With so many superfoods now available on the health food market, it seems like there are never-ending opportunities to up the ante of beneficial nutrients in our diets. However, many of the foods that we are learning about today are far from new. Flax has played a significant role in healthful eating for thousands of years. It is only that today we have the advantage of being able to reap the benefits of flax through a large variety of recipes – so not only is taste not sacrificed in the quest for health, its further enhanced by it.
Utilized for both nutritional purposes as well as the production of fabrics and other material goods, records indicate that flax was first cultivated as long as 8,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt. Hippocrates realized the seed’s effectiveness in relieving intestinal upset, and by the 8th Century, Emperor Charlemagne was so taken by the seed that he passed legislation requiring regular flax consumption by all of his subjects. Although the flaxseed originated in the Mediterranean, its growth slowly spread throughout Asia and Europe before making the jump to North America in the 17th Century.
When you look at the health benefits of flax, it’s not hard to see what Hippocrates and Charlemagne saw in the seed – and more importantly, why its making such a big impact in today’s health food world. First of all, flax contains a healthy dose of fiber, which is necessary for digestive health. Beyond that, the Alpha linolenic acids found in flax are one of the best plant-derived sources for Omega 3 fatty acids, which is well known for improving heart health, lowering cholesterol and keeping blood pressure in check. The lignans in flax act as a powerful antioxidant, which supports, among other things, the balance of hormones in females. Studies indicate that flax may play an important role in preventing certain types of cancer, including breast, as well as diabetes.
Flax can be consumed a number of ways – seeds can be consumed either whole or ground, as a type of flour and also as an oil. It is important to note that unlike other types of oil, flaxseed oil cannot be used in cooking as the heat destroys its nutritional value. Take advantage of this nutritional powerhouse in your own kitchen by whipping up a batch of Blueberry Flaxseed Paste, some Lemon Flaxseed Dressing, or our Healthy Heart Tart.
By Hartley Casbon