In Part 1 of this blog entry on flax seeds as a superfood, I explained some of the ways that flax seeds can be beneficial to health. In Part 2, I showed you how to use flax seeds as medicine. In part 3, I'll provide ideas on how you can incorporate these incredible seeds into your diet.
How to Add Flax Seeds to Your Diet
Flax seeds can be used in much the same ways that you'd use chia seeds. However, unlike chia seeds that don't have a very strong or distinct flavour, flax seeds will add a pleasant nutty taste to your meals and snacks.
In whole form or ground into a flour, flax seeds blend well into smoothies, breakfast cereal, porridge, salad dressing, sauce, gravy, soup, broth, stew, pudding, yogurt, spread, raw jam, chutney, raw granola, dehydrated cookies and crackers, muffins, bread, pie crusts, pizza dough, and coatings for dehydrated vegetables like kale chips.
Flax seed oil is also an incredibly delicious and robust oil to use in dressings, condiments, smoothies, raw desserts (chocolate coconut date balls taste positively divine with a little added flax seed oil!), and raw snacks. Always use flax seed oil in raw form and never heat it because cooking it will damage the sensitive essential fatty acids.
Flax Seeds as Substitutes for Common Food Allergens
The versatility of flax seeds seems to be infinite. This impressive seed makes an excellent substitute for many common food allergens. You can use it raw or in baking and in whole form or as a ground flour (also called flax seed meal). I've summarized these substitutions in an easy reference table (Table 1).
When it comes to baking flax seeds, the omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid, abbreviated as ALA) and omega-6 (linoleic acid, abbreviated as LA) essential fatty acids are the most sensitive to heat. This is to be expected, because they are both polyunsaturated fats. However, one study showed that these heat-sensitive oils were damaged only minimally in muffins containing ground flaxseeds baked at 350 °F for 90 minutes.
Because flax seeds are rich in oils and water-absorbent mucilage, they also add moisture to all baked and cooked dishes. You can reduce the amount of fat in recipes by substituting with ground flax seeds in a 1 to 3 ratio. For every 1 cup of oil, substitute with 3 cups of ground flax seeds and for every 1 tablespoon of butter, substitute with 3 tablespoons of ground flax seeds.
If you don't eat gluten free and you want to substitute ground flax seeds for a portion of wheat flour in your baking recipes, you can replace up to 15 % of wheat flour with flax seed flour. The conversion factor is: 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds + 4 tablespoons water = 1/4 cup wheat flour. If you're baking bread, use 25 % more yeast than what the recipe calls for to ensure the dough rises. Flax seeds tend to make dough a little denser.
Baked recipes made with flax seed flour will also be darker** in colour (especially the crust), be moister, and have less crunchy crust compared to recipes made without flax. You may need to add a little more liquid such as water, milk, or non-dairy milk to reach a desired consistency of batter or dough. If you use flax seeds to replace egg, you will notice that the modified recipe will yield a slightly smaller volume. The same holds true for breads and cakes made with more than 15 % flax seed flour.
**This browning is actually not a good thing, as it indicates a higher degree of glycated proteins. Lower the temperature and bake for slightly longer than the recipe calls for to avoid excessive browning.
Cautionary Notes: Flax seed mucilage can bind to medications, rendering them unabsorbable and therefore ineffective or inactive. Always eat flax seeds at least 1 to 3 hours after having taken any prescription medications or doctor recommended over the counter drugs. If you suffer from inflammatory intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (abbreviated as IBS), inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD), Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, intestinal obstruction, fistula, and/or chronic constipation or diarrhea, consume flax seeds with caution. The high fibre content of the seeds could exacerbate your condition if you consume too much too soon, consume too much for too long, or drink too little water (fibre tolerance varies with the individual). Gradually introduce small amounts of flax seeds to your diet and slowly increase the amount you eat while you take note of your body's tolerance. Alternatively, if your condition is very severe or if you're experiencing a flare up, consult your health care practitioner prior to eating any high fibre foods.
Basu, S. et al., 2009. Sci. Pharm. 77: 899.
Chen, Z.-Y. et al., 1994. J. Am. Oil Chem. Soc. 71(6): 629—632.
Chen, H.-H. et al., 2006. J. Food Eng. 77: 295.
Coskuner, Y., & E. Karababa. 2006. J. Food Eng. 78: 1067.
Dubois, V., et al., 2007. Eur. J. Lip. Sci. Tech. 109: 710.
Koca, A. F., & M. Anil. 2007. J. Sci. Food. Agric. 87: 1172.
Mentes, O., et al., 2008. Food Sci. Tech. Int. 14: 299.
Oomah, B. D. 2001. J. Sci. Food. Agric. 81: 889.
Tolkachev, O. N., & A. A. Zhuchenko, Jr. 2000. Pharma. Chem. J. 34: 23.
Watson, F., et al., 2009. Ext: Food Nutr. No. 9.376.
You can download a .pdf of the substitution table below: