For a food product to be granted the approval to associate it with a health-related claim is the pinnacle for food marketing. The Flax Council of Canada has been granted such a correlation. Ground whole flaxseed has been linked to lower cholesterol by Health Canada’s Food Directorate. This opens the floodgates for development of and potential demand for consumable products incorporating flax.
The claim has been substantiated by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and states that consuming 40 grams, or about 5 tablespoons, of ground flaxseed daily will help reduce cholesterol levels.
This is of significant pride for Canada, since it is the first country in the world that has been allowed a health-related claim for flaxseed for use on food labels. Health Canada has rigorous scientific criteria, and this claim is one of only a dozen that has been able to meet the required standards.
It shouldn’t go without mention that Canada is the largest producer of flaxseed in the world, with 40 percent of the international production. China, the U.S. and India grow the remaining flaxseed. In 2012 the U.S.’s value of flax was $78.3 million for the 5.8 million bushels of flax produced, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.
So you are wondering what exactly is this flax seed or is it flaxseed? It is seen written both ways. Flaxseed (my preference) is a blue flowering plant, grown on the western prairies of Canada, for its oil rich seeds. The natural oil, you may know it as linseed oil, is considered nature’s richest source of omega-3 fatty acids, approximately 50 percent more than you would get from taking fish oil, without the fishy aftertaste. In additional to omega-3’s, flaxseed oil contains omega-6 and omega-9 essential fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, fiber, protein, zinc, lecithin and potassium.
The Flax Council of Canada is recommending that manufacturers make the following claims on food labels:
— Ground (whole) flaxseed helps reduce/lower cholesterol;
— high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.
Flaxseed is available in whole seed and ground seed forms. By milling or grinding the seeds, the nutrients are more available for digestion, since whole unmilled flaxseeds cannot be digested by humans. Flax has a mild flavor that does not negatively impact the taste of most foods so it is a great product to be added to fortify baked goods. Flax ingredients can help improve volume, sheetability and shelf life of products. Very finely milled flaxseed ingredients can provide a smooth texture for ready-to-drink or ready-to-mix fortified beverages or nutritional supplements.
If you haven’t tried flaxseed before, here is a simple recipe to introduce you. If you feel more daring, the cookies are great.
Crunch Breakfast Topping
1 cup sliced almonds (try cocoa almonds)
1 cup ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Place the almonds into a blender cup, cover and blend on chop for 30 seconds until it looks like a fine cornmeal. Put into a bowl. Add the flaxseed and cinnamon. Whisk together to combine. Put in a covered jar or sealed plastic container and store in the refrigerator.
This makes 2 cups. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons on your morning cereal or yogurt or add it to a smoothie. It is also good added to oatmeal or ice cream.
Makes 50 cookies. Each cookie contains 1/2 teaspoon of flaxseed.
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup soy flour (I prefer whole wheat)
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Heat the oven to 350 F.
Cream butter and sugars until mixture is light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla, and beat well. In a separate bowl, mix flour, soy flour, oatmeal, ground flaxseed, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir into creamed mixture.
Add almonds and chocolate chips. Mix until blended. Place a heaping teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet, leaving two inches between cookies.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.