Food and nutrition experts share their favorite ways to eat the so-good-for-you ingredient.
Flax Gives Salads, Soups, and Sandwiches a Little Crunch
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Alicia Stanton, M.D., an integrative medicine physician and author of Hormone Harmony and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hormone Weight Loss, says the oil in flaxseeds is the richest plant source of healthy omega-3 fats, which are necessary for the function of every cell. These healthy fats help reduce inflammation, balance hormones, protect against mood swings and depression, and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases like arthritis. The superfood is also high in fiber and can help relieve constipation.
Stanton suggests eating one to two tablespoons of flaxseeds or flaxseed oil daily to reap maximum health benefits. Try adding toasted flaxseeds to salads, soups, and sandwiches for a pleasant crunch. Stanton adds that while flaxseed oil has the highest concentration of the plant’s omega-3 fats, it has a low smoke point so it's not recommended for cooking but is good for smoothies, salad dressings, and other foods.
Make Muffins with Flax
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Shari Portnoy, a registered dietitian, loves flax for its versatility. Her favorite homemade recipe? "Double S Muffins." "This [snack] is for those who want the benefits of a fiber pill but like taste and real food," she says. "I buy Uncle Sam's cereal (I don’t work for them, just love it), and use their muffin recipe but add 1/2-cup of ground flaxseeds. Since flax helps as a laxative, you get the benefits of the cereal and the extra flax. Works like a charm. The S is for Shari and Uncle Sam."
Flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, zinc, iron, vitamin E, and calcium, among other vitamins and minerals, and are low in saturated fat. “Trouble is, the omega-3 of flaxseeds is located in the seed, and unless you chew them thoroughly, they can be difficult to digest," Portnoy says. "To get the benefit of flaxseed, grind it in a blender, coffee grinder, or food processor. Then, add it to dough and batter, sprinkle on cereal or pudding, or add it to a smoothie."
Add Flax to Your Yogurt
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Mix Flax into Your Oatmeal, Smoothies, or Protein Shakes
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Enhance daily breakfast items with flax, too! You can add some into slow-cooking oatmeal, smoothies or protein shakes for added bulk, pancake batter (they are an excellent replacement for eggs), whole grain pizza crust or bread mix, or even into your veggie burger mix.
"Make sure you refrigerate the flaxseed meal, as the oils in it can become rancid," Hundt says.
Coat Your Chicken with Flax
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Jennifer Tuma-Young, a recovered yo-yo dieter who lost more than 100 pounds and bonafide food expert, loves flaxseeds. "Not only are they amazing for your body with powerful antioxidant properties (to help prevent cancer, boost your immune system, and more!), their high-fiber content aids digestion and omega-3 fatty acids keep your heart healthy," she says. They’re also a simple, healthy, delicious ‘slip in’ to almost any meal—flaxseed has a delicate, nutty flavor that does not overpower!
For Tuma-Young, a tablespoon of it in oatmeal, cereal, or even a fruit smoothie or protein shake is an easy way to make it a part of your daily diet. She also suggests adding it to the coating of your chicken dishes, coconut-crusted tilapia, or eggplant parm—the healthy kind of parm, that is.
Flax is Fab with French Toast
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Tuma-Young also rolls flaxseeds into her French toast before it hits the skillet. It's a super simple way to boost the health benefits of Sunday brunch.
Flax in Your Ice Cream, Cottage Cheese, and Applesauce
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Aside from fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds are also a great source of lignans, potassium, and magnesium, says Danielle Omar, a registered dietitian at a private practice in Washington, D.C. "I suggest buying the seeds whole and storing them in the fridge, then grinding them yourself to preserve freshness," Omar says. "You can also purchase 'cold milled flax' seed, which can increase the shelf life of ground flax."
To incorporate them into your diet, Omar suggests sprinkling ground flax on cottage cheese, ice cream, and applesauce.
Substitute Flax for Eggs
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For any recipe that calls for eggs, Omar suggests swapping in flaxseeds. "Use 2 tablespoons of flax with 2 tablespoons of water to replace one egg," she says.
Flaxseeds in Food You Already Eat
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"Flaxseeds are tiny but powerful. Don't underestimate these little guys," says Alyssa Phillips, a physician's assistant with a degree in nutrition. "They have one of the biggest 'bang for your buck' around with their abundantly high fiber (helps with weight loss and intestinal health), phytochemicals/antioxidants (including ligans, which help to balance female hormones and can possibly prevent breast cancer and Type 2 diabetes), and Omega-3 fatty acids (fights inflammation) content!"
To make it a part of your diet, Phillips suggests adding it to stuff you already eat. For instance, you can try mixing it into your meatloaf, meatball, and casserole recipes, Phillips says.
Pumpkin Bread with Flaxseeds
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Since it's that time of year, Phillips suggests adding flaxseeds to your pumpkin bread recipe. That way, not only will you be eating your way to health, you'll be sharing the flaxseed love with your family!