Easy Add-Ins to Boost Nutrition
Toss these ingredients into your recipes for an instant nutrient blast.
3. Ground Flaxseed
Flaxseed is a small, amber-colored seed that's been around for centuries.
But don't let its size fool you: it packs quite a nutritional wallop. Many of
the studies on the health effects of flaxseed have been done using ground
flaxseed, pure and simple (you'll need to grind it yourself to allow your body
to access its helpful components).
Ground flax contains:
- Both types of fiber (soluble and insoluble)
- One of the planet's most potent sources of phytoestrogens, called lignans.
Phytoestrogens are active substances derived from plants that have a weak
estrogen-like action in the body.
- Plant omega-3 fatty acids
At the level of 1 to 2 tablespoons a day, there don't appear to be any
negative health consequences to eating ground flaxseed. And research has shown
there are many potential benefits, including:
- Possible protection against cancer and reduction of tumor growth (such as
breast, prostate and colon).
- A reduced risk of heart disease. Studies suggest that flaxseed lowers the
risk of blood clots and stroke and cardiac arrhythmias. It may also help to
lower total and LDL "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides, and even blood
- Better regulation of bowel functions, and prevention of constipation.
- Possible improvements in blood sugar (glucose) control and insulin
- Possible benefits in many immune system diseases, such as rheumatoid
To get the biggest healthy bang for your one buck (a pound of flaxseed costs
about $1 in your health food store), you're probably better off getting all of
the flaxseed components together in the ground seed rather than just the
lignans or just the omega-3s. For example, lignans have been linked to boosting
the immune system, but so have omega-3s -- just through different metabolic
pathways. Lignans appear to offer a measure of protection against some cancers.
So do omega-3s -- again, through different mechanisms.
I do have one caution about flaxseed: Until more studies on humans are
completed, Lilian Thompson, PhD, a pioneer in flaxseed research, recommends
that pregnant women not eat flaxseed.
You can easily add ground flaxseed to:
- Smoothies (my personal favorite).
- Hot or cold breakfast cereals.
- Muffins and breads you make at home. Replace no more than 1/4 cup of every
cup of flour the recipe calls for with ground flaxseed.
- Yogurt or cottage cheese.