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    Archive for the ‘flaxseed’ Category

    Quiz: Labels, Claims, and More!

    testA few months back, I posted ten questions testing my readers’ label-scouring skills. I was very happy to receive great feedback on it… and decided it was time for another pop quiz, class!

    The answers are provided at the bottom of this post.  So, grab a sheet of paper and your favorite pen, and get to it.  Good luck!

    Continue Reading »

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    You Ask, I Answer: Flaxseed Questions

    benefits-flax-seeds

    Am I correct in assuming that chewing flax seeds does not release significant amounts of lignans [like grinding them up]?

    Can I grind a whole bunch of flax seeds in advance in a coffee grinder or do they lose their health benefits over time?

    Also, I usually buy roasted flax seeds – any pros or cons associated with them being roasted?

    — Jake Shields
    (Location Unknown)

    When it comes to flax, lignans — heart-healthy compounds also linked to decreased risks of breast and prostate cancers — are only bioavailable from ground seeds (also known as “flax meal”). It would take significant (and kind of physically impossible) chewing of each seed to unlock lignans. Nevertheless, whole flaxseeds still offer fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, so they are by no means worthless.

    Once ground up, the fatty acids in flax start to oxidize — bad news from a health standpoint. If you grind your own flax seeds, only grind as much as you need. Alternatively, store any unused ground flax in the freezer.

    It’s fine to buy pre-packaged flaxmeal, too. Simply make sure it is in a container that does not allow light to pass through, and check for an expiration date that is several months away from the date of purchase.  Some health food stores place flaxmeal in a refrigerator or freezer, which I think is a wonderful idea. Once opened, always store ground flax in the freezer.

    As for roasting flaxseeds: it brings out their nutty flavor, but does not affect lignan content in any way. And, whereas flax oil is too fragile to stand up to heat, whole seeds are much more resilient.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    NutMealFlaxSeedStudies on flaxseed intake have shown that two tablespoons of ground flax a day for three months can lower LDL cholesterol by anywhere from 9 to 18 percent.

    Added bonus?  The lignans (specific plant compounds) in ground flax are highly anti-inflammatory.  Remember, inflammation at the cellular level is believed to be one of the chief causes behind a litany of degenerative diseases.

    Flaxseed offers a particular lignan known as SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglycoside, to be exact), which helps lower the levels of oxidative stress in blood vessels.  In laymen’s terms: SDG is a powerful tool against the development of atherosclerosis.

    Recent — and very promising! — studies appear to show that SDG also helps maintain steady blood glucose levels.

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    Numbers Game: Two Tablespoons A Day Keep Cholesterol at Bay

    flax_seed_mealStudies on flaxseed intake have shown that two tablespoons of ground flax a day for three months can lower LDL cholesterol by anywhere from ____ to ____ percent.

    a) 9 – 18
    b) 6 – 11
    c) 13 – 24
    d) 4 – 8

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Thursday for the answer.

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    Healthify Your Baked Goods!

    toolsI find that certain weekend mornings are practically tailor-made for a muffin-and-coffee breakfast.

    Sipping freshly brewed coffee and biting into homemade baked good on a cloudy autumn morning, watching the colorful foliage slowly float down from tree branches, is simultaneously comforting and delectable.

    While many commercial baked goods are nutrition horror cliches (copious amounts of white flour, sugar, and unhealthy fats), homemade varieties can get a nutritional boost in a variety of ways.

    These tips can be used when making muffins, brownies, and cookies:

    1) Go whole or go home

    Gone are the days when “whole grain baked goods” meant a dense, rubbery concoction akin to an E-Z Bake Oven creation.

    The key to making light and fluffy 100% whole grain baked goods is to utilize either whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat white flour.

    You can fully replace a recipe’s white flour with either of these varieties.

    Not only will the end result be higher in fiber, it will also contain more selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

    2) Go alternative

    Alternative flours can be quite pricey, but they’re a lot more affordable if you make them yourself!

    Instead of purchasing oat flour (which, depending where you live, can be hard to track down), make your own by processing quick oats in a food processor.

    FYI: One and a half cups of quick cooking oats yields one cup of oat flour.

    Oat flour is high in soluble fiber (the kind that helps lower cholesterol and provides a feeling of fullness more quickly) and rich in phytonutrients.

    One other FYI: oat flour can only replace, at most, half of the wheat flour in a given recipe.

    Another favorite alternative flour of mine is almond meal.

