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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.


One Comment

  1. glidingcalm said on August 9th, 2008

    Hi Andy…
    Thanks for the flaxseed post. I often use it ground as an oatmeal topper. My question is about Kashi products and Nature’s Path products that claim to have omegas from flaxseed, but clearly only have WHOLE flaxseeds in their products. Don’t they need to be ground for our bodies to receive benefit? I’ve ALWAYS been puzzled by this!! Thanks!

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