Facts on Flax for the Heart

Sometime ago I read an interesting booklet from Keats Publishing called Flaxseed (Linseed) Oil and the Power of Omega 3. According to this informative booklet, our modern diets are too high in Omega 6 fatty acids and too low in Omega 3s. While both Omega 3s and Omega 6s are important, we need to increase our consumption of Omega 3s, because they seem to be more protective against major degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and allergies.

Then, according to an infomercial I saw l yesterday from a leading pharmaceutical company, more women die of heart disease than they do of breast cancer. I have read that fact elsewhere and have also read that older women are more susceptible to heart disease than younger women. Thus, the high rate of heart disease among women may be in the over 40 or 50 category, which puts many women reading this blog at a higher risk.

Enter flaxseed, flax meal, and flaxseed oil, which are sometimes called nutritional gold, because of the vitally important linoleic acid (Omega 3 fatty acid). While the word fat conjures up negative connotations in our society, in the case of flaxseed, we are talking about essential fatty acids (EFAs) that can only be produced by ingesting them from our foods.

EFAs are important because, among other functions, they regulate cholesterol metabolism and help maintain the integrity of cell membranes, which are made mostly of fat. Omega 3s and Omega 6s are considered “good fats” that are essential to our well-being. However, Omega 3 fatty acids are consumed less in the U.S.

This component is found primarily in seeds and plants from cold climate, green leafy vegetables, and in fish oils from coldwater fish such as salmon, tuna, and cod. Because foods with Omega 3 oils spoil quickly, they are often removed from foods that contain them in order to extend the shelf life of products.

Thus, one healthy way to add important Omega 3s back to your diet is with flax seeds and products with flax seeds. For example, I have seen breakfast cereal containing flax in the flakes. A less expensive way is to buy flax seeds, keep them in your freezer, and grind in a coffee grinder only what you need. The flavor is nutty and not at all unpalatable. The oil can be used in salads, although not for cooking since it destroys the nutrients. (The advice I read is to buy flax meal fortified with other nutrients, such as B12, B3, B6, zinc, and iron, especially if you are not getting these in your foods.)

Keep flax seeds refrigerated (or in the freezer.) Flax capsules and flax meal also need to be refrigerated, since they are easily oxidized. Flax is one of the easiest additions to a healthy heart diet, so try the recipe below for starters. Your heart will love you for it!

Flaxible Snax


Note: The word “flaxible” is a combination of flexible and flax, because the ingredients can be accommodated to suit your taste. For example, you may use rice syrup, agave syrup (from cacti), maple syrup, molasses or honey. You may use either carob or cocoa powder, and also use any nut butter of your choice: almond, cashew, peanut, or sesame butter. For protein powder, you choose your favorite or even use milk powder. (I made my recipe vegan.)

Utensils: 2 bowls, measuring spoons, pan
Prep Time: About 10 minutes
Cooking Time: None, although you need 30 minutes in the freezer
Category: Vegan

½ cup tahini (sesame butter) or nut butter of choice
¼ cup molasses, maple syrup, agave, rice syrup (If using molasses, I suggest you use ½ molasses and ½ another sweetener, since molasses is very strong)
½ c. ground flaxseed (or flax already purchased as flax meal)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa or carob powder
¼ cup protein powder
sesame seeds and/or dried coconut for coating (about ¼ cup)

1. In a large bowl, blend together nut butter (tahini) and sweetener (molasses/maple syrup) with the back of a spoon.
2. In another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flax meal, cocoa or carob powder, and protein powder).
3. Add dry to wet and combine until a taffy-textured ball is formed. Depending on the ingredients you use, the mixture should pull away from the bowl, but not be so wet that you cannot pick up the mixture. (If too dry, add a little liquid sweetener; if too wet, add a little cocoa powder until you can handle the ball.)
4. Now you have a choice. With damp hands, you can roll the mixture into ping-pong sized balls and then roll them in the sesame seeds and/or the coconut. Or you can make two fat, cigar-shaped rolls and dip them into coconut and/or sesame seeds. With a sharp knife, slice the cigars into thick circles.
5. Place the individual pieces in a pan or on a cookie sheet and freeze for about 30 minutes. Served slightly thawed.

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