    You can also make this at home by pulverizing raw almonds in a food processor or coffee grinder until they achieve a powdery consistency.

    Like oat flour, almond meal can replace up to half of the wheat flour in a given recipe.

    Like whole almonds, almond meal is a good source of fiber, protein, vitamin E, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

    You can even replace half a cup of flour in a recipe with half a cup of pure wheat germ for added fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

    3) Get saucy

    Unsweetened applesauce is a healthy baker’s ally.

    You can replace anywhere from one half to three quarters of the fat called for in a recipe with unsweetened applesauce and no one will be the wiser.

    The applesauce won’t disrupt flavors, but will add plenty of moisture to your baked goods.

    4) Sprinkle away

    Whenever I make pancake or muffin batter, I like to add two or three tablespoons of oat bran and ground flaxseeds.

    Not only do they impart a hearty and nutty flavor, they also add extra nutrition in a pinch.

    5) Sugar?  Think Beyond The White Stuff

    When it comes to sweetening, think natural first.

    Raisins, blueberries, bananas, and fresh pineapple add sweetness — and great flavor — to recipes while also delivering nutrition.

    In my experience, you can halve the added sugar (whether in the form of white sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc.) in conventional recipes and still have a tasty baked good.

    When reducing sugar, make up for it by adding nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla, almond, and/or coconut extract to the batter.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Cinnamon-Walnut Whole Grain Muffins

    cinnamonThis past weekend I craved muffins to go along with my recently-purchased hazelnut-roasted coffee.

    Instead of treking down to a local bakery for a gigantic 500-calorie bomb, I decided to make my own.

    Apart from pairing up perfectly with a hot cup of coffee on a brisk autumn day, these muffins are 100% whole grain, vegan, and chock full of omega-3 fatty acids.

    See how you like them!

    YIELDS: 18 mini muffins

    INGREDIENTS:
    2 cups whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat white flour)
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
    1/3 cup chopped walnuts
    1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
    4 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
    1 Tablespoon coconut oil
    1/2 Tablespoon canola oil
    (NOTE: You could omit the coconut oil and instead add an additional tablespoon of canola oil)
    1/4 cup agave nectar, brown rice syrup, or maple syrup
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 cup water

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Place all dry ingredients (from whole wheat flour to cinnamon) in one bowl.

    In another bowl, mix together all wet ingredients (from applesauce to water).

    Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients bowl.

    Mix together lightly, making sure not to overmix.

    Scoop mixed batter into muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit

    OPTIONAL (but recommended): Once out of the oven, sprinkle additional cinnamon on top of muffins.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (for 2 mini muffins, with coconut oil):

    184 calories
    2.5 grams saturated fat (if using only canola oil: 0.5 grams saturated fat)
    320 milligrams sodium
    4.4 grams fiber
    7.2 grams added sugar
    4.5 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Manganese, selenium

    Good Source of: Alpha Linolenic Omega-3 Fatty Acids, copper, magnesium, phosphorus

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    You Ask, I Answer: Side Effects from Fish Oil Capsules?

    sealogix_oil2Are you aware of any side effects resulting from ingesting fish oil capsules?

    Specifically, a relative of mine is very sensitive to many compounds (a number of prescription drugs in particular). Her (highly regarded) general practitioner advised her to start fish oil supplementation, possibly in connection with high cholesterol.

    Since taking the supplements, she has experienced itchiness, has developed some sores (similar to psoriasis) and says that she has experienced cuts more frequently with higher than normal bleeding from the cuts.

    Have there been any studies conducted that point to such possible side effects?

    — Bill M.
    Via the blog

    This is actually a two-part question.

    Before I go any further though, let me make something very clear.  Clearly, your relative’s body is sending her a message — “these supplements do not agree with me.”  She needs to listen to that above everything else.

    Side effects to fish oil supplementation have indeed been reported and are mentioned in the literature.

    The itchiness and sores could very well be the result of a fish oil allergy or, if she is taking these supplements in capsule form, possibly an allergy to an ingredient in the capsule shell.

    If it is the latter, than switching to a liquid supplement would resolve that issue.

    What worries me most, however, is the excessive bleeding.

    Although omega-3 fatty acids have anti-clotting, blood thinning properties (which are a good thing!), I suspect such a dramatic effect may be the result of the fish oil working in conjunction with something else.

    Does she take a daily aspirin?  Similarly, is she currently on Coumadin, blood pressure medications, or any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs?

