A Trio of Bread Books
Substituting Whole Wheat for White Flour

Adding Flax to Your Diet

Q: I was reading that flax is really nutritious and was wondering if there are any recipes or uses for flax other than in bread?

-- Lindsay E.

According to Walter Willett, M.D., in his book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating, flax seed is high in fiber and rich in n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids, which may help protect against heart disease and other chronic diseases.  The Flax Council of Canada says,  "Scientists at the American National Cancer Institute singled out flax seed as one of six foods that deserved special study. The reason: flax seed shows potential cancer-fighting ability. Flax seed is one of the richest sources of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen which may protect against cancer, particularly hormone-sensitive cancers such as those of the breast and prostate."

So, how can you add flax to your diet?

Flax seed can be added to breads, as mentioned in the question, as well as used in muffins and other baked goods.  Because flax seed has a tough outer casing, it is advised to crush them before using.  To do this, use a mortar and pestle, or grind them in a clean coffee grinder or blender.  When using flax seed in baking, they may absorb some of the water from the recipe.  Make up for this by adding about 1 teaspoon of water for each tablespoon of flax seed used.  Some prepackaged muffin and pancake mixes containing flax are available at grocery and health food stores.

Ground flax seed can also be used to replace some of the eggs or egg whites in recipes such as pancakes.  To do so, use one tablespoon of ground flax seed and three tablespoons of water to replace one whole egg or the whites of about 1 ½ eggs.  Because flax seed used this way does not provide any leavening, the baked goods will be somewhat smaller in volume and will likely be more gummy.

Whole flax seeds can be used, plain or lightly toasted, on top of salads and other places where sesame seeds might be used as a garnish.  They can also be added to rice, buckwheat, wheat berries, etc., when making pilaf, kasha or other boiled grains, or they can be added to your favorite hot breakfast cereal.

Finally, flax seed oil, which is available at most health food stores, can be used to replace some of the oil in salad dressings and other preparations.  Because of its low smoke point, flax seed oil is generally not suitable for cooking.

Whole flax seeds can be stored at room temperature for  one year. Ground flax can be stored at room temperature three or four months. Refrigeration will prolong freshness.  Flax seed oil must be kept refrigerated, once opened, and should be consumed within six weeks, according to the Flax Council.


I wonder if this phytoestrogen is good during menopause?

I would not use ground flax seeds. I prefer to buy them whole. That way they last longer and you can freeze them, and grind them fresh in a coffee grinder to use in baking and making whole grain pizza crusts. I am not sure how long ground flax seeds last, they should have an expiration date on them.

I purchased a bag of ground flax seed and intended to use this in baking. A year later, I have not used it. Is it safe to use? I have stored it in the refrigerator since purchase. Your site has given me the necessary info for it's use; however I am concerned more about safety than freshness at this point. When is in no longer safe to use?

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