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Also known as
Common flax, Linseed
Flax seeds come in two basic varieties, brown and yellow or golden, with most types having similar nutritional values and equal amounts of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids. The warm, earthy and subtly nutty flavour of flax seeds combined with an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids makes them an increasingly popular addition to the diets of many a health-conscious consumer.
Whole and ground flax seeds, as well as flax seed oil, are available throughout the year. Flax seeds are slightly larger than sesame seeds and have a hard shell that is smooth and shiny. Their colour ranges from deep amber to reddish brown depending upon whether the flax is of the golden or brown variety. While whole flax seeds feature a soft crunch, the nutrients in ground seeds are more easily absorbed.
Crushed flax seeds
Place 1/2 cup of flax seeds and place it on a chopping board. Take a rolling pin and roll it over the flax seeds until they are coarsely crushed. Alternatively put them in a mixer and blend it just for 1 to 2 seconds. If you blend it for more than 2 seconds, there are high chances that the flax seeds will get powdered. Use as required.
Powdered flax seeds
The flax seeds should first be roasted before powdering. You can make a fine or coarse powder depending upon the recipe, using a blender or a mixer. If adding powdered flax seeds to a cooked cereal or grain dish, do so at the end of cooking since the soluble fibre in the flax seeds can thicken liquids if left too long.
Roasted flax seeds
These are whole seeds which have been dry roasted to increase the crunchiness and shelf life. Roasted flax seeds also have a very inviting aroma, which makes them a healthy addition to spice powders. You can consider adding flax seeds in spice mixes such as the south Indian Idli Milagai Podi (a powder of roasted chilli, urad dal and spices served with idli) too.
How to select
• Flax seeds can be purchased either whole or powdered.
• Whether purchasing flax seeds in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture.
• If buying flax seeds powder, go for a vacuum-sealed package as ground flax seeds are more prone to oxidation and spoilage.
• Ground flax seeds can be mixed in with oatmeal, yogurt, cereal mixes, or any other food item where a nutty flavour is appropriate.
• Flax seed sprouts have a slightly spicy flavour, which goes well in salads and subzis.
• Add flax seeds to homemade muffins, cookies or breads.
• To give cooked vegetables a nuttier flavour, sprinkle some ground flax seeds on top of them.
• Add some flax seed powder or oil to milkshakes and smoothies.
• However, use in moderation as excessive consumption of flax seeds can cause diarrhoea.
How to store
• Flax seeds are chemically stable while whole, and milled flax seed can be stored at least four months at room temperature with minimal or no changes in taste and smell.
• If you purchase whole flax seeds, store them in an airtight container in a dark, dry and cool place where they will keep fresh for several months.
• Ground flax seed can go rancid at room temperature in as little as one week. So, store in a sealed container, preferably refrigerated.
• One hundred grams of ground flax seed supplies about 450 kilo-calories, 41 grams of fat, 28 grams of fibre, and 20 grams of protein.
• Flax seeds contain high levels of lignans and omega-3 fatty acids. Lignans may benefit the heart and possess anti-cancer properties, while omega-3 fatty acids are used to produce substances that reduce the formation of blood clots, which can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease.
• Flax seed meal and flour provides a very good source of fibre that can lower cholesterol levels in people with atherosclerosis.
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