The Original Superfood: Flax Seeds

Ingredient Spotlight

Flax seeds are teensy tiny nutritional powerhouses. They're absolutely packed with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, antioxidants, and cancer-fighting lignans. We only need a few teaspoons of seeds a day to benefit from their healthfulness, and happily for us, finding ways to work them into our daily meals is snap.

Flax seed and flax oil have been used in cooking for centuries, and there are records describing its use dating as far back as Ancient Greece. The original superfood, indeed!

The seeds come from the flower of the flax plant. They're a little larger than sesame seeds, range in color from golden-tan to darker brown, and appear flat and shiny. On their own, whole flax seeds have an earthy and nutty flavor. Since proportionally few flax seeds are used in comparison to other ingredients in a recipe, their flavor isn't usually very prominent.

Whole or ground flax seeds can be used in cooking, but grinding makes their nutrients easier to absorb by our bodies. Because the high oil content of flax makes the ground flour turn rancid so quickly (in as little as a week!), it's best to buy whole seeds, store them in the fridge, and grind just what you need for a recipe. Whole flax seeds can be easily ground in a spice grinder.

Whole flax seeds can be slipped into just about anything. They make a great addition to homemade crackers, granola, or even just sprinkled on top of a piece of toast with peanut butter. Ground seeds can go into almost any baked good from sandwich bread to scones without needing to adjust the recipe. When mixed with water, ground flax seeds also make an easy egg substitute.

Give flax seeds a try in these recipes:

Pumpkin Sunflower Flax Seed ButterStrawberry-Flax Smoothie from Real SimpleCranberry Toasted Coconut Flax Seed Oatmeal from Joy the BakerBanana Date Flax Seed Bread from Cooking LightSix-Seed Soda Bread from 101 Cookbooks

How do you use flax seeds?

Related: 10 Healthy Ways to Dress a Salad without Salt

(Image: Jiri Hera/Shutterstock)

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