Wellness Encyclopedia: Benefits of Flax + Why You Need to Grind Flax Seeds

These little seeds are more than just a convenient dupe for eggs in a cookie recipe!

The first time I learned about flax seeds was back in college. I had just picked up a brand new vegan cookbook from Border’s (remember Border’s?) and flax seeds played a major part in so many of the recipes, especially as an egg replacement, I had to learn more. Turns out, these little seeds are more than just a convenient dupe for eggs in a cookie recipe! Packed with omega 3’s, antioxidants, and tons of fibre, these little seeds are an important addition to any diet, not just for vegans. Though the original cookbook now feels a touch outdated (So. Much. Soy.), I’ll forever be thankful for the knowledge of flax seeds that it passed along to me. Learn all about these incredible seeds below:

What is it?

Flax has a long history, one that’s centuries old (we’re talking 30,000 years). It’s been consumed as food for over 6,000 years, though its use to make fibers and oil could date farther back, as far back as the Paleolithic period. Most of us know flax in its textile form as linen, and as linseed oil (often used by oil painters) in its oil form. Boasting pretty blue flowers when it’s in bloom, flax grows in colder climates and is believed to have been first cultivated in the fertile crescent. Flax has been popular as a culinary addition for decades, and is especially valuable as an egg replacement for vegetarians and vegans, though the nutty seeds and meal is a tasty addition to a huge variety of foods.

What are the benefits?

Flax seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, also known as alpha-linolenic acids (ALAs). The ALA present in flax seeds promotes a healthy gut and digestive system, along with healthy skin and hair. High in fibre but low in carbs, flax could also help heal the gut, keep you feeling full longer, and improve digestive health overall. Along with nourishing skin, hair and nails with healthy fats, flax also delivers a healthy dose of B vitamins, which could improve symptoms of psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.

How do I use flax?

Flax is super versatile and an easy way to boost nutrition in smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, yogurt, and more. However, the key to getting all that good nutrition from the seed to your body is using ground flax instead of whole flax seeds.

Why grind your flax seeds? Whole flax seeds are nearly indigestible by the body, meaning they’ll pass through your system intact. While, yes, you’ll probably chew some, because they’re so small, flax seeds easily enter the digestive system whole. Unless you’re using them as a garnish or in a seed mix, I recommend always grinding your flax seeds, which you can do with a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, or purchasing pre-ground flax seeds, often labeled as “flax meal” (Bob’s Red Mill is a favorite brand of mine). Along with making the nutrients housed within the seeds more bioavailable, grinding your flax seeds also releases the mucilage gum found within the seeds, a gel-forming substance believed to benefit the intestinal tract.

Flax meal mixes easily into almost anything and for the most part is nearly indetectable. I love throwing a tablespoon of ground flax into my smoothies as a quick way to boost nutrition and add healthy ALAs to my daily routine.

How to Make Vegan Flax Eggs

Ingredients:

1 tbsp ground flax seeds (grind your own or purchase pre-ground, often labeled “flax meal”)

2 ½ tbsp warm water

Method

Combine flax meal and water in a small bowl and stir to combine. Allow to set for 5 minutes. This makes 1 flax egg — increase measurements to make more.

Flax eggs can’t sub for regular eggs in all recipes, but work well for things like cupcakes, cakes, quick breads, pancakes, brownies, etc. Chia seeds can also be used in place of flax!

Flax-Honey-Clay Face Mask

Materials:

1 tbsp ground flax seeds (grind your own or purchase pre-ground, often labeled “flax meal”)

1 tbsp raw honey

1 tbsp bentonite clay or pink clay

Rosewater

Method

Place flax, honey, and clay in a small non-metallic bowl and stir to combine. Add rosewater a little at a time until mixture forms a thick but spreadable paste. Apply to face and neck, avoiding eye area and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. When you’re ready to remove it, wet hands and gently rub in circles to allow the flax to exfoliate. Rinse completely before patting skin dry and following up with your favorite moisturizer.

+ Be sure to check out more Wellness Encyclopedia posts!

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