    If the answer to any of those is ‘yes’, she needs to tell her general practitioner immediately and stop taking fish oil supplements.

    In the meantime, while this gets sorted out, she can take the following nutrition-related steps to help lower her cholesterol:

    • Increase her intake of soluble fibers (oatmeal, beans, legumes, fruits, and vegetables)
    • Make an effort to make most of her fats monounsaturated (by consuming avocado, olive oil, peanuts, and sesame seeds)
    • In the event that she is allergic to fish oil, consume omega-3 fatty acids from other sources (ground flaxseed, walnuts)

    Even if she eventually gets the green light to resume fish oil supplementation, the above-mentioned steps are absolutely worth keeping in mind.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Cooking with Omega 3 Fatty Acids

    HempSeedNutShelledHempSeed_MH10101.jpegAre the omega 3 oils in flax, hemp, and chia seeds destroyed when cooking?

    If so, at what temperatures can the omega 3 withstand?

    If we eat chips and crackers with these seeds are we not gaining the value of the omega 3?

    — Julie Stone
    (Location Unknown)

    Great question!  I have seen so much misinformation on this topic that I am chomping at the bit to set it all straight.

    As far as flaxseeds go, feel free to use either whole or ground flaxseeds (AKA flax meal) any which way you want.

    Multiple studies — in reputable publications like the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, the British Journal of Nutrition, and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition — have concluded that the Omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed are resistant to oxidation even when cooked for sixty minutes at 660 degrees Fahrenheit!

    In fact, the consensus is that there is no difference in Omega-3 fatty acid content between raw and cooked flaxseeds or flax meal.

    The most likely explanation is that the lignans (a particular variety of plant compounds) in flaxseed have a protective effect on the oil.

    Keep in mind, this does NOT apply to flax seed oil, which does not contain lignans, and is therefore is extremely susceptible to oxidation (even at temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit).  Flaxseed oil is best suited to salad dressings or raw dips.

    Hemp and chia seeds are slightly more delicate than flaxseeds.  It is recommended they be exposed to temperatures no higher than 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

    FYI — don’t be scared to use hemp or chia seeds in muffin recipes.

    Although heating instructions may specify the oven temperature to be set at 350 or 400 degree Fahrenheit, the internal temperature of a muffin right out of the oven is usually no higher than 250 ot 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

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    Yum-mega Treat

    As regular Small Bites readers know, I am a big fan of snack bars.

    I can’t tell you how many times they have saved me — and my wallet — from junk food hell (i.e.: Bronx Zoo, Six Flags, Broadway intermissions.)

    I also like to name names, which is why I have given very high praise to Lara bars, Clif Nectar bars, Pure bars, GNU Flavor & Fiber bars, and Kashi’s “Tasty Little Crunchies” granola bars.

    Although each of those bars is uniquely different from the others, they all provide high-quality nutrition in a delicious way.

    Today, my list expands to include Nana’s Omega-Fiber Cookie Bars.

    These bars are most reminiscent of Flavor & Fiber, and even have a similar ingredient list.

    Each bar offers 130 calories, 1 gram of saturated fat, 40 milligrams of sodium, 8 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of fiber.

    Certainly a great lunchbox treat — and an even better snack to have handy at the office when thoughts of the King Size Crunch Bar in the nearby vending machine start to take over.

    Here’s the ingredient list for the double chocolate flavor (vanilla almond is my favorite, though!):

    Fiber Mix (Whole Wheat Flour, Oats, Wheat Bran, Psyllium, Flax Seeds, Millet, Chicory Root), Fruit Juice (Apple, Pear, Grape), Rice Dextrins, Chocolate Chips (whole grain malted barley and corn, unsweetened chocolate, soy lecithin as an emulsifier, and pure vanilla), Dutched Cocoa, GMO-Free Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Dried Apples, Raisins, Rice Crisp Cereal, Rice Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Baking Powder (non aluminum), Natural Flavors

    I do have two suggestions for the Nana’s team, though:

    1) No need to advertise your bar’s Omega-9 content. It is not an essential fatty acid, so we don’t need to particularly seek it out in food.

    2) The 250 milligrams of Omega-3 are great, but it would make them a lot more absorbable if you included ground — rather than whole — flax seeds in your fiber mix.

    Still, these are certainly worth making room for in your pantry.

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    Out With The Old, In With The New

    Many moms and dads all over the United States know what the start of the school year means — packing a lunch for their children!

