Flaxseed, God's gift for a healthy Colon
For once it’s not size that matters... This tiny little seed, only slightly bigger than a sesame seed contains a true powerhouse of nutrients. Encapsulated within the seed's hard outer shell lies a world of utter goodness! From omega 3 plant oils, vitamins and minerals to helpful hormone-balancing chemicals called 'lignans'.
Flaxseed is probably best known for its gentle yet effective laxative properties. It is extremely rich in fibre and mucilage, a thick gooey substance. Fibre and mucilage both help to bulk up and ease the passage of our stool. Flax's lubricating and stimulating effects help our digestive tract to stay as healthy as possible.
To help with daily bowel movements, start by adding 1-2 teaspoons (for flax beginners) up to a heaped tablespoon sprinkled over your morning porridge, in a smoothie or over some salad or steamed vegetables. If you suffer from constipation badly, try soaking two table spoons of flaxseeds in luke warm water overnight, and drink the water first thing in the morning. You can then use the left-over soaked seeds in your porridge later for an extra bowel booster.
Jam packed with Omega 3
Flax's health advantages go way beyond that of just a laxative. Jam-packed with Omega 3 fatty acids, those good oils that help to lower cholesterol, flaxseeds can help to protect against heart disease and keep your skin, hair and nails looking healthy. It's an ideal Omega 3 rich addition to your diet if you aren't keen on eating fish.
Flax is also high in Lignans. Lignans are a type of natural plant chemical which can have a balancing effect on hormones, especially the female hormone oestrogen. Lignans also act as powerful antioxidants helping to fight off damaging free radicals which contribute to aging and the development of illnesses such as cancer.
A powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and protein
Just two table spoons of flax seed contain about 4 grams of protein, a significant amount of vitamin B6, copper, calcium, zinc, folate, magnesium and potassium. So for those often on the go, flaxseed added to a smoothie or juice can offer you a quick fix of some of the most important nutrients in our diet.
Buy it ground or whole?
Flax seeds, or linseeds as they are sometimes called, are available in most supermarkets and health shops as whole- or ground seeds. If eaten whole, the seed will still have its laxative properties. However, you won’t get many of its nutritional benefits as our bodies can't digest the hard outer shell. This means the whole seed will simply pass straight through you! It is therefore better to eat the seed ground. But bear in mind that once ground, flaxseed must be stored in the fridge in an airtight container to prevent the delicate Omega 3 oils from going rancid.
This means that it is best to buy the seeds whole (better value for money), and grind them yourself as needed. A small coffee grinder, a blender or food processor all do the job perfectly. Grinding as much as you need for the week should not take you more than 5 minutes! You can store the whole seed in a dark cool cupboard for up to 6 months and the ground seed in an airtight container for several days up to a week in the fridge.
Excellent egg replacer
Allergic to eggs? Fear not. Flaxseeds can function as an ideal egg replacer in many recipes such as cakes, muffins and quiches. And flax seed is cheap! Even organic flaxseeds aren't expensive at all (around £10 for 2.5 kg) so there really isn't an excuses to not add this super seed to your daily diet.
To make one raw egg replacement use:
- 1 tbsp ground flax
- 3 tbsp water
Mix well with a fork and leave to stand for at least 15 minutes before using.
Now that I’ve bought it, what do I do with it...?
The taste of flaxseed is slightly nutty but very subtle. It’s therefore unlikely that its flavour will dominate or change the taste of a dish once it’s added. This makes flax a very versatile addition to sweet as well as savoury dishes, such as salads, cereal bars, pancake batter, sauces, ice cream, pasta dishes and even burger patties!
Go on, experiment, and let me know your favourite way to enjoy your daily flax-fix.