is the richest source of Omega 3’s in the plant kingdom). More research is needed in the area of flax and its relation to depression and brain function, however research so far is VERY promising.

Impressed? Me too. I’ve been adding golden flax seed (from North Dakota) to my green smoothies every morning for a few years now—before green smoothies and flax anything were the shi-shi thing to do. Am I ever jazzed to now have academic/scientific back-up to my feminine intuition! And if you’d like lots of great ideas on how to include flax in many areas of your diet and menu, here are a couple excellent cookbooks on the subject.

Now to top it off, here are a few recipes from my very favorite flax-related website, (“gv” stands for Golden Valley):

Oven Baked "Fried" Chicken

Courtesy of Esther and Mark Hylden of Golden Valley Flax

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning to taste

Wash and pat dry chicken. Dip chicken in extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil. To make a flax breading, combine the bread crumbs, flax seed, garlic powder, black pepper, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning in a plastic bag, seal and shake to blend. Coat chicken in the flax breading.

Place breaded chicken breasts on a baking sheet and bake, uncovered, in a 375-degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until chicken is done and a golden brown. Baking time: 25 minutes

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Protein Balls

Yield: 16 balls

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (almond butter works well also)
3/4 cup nonfat milk powder
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup crushed cereal, such as Honey Bunches of Oats

One or two of the following:
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup Craisins
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/3 cup carob chips
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly chopped

Combine peanut butter, milk powder, flaxseed, honey in a bowl and mix well. Stir in sunflower seeds and Craisins and/or anything else from the list. Roll mixture in small bowls and then roll balls in crushed cereal. Place on waxed paper. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. These take about 15 minutes to prepare. Incredibly good!

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Farmland Flax Cookies

Courtesy of Flax Council of Canada

1 1/3 cups butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (I substituted 3/4 C raw honey and the results were great)
1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar (I cut this sugar to 3/4 C and they were plenty sweet)
2 1/3 cups ground flaxseed
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking soda
3 cups oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, cream butters and sugars; add flaxseed. In another bowl beat eggs and vanilla together, combine with flax mixture. Sift together the flour and soda. Mix in oatmeal and combine with other ingredients. Form into balls, slightly flatten and place on cookie sheet. Bake 13-15 minutes (depending on your oven, I bake them for 11 minutes). Remove from sheet and cool.

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Strawberry Flax Smoothie

2 cups of ice
8 or more, ounces frozen strawberries (fresh are my preference, but off-season, frozen works well)
1 banana
1/4 cup ground flax (you may add more or less—I always add more)
Welch’s Strawberry Breeze juice

Put first four ingredients in blender or smoothie maker. Add Strawberry Breeze juice; fill to the top of blender. Blend until ice is crushed and all ingredients are mixed will together.

(NOTE: Because I can’t leave well enough alone, I’m always tweaking recipes. I added 2 cups of organic baby spinach to this and we couldn’t even taste it. The drink turned green but who cares—the nutrition is really boosted.)

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