    So how do you pack an interesting and tasty lunch (which, for this posting’s sake, I will assume can not be heated in school)? Here are a few ideas.

    INSTEAD OF: Cutting a sandwich into two triangular pieces
    TRY: Shaped sandwiches

    Next time you make a sandwich, get your cookie cutter out. Forget the traditional diagonal slice and instead turn that square slice of bread into a star, a cat, or even a gingerbread man.

    PS: If your kids don’t dig whole wheat “brown” sandwiches, try a “halfie.”

    A sandwich made with one slice of 100% whole wheat bread and another of white bread still packs in 3 to 4 grams of fiber.

    INSTEAD OF: Packaged chips
    TRY: Making your own pita chips

    Here’s a kid-friendly way to boost a bagged lunch’s fiber content.

    Buy 100% whole wheat pitas and cut each one into eight small triangles. Brush a thin coating of extra virgin olive oil on them, sprinkle a little salt (and, for an extra kick, either some paprika, rosemary, or oregano), and toss them in the oven (350 Fahrenheit) for approximately 20 minutes.

    For a sweet twist, sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon of sugar (a mere 16 calories) over them.

    Make a big batch on Sunday afternoon for the rest of the week.

    INSTEAD OF: Sugary puddings
    TRY: A Super Smoothie

    In a blender, mix two of your child’s favorite fruits with 2% milk. Add a tablespoon of flaxseed, another of oat bran, mix, and pour into a thermos!

    These two ingredients add nutrition and texture to the smoothie but don’t affect the taste one bit.

    INSTEAD OF: Chocolate brownies or cookies
    TRY: A homemade choco-mix

    Mix a low-sugar, whole grain cereal (like Cheerios), a handful of mixed nuts, and a few chocolate chips or M&M candies into a small zip bag. This way, little bursts of chocolate are surrounded by fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals (as opposed to white flour, sugar, and unhealthy fats.)

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    You Ask, I Answer: Salba

    Do you know anything about Salba?

    It seems to be getting quite popular (I accidentally ordered a raspberry salba square at my local coffee shop the other day), and I’m not sure whether it’s a fad or not.

    Is it actually a whole food or is it processed?

    Where does it come from?

    Is it as good as the makers of it claim?

    — Meredith (Last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    The folks at Core Naturals sure are working hard to hype up Salba.

    No clue what I’m talking about? Let me break it down.

    According to manufacturer Core Naturals, the salba seed is pretty much the greatest food ever created.

    Dubbed by the company as “nature’s perfect whole food,” the press release pushes it as a one-stop shop for some of the highest quantities of fiber, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, folate, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

    Then there are statements such as this:

    “Because of Salba’s ability to absorb several times its weight in water, it may also help to curb hunger.”

    That’s wonderful, but that’s simply what all soluble fibers do – the same ones found in oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

    Core Naturals even make reference to one nutrition PhD at a Toronto-based university who, after conducting research, confirmed that Salba’s advertised properties truly exist.

    You know something is slightly off, though, when the bragging rights about the doctor go something like this: “[He works at] the same university where in 1921, Dr. Frederic Banting discovered insulin and won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.”

    Errrr…. okay?

    Besides, there is something very suspect about having only one professional analyze your food. If Core Naturals is so sure that what they have is — for all intents and purposes — manna, why not send it out to a variety of independent food laboratories to have their goldmine validated?

    Anyhow, Salba is just a white chia seed – with the exact same nutritional profile of all other chia seeds (which are usually black).

    So, yes, it is an unprocessed whole food, in the same way that fruits, vegetables, nuts, and a plethora of other seeds are.

    Don’t get me wrong. Chia seeds have a neat nutritional profile – they are a good source of fiber, phosphorus, manganese and Alpha Linolenic Acid – but by no means is Salba a powerfood, nor does it offer the same Omega-3 profile as 28 ounces of salmon (as Core Naturals advertises.)

    That is a very easy statement to debunk, by the way. Remember, salmon offers EPA and DHA, two Omega-3 fatty acids not present in seeds.

    This situation with Salba and Core Naturals would be paramount to a company patenting Granny Smith Apples, calling them something different and claiming they were nutritionally superior any other apples.

    Considering that Salba retails for anywhere from two to three times as much as standard chia seeds, I don’t really see a reason for purchasing it.

    File it under “F” for fad. No, make that “FF” for… flimsy fad.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    I’m pregnant and my OB/GYN has suggested that I eat a lot of wild salmon for the health and nutritional benefits of the Omega-3’s.

