Saturday, September 18, 2010

How the Heck do I Eat Flax?

If you read my previous blog post you are probably excited to get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.  Flax  is one of the best vegetarian sources of the "good fats" and it is generally very cheap to buy.  The problem is, after you've got that 1 lb bag of organic flax home from the store, what next?

Yes, flax is a bit tricky to consistently consume.  The easiest way to do this is get a flax oil supplement in capsule form and take 2 grams, 2 times a day.   Omega-3 supplement oils will have measured amounts of EPA and DHA listed on the bottle - look for the maximum amount of these components from a good brand.  A fish oil supplement serves the same purpose as flax oil but is often a bit more expensive.

Although taking a capsule supplement is easier, I encourage people to buy whole flax seeds and get creative with it in your recipes.  Not only is whole flax an incredibly cheap way to get omega-3's, you also get the added bonus of both soluble and insoluble fiber in the shell of those tiny little seeds.

Here's a basic recipe to make basic flax "gel":
  • Buy whole or ground flax seeds.  Store the bag in the fridge to prevent spoilage.
  • If you buy whole flax seeds they will keep longer, but they will also need to be ground up before use.  A coffee grinder is great for this job.
  • Place ground flax in a small container with a lid (ideally glass) and add enough water to cover the seeds.
  • Let the mixture sit for at least 15 minutes.  After about 15 minutes, water and flax will form an amazing "gel" that can be used in a variety of ways.
  • You can add flax "gel" to salads or salad dressings, mix it with nut butters or just eat it alone.  Yes, you will have to get a bit creative here, but that is part of the fun!  It even tastes good alone (although a bit bland).
  • Refrigerate the flax gel in an airtight container.  The gel will stay fresh in the fridge for the next 2-3 days.

With all that being said, the most important thing is to enjoy eating new foods and preparing them in new ways.  Go forth and explore the abundance of food available for you to enjoy on this planet!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eat Good Fats, Drink Good Wine

Sounds easy huh?  Eating "Good Fats" and drinking "Good Wine" to stay healthy...  These are two of the best things in life, so I invite you to enjoy them!  Fat is, indeed, the "Vehicle of Taste".  It is the substance that gives food a full flavor in the mouth and a satisfying feeling in the belly.  And wine, well, it tastes wonderful, makes you feel good and has some healthy effects to boot.  Read on and discover how eating more fat can keep you healthy.

The age of the "low-fat diet" is over and research is showing that a healthy diet is not found in reducing fat, instead, it should be based on eating the right fats.  The standard American diet is loaded with saturated animal fats and processed vegetable fats.  These types of fats and oils have the potential to cause a host of health problems that most of us have heard about - including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and others.  The good fats, however, have the complete opposite effect on the body.  Good fats protect against atherosclerosis, lower blood pressure and have a whole range of additional benefits.  In fact, the good fats can even make you thinner - Take that, low-fat diet!

So how do we get the "Good Fats" then?  The simple answer is to eat unprocessed foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  Some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flax seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts and coldwater fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sturgeon, and anchovies.  One key to getting the best health benefit from these delicate fats is to make sure that they are as fresh as possible and not exposed to heat.  For these omega-3 fatty acids, as with most "real" food, heat, air and light are the main causes of spoilage Keep this in mind when cooking a nice piece of salmon or buying flax seeds:  To preserve the health benefits, cook salmon lightly with a bit of fresh ginger & eat your flax seeds raw and grind them just before use for the maximum benefit (see next article on flax seeds).

The benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer's disease.  "It not only plays a vital role in the health of the membrane of every cell in our body, it also helps protect us from a number of key health threats," says Laurie Tansman, MS, RD, CDN, a nutritionist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
As for wine, not nearly as much needs to be said.  Just buy a nice bottle of red and enjoy a glass in the evening as you put your feet up and take a deep breath... Everything in moderation, right?