Flaxseed – a gluten-free baking staple
Recently Maria, one of my readers, asked me about flaxseed, a gluten-free ingredient I often use in baking cakes, muffins and so on.
Flaxseed is completely different to oats. Flaxseed is gluten-free replacement for oats or flour – it actually is a seed itself! You can buy it already ground or as whole seeds which you can grind yourself if you like.
Flaxseed is wonderful for baking– One hundred grams contains about 450 calories, 41 grams of fat, 28 grams of fiber, and 20 grams of protein. You can substitute it for part of the flour in recipes for quick breads, muffins, rolls, bread, bagels, pancakes, and waffles.
Believe it or not, flaxseed has been eaten for thousands of years – it was cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC, while King Charlemagne believed so strongly in it that he passed laws requiring his subjects to eat it!
There also is some evidence that flaxseed may help reduce your risk of heart disease, several types of cancer (including breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma and colon cancer), lung disease, stroke, and diabetes. However take this with a pinch of salt – these benefits have not been fully proven as yet.
Why is flaxseed so good?
Flaxseed contains three super components:
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids: These are the “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
- Lignans: These contain both plant estrogen and antioxidant. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
- Fiber. Flaxseed contains both the soluble and insoluble types.
However some people need to be careful when using it:
- Pregnant women and possibly breastfeeding mothers should not supplement their diets with ground flaxseed, until more research can be done into any possible side effects.
- People with irritable bowel syndrome should speak to their doctor before eating it due to its high fibre levels.
- People with a seizure disorder should avoid flaxseed supplements as omega-3 supplements may induce seizures.
- Blood-thinning medications, blood sugar-lowering medications, topical steroids, cholesterol-lowering medications and anti-inflammatories can all be affected by flaxseeds, so speak to your doctor before using it.
Other flaxseed tips:
- Ground flaxseed doesn’t store well: Be careful when you store it, as flaxseed is an unsaturated fat. Unless you store it in a sealed container in a cool place, it can go rancid quickly.
- Whole flaxseed keeps longer.Keep it in a dark, cool place until you grind it. But as long as it is dry and of good quality, whole flaxseed can be stored at room temperature for up to a year.
- Milled or ground flaxseed is the same thing as flax meal. Don’t be confused by the different product names forthe same product.
- Keep it in the freezer.The best place to store ground flaxseed is the freezer. Freeze pre-ground flaxseed in the bag you bought it in or in a plastic sealable bag if you ground it yourself. The freezer will keep it from oxidizing and losing its nutritional potency.
- Buy either brown or golden flaxseed.Golden flaxseed is easier on the eyes, but brown flaxseed is easier to find in most supermarkets. There is very little nutritional difference between the two
PS: Have seen my gluten-free desserts cookbook? You’ll love it!