    Only problem is, I gag at the smell and sight of fish right now.

    So I’ve been trying to use ground flax seed sprinkled in other foods I can manage, like yogurt, fruit salad, toaster waffles and cereal.

    I know the flax seed needs to be ground in order to be absorbed, but how much do I need to consume each day in order to get the same benefits as eating a serving of fish?

    Are there other good sources of omega-3’s that I should try?

    — “My Eggo is Preggo”
    White Plains, NY

    First of all — congratulations!

    Your question is a great one, since it deals with the different varieties of Omega-3 fatty acids.

    Although we often refer to “Omega 3 fats” as one general category, there are three different types — Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), EicosoPentaenoic Acid (EPA), and DocosaHexaenoic Acid (DHA).

    ALA is found exclusively in vegetable sources, including walnuts and flaxseeds.

    EPA and DHA, meanwhile, are found in large quantities in cold water fish. Grass-fed beef also contains a little.

    One concern with getting Omega-3’s solely from vegetable sources is that many people are unable to convert ALA to EPA and DHA.

    Fetuses are absolutely unable to make this conversion, so they must get EPA and DHA directly from the mother (DHA is particularly necessary for eye and brain development.)

    Even if you, as the mother, are able to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, you need approximately 10 grams of ALA just to make 600 milligrams of EPA and 400 of DHA.

    To put that into perspective, 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains slightly less than 2 grams of ALA.

    One tablespoon of flax oil, meanwhile, delivers 7 grams (one good way to incorporate that into your diet is by adding it into a smoothie).

    It’s also important to realize that as good for us as Omega 3 fats are, they do not work alone. Vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium are involved in the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA.

    If you are not consuming enough of those nutrients, your will not convert quite as efficiently (so, say, you might need 15 or 17 grams of ALA to make the quantities of EPA and DHA mentioned above.)

    In your situation, I suggest taking an EPA/DHA supplement.

    That doesn’t mean you should stop eating ground flaxseeds, though — they are a nutrition all-star!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Ground Vs. Whole Flaxseeds

    My question is about Kashi and Nature’s Path products that claim to have Omega 3’s from flaxseed, but clearly only have whole flaxseeds in their products.

    Don’t they need to be ground for our bodies to receive [nutritional benefit[s]?

    I’ve always been puzzled by this. Thanks!

    — “Glidingcalm”
    Via the blog

    Yes, only the ground-up form provides all the wonderful nutrition packed inside those tiny seeds.

    If you were to thoroughly chew each flaxseed you would theoretically also be getting the same amount of nutrition, but it is very easy to swallow them whole (particularly when they are part of a waffle or cracker), in which case they pass right through the digestive system without contributing their Omega-3 fatty acids or lignans.

    To ensure you are getting the most out of this great seed, have ground flaxseed ready to go in your refrigerator or buy whole ones and pulverize them in a coffee grinder.

    Keep in mind, though, that many Kashi products (i.e.: their thin crust pizzas) are made with ground flaxseeds.

    Similarly, some Nature’s Path cereals (like their flax plus cold cereal with raisins) list “flax meal” as an ingredient, which refers to ground flaxseed.

    And so it comes down to a common theme on Small Bites: always read the ingredient list!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Flaxseeds

    I have been looking at the articles you’ve tagged with flaxseed and it looks like you wholeheartedly encourage the addition of ground flaxseed meal to foods.

    However, I wonder if doing this is ultimately beneficial – as you point out, men at risk for prostate cancer should watch their consumption of ALA [alpha linolenic acid].

    Additionally, omega-3 or not, adding fat to foods will increase the calories… for those watching their weight, is this really a smart decision?

    On the other hand, as a vegan, I can attest to difficulty getting nutrients like vitamin B12.

    Do you think that, for vegans, the addition of flax meal is a good idea (even with a diet that incorporates a lot of nuts [in particular, walnuts] and -for cooking- canola oil)?

    — Christine (last name unknown)
    Via the blog


    Keep in mind that most of the findings about high ALA intakes and prostate cancer risk mostly relate to flaxseed oil (which contains very high levels of ALA — approximately twice that of fish oil, and certainly much more than a tablespoon ground flaxseed), not flaxseeds themselves.

    It’s also interesting to note that lignans — the phytochemicals present in flaxseeds but not in flaxseed oil — are believed to play a protective role against some cancers.

    In any case, I stand by my suggestion of adding a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseed to one meal or snack every day.

