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News Archive - Progress Newsletter Fall 2000 Online

Food for Thought: How Do I Get Flax in My Diet?

By Suzanne Dixon, M.P.H., M.S., R.D., U-M Cancer Center Nutrition Specialist


Flax Facts
Flax is a grain, just like wheat, oats or corn. It just happens that flax is a very healthy grain with CANCER-FIGHTING ability.

The major type of fat that makes up flax is omega-3 fatty acids. You may have heard of omega-3 fatty acids because they are a type of unsaturated fat, which is healthier for us than saturated fat.

Saturated fat is the type of fat that is found in most animal foods, such as beef and high-fat dairy products like cheese and whole milk. Some saturated fat in the diet is O.K. Too much saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.

Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of heart disease and many types of cancer. One major source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish. This is why health experts advise people to eat some fish each week.

Flax is a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Just like the type of fat in fish, the fat in flax can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

We know flax is healthy for us and may help lower cancer risk. But, most people don't know how to get flax into their diet.

Tips on Buying, Storing and Using Flax
You can buy whole flax seeds in the bulk food section of your local food market. You can buy flax meal and flax oil at most grocery stores. If you cannot find these products there, try a health food store.

You can use flax oil to make salad dressings, such as vinaigrette or vinegar & oil. DO NOT cook with flax oil because it cannot take the heat of cooking. Heat will make the oil rancid.

You must store flax oil and flax seeds in the refrigerator. If you buy flax meal (ground flax seeds), this must be stored in the refrigerator, too.

True or False? If you eat whole flax seeds, you don't get any benefit.
It's true that flax seeds don't break down during digestion, so you will get the most benefit from eating 'crushed' or 'ground' flax seeds (also called flax meal). But, you still get some benefit from eating whole flax seeds.

The best way to crush flax seeds is with a coffee bean grinder. That's right, a coffee bean grinder! You can purchase an inexpensive coffee bean grinder at a store such as Target or K-Mart.

Ways to eat ground flax seeds
Grind a couple tablespoons flax seeds and sprinkle it on cereal

Sprinkle ground flax seed into yogurt

Sprinkle ground flax seed on top of ice cream or other desserts -- flax has a pleasant, nutty flavor

Make flax bread (recipe below)

Add ground flax seed to a fruit "smoothie"

Put ground flax seed into soups and stews (add after cooking is done so heat doesn't make flax rancid).

Classic Flax Bread
(Yield: 2 loaves; 32 pieces)

6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup ground flax seed (grind
in coffee bean grinder or use
flax meal)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon fast rising instant yeast
2 cups water
1 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon canola oil

Set aside 1 cup all-purpose flour from the total amount. Mix remaining flour, ground flax seed, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Heat water, milk and oil until hot to the touch (about 125-130F or 50-55C). DO NOT BOlL.

Stir hot liquids into dry mixture. Mix in enough reserved flour to make a soft dough that does not stick to the bowl. Turn out onto floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Cover dough and let rest 10 minutes. Cut dough in half and shape into loaves.

Place into 2 greased (8 1/2 inch x 4 1/2 inch or 21 cm x 12 cm) loaf pans.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in volume (about 40-50 minutes). Bake at 400F (200C) for 30-35 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool on wire racks.

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