A look at linseeds/flax-seeds and flax-seed oil. What’s in flaxseeds, what are its health benefits, how do I eat/cook them and how much do I need each day?
Flaxseeds have a fibrous seed coat which swells-up when wet and passes through our guts undigested. To get the benefit of the protein, omega-3 essential fatty acid and minerals in flaxseeds, the seeds need to be crushed, cracked, chopped-up, sliced-up or ground-up using a coffee grinder, adjustable pepper grinder or most simply, a blender. The resulting powder can be mixed with liquids or sprinkled on foods, though extra fluid must be drunk as the soluble fibre absorbs lots of water.
Although whole flaxseeds will keep at room temperature, once ground, it's advisable to keep them refrigerated to minimise oxidation of the exposed fat. Flaxseed oil must be kept refrigerated at all times after opening and must never be used for cooking. It's O.K. sprinkled over hot food as long as the food is eaten shortly afterwards. Oxidised flaxseed oil tastes bitter and has lost any health benefits it had when fresh, so it should be discarded or used to varnish something or thin down putty. Unoxidised flaxseed oil has a nutty kind of taste or it may taste a bit like tea. Ground-up flaxseeds hardly taste of anything.
As men are much poorer converters of alpha-linolenic acid (the omega-3 fatty acid in linseeds) into the longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids than women, men need to eat approximately 50g of ground flaxseeds per day and women need to eat approximately 25g per day. The daily amount of flaxseed oil for men is approximately 20g and the daily amount for women is approximately 10g.
Flaxseeds and linseeds are the same thing and they come in different colours. The cheapest linseeds are brown ones which are often found sold as bird seed in pet shops, but can also be found in small independent health-food shops. There are also golden linseeds, which is the type most often found in supermarkets. Linusit & Granovita are two well-known brands. Granovita organic flaxseed oil is a good brand and it comes in dark glass bottles to keep the light out as light causes oxidation of alpha-linolenic acid.