    It’s worth stressing that the benefits of ground flaxseed far outweigh any caloric concerns.

    If someone is interested in cutting calories, flaxseed should be at the absolute bottom of that totem pole, since two tablespoons — which pack in a lot of nutrition — only add up to 70 calories.

    It is always important to keep the concept of “nutrient density” in mind.

    In other words — consider the caloric content of a food in relation to everything else it offers.

    Those 70 calories in two tablespoons of flaxseed are keepers — they contain a lot of vital nutrients not commonly found in a lot of other foods!

    Instead of cutting out the flaxseed, have a few less bites of a less nutritious food eaten later in the day.

    Trust me, you won’t find too many other “real” foods that provide 4 grams of fiber in just 70 calories!

    As far as veganism is concerned, if walnuts and canola oil are consumed on a regular basis, then there is a decent intake of ALA and there isn’t a need to also consume ground flaxseeds.

    That is certainly a minority we are talking about, since 98% of the United States population is not consuming the recommended amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids?

    So, yes, you bet I am a proponent of adding ground flaxseed to foods.

    It’s, at the very least, a start for some people whose Omega-3 intake is currently at zero.

    I am glad you asked this question, though, because it once again goes back to the idea that “more is not better.”

    ALA is a wonderful thing to have in the diet, but overdoing is not healthier than getting the necessary amounts.

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    Survey Results: Economical Eating

    The most recent Small Bites survey asked visitors to classify eating healthy on a budget as:

    “Possible and easy” (27%)
    “Challenging, but doable” (58%)

    “Very hard” (13%)

    “Impossible” (1%)

    I am very happy to see that a solid 85% of voters consider it to at least be “doable.”

    The truth is, healthy eating (which I defined as “balanced, nutritious, and meeting most nutrient daily values”) does not need to be a wallet-buster.

    Let’s clarify a few issues.

    1. Healthy eating does not need to be organic.

    If you can afford organic, go for it. If your budget doesn’t allow for it, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a perfectly healthy and balanced diet.

    Whole wheat pasta will always contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving, organic or not, and both organic and conventional peanuts are a wonderful source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

    Besides, as far as our bodies are concerned, there is no difference between an organic and conventional 400-calorie chocolate chip cookie.

    2. Healthy eating does not need to be exotic.

    Every few months some new “miracle” fruit comes along.

    I am sure you are familiar with the process by now.

    It is usually from another continent and, after being profiled in the mass media, is quickly turned into a juice drink packed in a beautifully shaped glass bottle (displaying a brand name with an accented vowel) that retails for a ridiculous price.

    Here’s the thing: ALL fruits are healthy.

    Yes, some offer more nutrients than others, but there is no such thing as a fruit that is unhealthy or should be avoided.

    Similarly, I don’t like to label any food as a “miracle” or “superior” one.

    Besides, acai berries are exotic in the United States, but as run of the mill as apples are to us in their native Brazil.

    3. Nature is cheaper than major food companies.

    Instead of tortilla chips with flaxseeds (which aren’t even grounded up, meaning you aren’t absorbing any lignans,) buy ground flaxseed and sprinkle it onto different foods.

    A standard bag of ground flaxseed retails for $5 (almost as much as gourmet tortilla chips) and lasts for months if you only use up a tablespoon each day — which is plenty.

    Remember, what drives up food costs isn’t so much nutrition as it is convenience.

    A six-pack of single-serving applesauce containers may be convenient, but for that same amount of money you can buy enough apples to make five times that much applesauce.

    I specifically mention apples because they can sit in a fruit bowl for days before they start to rot.

    They are portable, delicious, and you don’t need any utensils to eat them. Talk about convenient!

    A Luna bar may be convenient, but so is packing a small Ziploc bag of peanuts and raisins to snack on later in the day (the latter is also significantly cheaper.)

    4. Sometimes a big name isn’t a good deal.

    Many foods (canned beans, plain oatmeal, raisins, and frozen vegetables) are equally nutritious whether they are made by a generic or well-known brand.

    5. Speaking of beans…

    … they are a wonderful and inexpensive way to get protein and fiber.

    Use them for vegetarian chilis, bean salads, or even to make your own hummus at home (it’s simple – just blend together chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt!).

    In conclusion…

    Junk food is very financially accessible, but so are many nutritious foods.

    PS: I’m interested in reading YOUR tips for eating healthy when money is tight. Post away!

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