Flax to the max

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Article courtesy of Psychologies Magazine and written by Eve Kalinik.

These tiny seeds may fall short in size, but they’re big in terms of benefits.

One of the most notable facts about flax is that the seeds are considered to be one of the highest sources of ALA, a type of plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid.  These are necessary for myriad processes in the body, including helping to manage inflammation and support cardiovascular health.  This type of omega-3 is different to the ones in fish oil that contain EPA and DHA fatty acids.  Studies show that, depending on your gender, you may convert more or less ALA into EPA or DHA components – women seem to have higher levels than men.  It is crucial that we get enough of these and we should try to obtain them from different sources.

From a gut perspective, flaxseeds give a welcome boost, as they provide fibre that feeds our beneficial gut microbes.  This has a positive knock-on effect, as the microbes can produce more anti-inflammatory substances like butyrate and, as research is starting to show, potentially increase out output of positive mood neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

The mucilage gel-forming fibre that flaxseeds provide helps keep things moving along nicely in the bowel too.  Flaxseeds are a good source of lignans and are considered a phytoestrogen foods, which means they may have an influence on hormones, mimicking and moderating the effects of oestrogen in the body.  This can be beneficial during menopause, although, if you have any type of hormonal condition, you may need to check with a practitioner before you introduce flax regularly into your diet.

When it comes to eating flaxseeds, and to really tap into their benefits, it is best to grind or sprout them.  In their whole raw form, the seeds pass through the gastrointestinal tract undigested, so try to grind from fresh using a coffee or spice grinder, and store in the fridge as they can go rancid.  Flax is brilliant in Bircher muesli or stirred into yogurt with a lick of raw honey, but they also work as an excellent substitute for eggs if you need to bind in a vegan or egg-free dish.

Suggested products:-

Grind – Use a De’Longhi Coffee Grinder that can give you freshly ground flaxseeds in a flash.  Remember to store your ground seeds in an airtight container in the fridge.

Baked – Flaxseeds can give a delicious boost of flavour in a simple loaf.  Try Biona Organic Rye, Chia and Flaxseed Bread.

Seeds – You could buy whole seeds from the supermarket and grind at home but, for pre-ground, try Linwoods Sprouted Milled Organic Flaxseed.

Chocolate Seed Soldiers

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (October 2015) and taken from The Virtuous Tart by Susan Jane White.

These seed soldiers are excellent allies in the war against afternoon slumps. Practically jumming with energy, they will deliver a cargo of essential minerals to service your mojo alongside battery-boosting B vitamins. Goji berries are rich in iron, protein and vitamins C, E and A.

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Makes 20 generous servings

Ingredients:
1 cup (100g) pitted dates, chopped
1 cup (105g) milled sunflower and pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (180g) cashew nut butter
1/2 cup (80g) raisins
1/2 cup (65g) coconut flour
1/2 cup (125ml) maple syrup (not honey)
3 tblsp raw Cacao Nibs
2 tblsp goji berries , plus extra to decorate
Up to 1 tblsp Tamari or raw coconut aminos
130g dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids)

Step One : In a food processor (a fork and a temper will also work), combine everything except the dark chocolate and decorative goji berries. Spread it out over a parchment-lined shallow tin – the perfect size is 20 x 25cm, a little larger than the usual 20 x 20 cm square brownie tin. Place another piece of parchment on top of the base mixture, pressing down firmly with your fingers. Once the base is smooth, you can ditch the top parchment. Chill in the fridge.

Step Two : Meanwhile, slowly melt the chocolate in a bain-marie – a pot of simmering water, 2 1/2 cm in depth, with a heatproof bowl sitting on top where a lid might otherwise be. The contents of the bowl will gently melt from the steam of the water underneath. The trick is not to let the water boil or let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.

Step Three : Smother the chilled base in melted chocolate and parachute a couple of goji berries on top for colour. Refrigerate overnight. I doubt you’ll need an alarm clock to wake you in the morning.