Ever since I became a mom, I always think of flaxseed as an incognito health boost for my kids. One of the best secrets I learned early on after my kids started eating solid foods was that flaxseeds were delicious but had a neutral-enough flavor that I could sneak them into other foods without them noticing. Little do they know there are flaxseeds in their spaghetti sauce and in those sloppy joes they love. It’s my secret, but this little seed has a big impact on a person’s health.
Flaxseeds grow from the flax plant, which has narrow leaves and blue flowers, and is also the source of the fabric linen.1 Flaxseeds are particularly rich in alpha lineolic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid believed to be helpful in lowering cholesterol, as well as vitamins, minerals, potassium, and soluble and insoluble fiber.1, 2 They also contain lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that may protect against certain types of cancer.2 This omega-3 fatty acid content also helps skin protect itself by increasing natural oils, keeping skin soft and preventing it from drying out.3
In the kitchen
Flaxseeds have a warm, earthy, nutty flavor, and are eaten either whole, ground or in the form of oil, which can be added to cooked food for a health and flavor boost. They are slightly larger than sesame seeds and have a smooth, shiny shell, varying in color from deep amber to reddish brown, depending on the variety. Ground flaxseeds are convenient, but be sure that they are packaged in a vacuum-sealed package and refrigerated after opening to avoid spoilage. Whole flaxseeds are usually prepackaged and have a longer shelf life than ground flaxseeds.4 Flaxseeds are commonly used in baked goods, such as crackers, breads, cakes and muffins, and they can also be used in juice drinks and smoothies, and sprinkled on salads and breakfast cereals.1