Well, this is my final post in the magic food category, and today’s food is….drum roll….flaxseed!
Flaxseed is another of those foods that can look super boring, but has a super nutrient punch. It is high in most of the B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, protein, and many phytochemicals. It is very high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. We all know one thing fiber is good for, but it is also thought that the fiber in flax seed is particularly good for lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar. The fiber and the good amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids contained in flax seed also makes it very useful for losing or maintaining weight. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to keep inflammation-related diseases in check, including heart disease and arthritis, and they keep your brain healthy to help prevent depression and memory loss. Flaxseed has been used medicinally for many other diseases and conditions, but I will let you look that up yourself (try running flaxseed through web md– you’ll be surprised at what it is used for).
Anyway, flax is hardly a vegan secret. Lots of non-vegans sprinkle it on their cereal or stir it in to their morning smoothies to get an extra nutritional punch, but vegans do have a few extra tricks with flax that I will tell you about:
If you remember from my last post, I added ground flaxseed to my cauliflower wing batter. That was because it can add a nutty or more “meaty” flavour and mouthfeel to some foods. The oils add a feeling of softness and moisture that enhances our eating pleasure, so you can often find vegetarian/vegan recipes for things like pizza crust with flaxseed in it. The good oils stay stable during baking, so we still get the nutritional benefits, too.
Another really nifty trick for flaxseed is this recipe for vegan eggs:
For the equivalent of 1 egg, begin with 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed.
Add 3 tablespoons of warm water and stir well.
At this point, you can play with the consistency- if you’d like it slightly gelled (like egg yolk), just let it sit for a few minutes. If you’d like it more like eggwhite, refrigerate it for 15 minutes to an hour or more. Alternatively, I’ve heard microwaving it at this point thickens it very fast (for an egg emergency?)
And there you have it- you can use vegan eggs in baking just the way you’d use regular eggs. You can also use them as a binder for homemade veggie burgers and the like.
Oh yeah, the recipe can be doubled or more- just keep the ratio 1:3.
A few notes about the best use of flax:
1. Flax seeds need to be cracked or ground to make the nutrients available (otherwise they just “pass through”- the insoluble part is the outer shell).
2. You can also buy flaxseed oil for use in cooking. Just remember that flaxseed oil alone contains neither the fiber nor the phytochemicals of whole flax seed meal.
3. Flaxseeds should be stored as whole seeds in a cool dry place. Once they are ground, the oils go rancid very quickly, so ground seeds should be used quickly and kept in the freezer. Some people use a small spice grinder and just make small a batch for daily use.
Speaking (again) of nutritional benefits, of particular note for vegans, 1 tablespoon of flaxseed contains 3 grams of protein, 24 mg of calcium, and as many Omega 3, 6, and 9-fatty acids as 150 grams of fish. It also offers the full range of B vitamins (which vegans sometimes lack). So now you know- when people ask vegans, “But how do you get enough (protein/calcium/B vitamins)?”, the magic answer to every question is “flax!”.