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12 Days of Holiday Food Gifts

Give the gift of healthier edible goodies this season.

9. On the ninth day of Christmas my FOODIE gave to me… 9 ounces of nifty nuts.

You can find festive, 9-ounce cans of nuts from Planters in your neighborhood grocery store. Dress it up with a colorful bow and gift tag, and you're good to go. One of my favorite Planters Nut can collections is the lightly salted Heart-Healthy Mix with peanuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts.

As a bonus, the health claim on the label reads: "Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as peanuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease."

10. On the 10th day of Christmas my FOODIE gave to me … 10 facts about flaxseed.

Send your special someone the healthy gift of flax, which I consider one of the most nutritionally powerful plant foods on the planet. You could send a pound of ground flaxseed along with a printed version of the "10 Facts about Flax" below. Or put together a Flax Pack: Package a cookbook with flaxseed recipes (like my book, The Flax Cookbook) with a pound of ground flaxseed, all wrapped up in ribbon with a shiny new tablespoon measure dangling from the bow.

10 Facts about Flax

To help motivate you to add flaxseed to your diet, here are 10 interesting facts about flax:

1. Flaxseed has been on the planet for thousands of years, and is now mostly grown in Canada and the Dakotas.
2. Flaxseed contains a high concentration of plant omega-3 fatty acids (around 1.5 grams per tablespoon) and lignans (phytoestrogen phytochemicals), which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Omega-3s are thought to be highly protective against heart disease.
3. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contributes about 2.3 grams of fiber. It's a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber.
4. A tablespoon of ground flaxseed also contributes important vitamins and minerals: 6% of the recommended daily amount for vitamin B6, 6% for vitamin E, 15% for folic acid, and 12% for magnesium.
5. Along with flaxseed's heart-healthy qualities, some studies over the years have pointed to possible protective effects against breast, prostate, and colon cancer.
6. One tablespoon is a good amount of flax to strive for each day (which is why you'd include a tablespoon measure in your Flax Pack). "I think it is reasonable to take one tablespoon of ground flaxseed a day," says Lilian Thompson, PhD, an expert on flaxseed from the University of Toronto.
7. Be sure to either to buy flaxseed already ground, or grind it before you eat it (or cook with it). Otherwise it passes through your digestive system, and you don't get all the nutritional benefits.
8. The freezer is a great place to store flaxseed.
9. To sneak flaxseed into your baking recipes, try replacing 1/8 of a cup of ground flaxseed per cup of flour called for in the recipe. You can also add it to cereal, smoothies, or yogurt.
10. Keep in mind that researchers have yet to conduct large, randomized studies on the role of flaxseed in reducing cancer and other health risks. For example, there is no conclusive data on the safety of flaxseed taken daily by children, and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on anti-estrogen medications.
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