The Miller’s Tale

Paint, wood conditioner, and summer clothing that wrinkles if you look at it funny are the seed’s historical uses.  But until recently, they were definitely not for eating.

The seed to which I refer is flax seeds, or linseeds.

Today, seeds are very popular additions to diets.  Some people argue that they contain all the nutrition that the mature plant or fruit would contain.  I’m not sure they’re quite that magical but they are mighty little nutritional powerhouses.

Let’s look at those flaxseeds.  The alternate name, linseed comes from the Latin nomenclature: Linum usitatissimum.Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are essential for heart health.  It can prevent heart disease and lessen the chances of heart attack in people with pre-existing heart disease.  The body doesn’t produce fatty acids so we have to procure it from outside sources.  Fish is a really good source, but most of us don’t eat enough.

Some people eat fish oil in the form of dietary supplements.  But, there are two utterly ominous words that I’ve heard in reference to fish oil pills which guarantee that those aquatic tablets will never pass my lips: “fish burps”.Flaxseeds though, have two to four times the amount of omega 3’s that humans need to reap a 30% reduction in the risk of heart-related death.

I’d like to share a couple of quick facts concerning calories.  If you look at the fine print, many nutrition labels are based on a 2000 calories a day diet.  But, unless you’re a professional athlete in training, that number is really high for most people.The simple rule of thumb for daily consumption of calories is ten times the weight to which you aspire.  So, if you want to weigh 150 pounds, you eat 1500 calories.

This number is also necessary to calculate the correct number of fiber grams you need.  Scientists recommend we eat 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories you consume.  And one tablespoon of flaxseed contains 2.8 grams of fiber.  For me, that one tablespoon is 15% of the fiber I need.

There are two types of fiber in the world, soluble and non-soluble.  Soluble can be broken down during digestion; non-soluble, as the name suggests, does not and passes through your body virtually unchanged.Flaxseeds contain both.  But, to get the soluble fiber, they must be broken down outside your body in a mechanical fashion.  Which means milling.

You can purchase them pre-milled.  But I like the whole seeds in things like fruit salad and tuna or chicken salad.  So I buy them whole.  Whole, they add both flavor and a chewy texture.To get both types of fiber and unlock all the other nutrients, I grind them in an electric coffee grinder which I use exclusively for spices.  You can pick one up for under $20.

Once ground, they can be added to baked goods, salad dressing, yogurt, smoothies, and even something like breading for meat.  You absolutely cannot tell they’re in there and they don’t add any type of weird texture.  The only effect is a slight thickening in liquids, so you may have to thin them slightly.

Most weeks I give you a recipe.  But this week, I offer only information.  Because if you think about it, you can come up with all kinds of dishes to which you can add a solid punch of nutrition.

So you’ve come to the end of the column only to find out that this week it’s a do it yourself-er.So really, thanks very much for your time this week.

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