Flax seeds have grown in popularity in the recent years, thanks to the many health benefits they confer. These healthy seeds can be found whole or ground, and it is also possible to buy flax oil. Flax seed is a versatile food that can be sprinkled over breakfast cereals or yogurt or added to a smoothie or salad. Including flax seeds in any recipes when baking, whether it is in pancakes, muffins or cookies, not only adds crunch and a nutty taste but also enhances the food's nutritional value.
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A tablespoon of whole flax seeds, raw or cooked, contains 50 calories, 4.5 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of alpha-linolenic acid, 2.2 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of dietary fiber, according to the Flax Council of Canada. The same serving of ground flax seeds, raw or cooked, provides 36 calories, 3.3 grams of fat, 1.8 grams of alpha-linolenic acid, 1.6 grams of protein, 2.3 grams of carbohydrates and 2.2 grams of dietary fiber.
Alpha-linolenic acid is a type of omega-3 fatty acid abundant in flax seeds with health-protective properties. A study showed that when heated at either 212 or 662 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of 60 minutes, flax seeds' fatty acid profile, including alpha-linolenic acid, was not affected significantly, according to the Flax Council of Canada. Another study also compared the fatty acid profile in the blood of women consuming either raw flax seeds or flax seeds cooked in bread for a period of four weeks. They did not find any significant difference, which indicates that the bioavailability of flax seeds' alpha-linolenic acid is similar, whether raw or cooked.
Flax seed is the best food source of lignans, a compound resembling and mimicking human estrogen and able to protect against hormone-related cancers, such as breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancers, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. A study showed that the amount of flax seeds measured in the crust and center of a loaf of bread corresponded to the amount added to the dough, according to the Flax Council of Canada, which indicates that lignans are not affected by heat and the cooking process. Other studies also agree with these findings that lignans are not affected by heat.
Flax seeds are a good source of insoluble and soluble fiber, which is unaffected by baking or high cooking temperatures. The insoluble fiber is helpful to prevent constipation, while soluble fiber helps lower bad cholesterol and therefore reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Baking With Flax Seeds
Because the nutrition value of flax seeds is not influenced by heat or cooking, it is possible to use them in any recipes to add a nutrition punch, whether it is bread, muffins, cookies, cakes, pancakes or oatmeal. It is recommended that flax seeds be added at the last minute if possible because they can thicken liquids if left for a period of time.