Flaxing Poetic: The Benefits of Flax seed and How to Use it in the Kitchen
Posted on February 17, 2011
According to the National Restaurant Association’s view on 2011 food service trends, nutrition will be a mainstream culinary theme. In fact, 21% of chefs said they believed creating more health-conscious menu selections (which involves reducing the sodium, fat and calorie content) would help promote health and nutrition among diners. (Source) As such, today’s post is focused on a food some call a “superfood:” flax seed.
Flax seed is a derivative of flax, which is a plant that produces tiny seeds resembling apple seeds. Flax seeds can be brown or golden and have generally the same nutritive properties. The seeds produce flaxseed oil, also known as linseed oil, which is one of the oldest commercial oils and has been used for a range of cooking uses as well as wood polish. Nevertheless, flax seeds have some major nutritional benefits.
Flax stands out as one of the best natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids, one of the “good fats” a body needs to function. These types of fats have anti-inflammatory benefits and are metabolized more easily than other fats. This can improve conditions like arthritis, eczema and irritable digestive systems. They are best digested either ground into a grainy powder or as an oil, and organically-grown, they can be consumed without the toxicity risks associated with fish, the other major source of omega-3s.
Nutritionists like Dr. Michael Murray, who has written several books on natural health, laud the benefits of flax and even suggest that flax seed is indisputably the most effective source of omega-3s, including alpha-linolenic acid (known as ALA).
Since its rise in popularity in the last five years, the demand for flax has gone up. Consumers want it in their breads, waffles and oatmeal. Not only that, but agricultural use has increased. That’s where those eggs labeled “high in omega-3 fatty acids” come from! Chickens are eating flax in their oatmeal, err, chicken feed, too.
Flax seed also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is something just about every American can stand to get more of. A Mayo Clinic article suggests adults should consume 21 to 38 grams of fiber daily.
So, how does all this affect the restaurateurs out there? Well, studies show that people are more concerned about the health of their food, and want to look for smaller plates with organic, local ingredients. Although flax may not be local to your area, organic flax seed is fairly inexpensive and excellent as a bulk purchase. Restaurateurs can incorporate ground flax into breads, pancakes and waffles and even as batters for baking or frying chicken tenders or fried fish.
One commercial bakery seeing success with natural and healthy products is Nature’s Pride, the only brand of 100% natural breads available across the country. It recently introduced a new line of bread containing flax seed. Here’s a statement from Nature’s Pride’s Director of Marketing:
“Nature’s Pride Hearty Wheat with Flax is the latest introduction to our award-winning portfolio of 100% natural breads,” she added. “In addition to delivering the perfect balance of great taste and nutrition consumers can always expect from Nature’s Pride, this new variety is the first to be baked using pure olive oil and the first to provide a good source of Omega 3-ALA – making it an ideal addition to our tasty, wholesome assortment.” (Source)
Restaurants too can incorporate healthy ingredients to their menu items to make them more appealing to their health-conscious guests, as well as increase the nutritional value of the dishes themselves. There are plenty of options out there, and guests will notice the difference. Here’s to better health!