Photo by eliane via Getty Images

Your waffle batter could use some more lignans

Rebecca Firkser
July 25, 2018

Flaxseed is one of those health foods I grew up watching my mom eat. She’d dump it over her plain yogurt, and as time passed I the topping would congeal over the yogurt. Suffice it to say, I did not find flaxseed appetizing. Years later, I always have a jar of flaxseed in my fridge and use it in everything from smoothies to baking. It adds a delightful nutty flavor, not to mention plenty of nutrients. Friends say it looks like hippie food, wellness food, or even fish food. I say it’s time we give flaxseed the praise it deserves. But first, what the heck is it?

“Flaxseed is an oilseed grown in the Canadian Prairies and the Northern United States,” Julie Pizzey Fabor, Director of Marketing at Manitoba Milling Company, told me in an email. “It contains a healthy type of fat, ALA Omega 3, which is good for your heart.” Fabor also mentioned that flaxseed is rich in fiber, protein, and lignans, a phyto-nutrient that can support the immune system and balance hormone levels. Roll your eyes if you want, but flaxseed is a superfood.

Though you can buy flaxseed whole, Fabor explained that they should be ground before consumption so the body can absorb its nutrients. I tend to buy packaged ground flaxseed because I’m lazy, but I could just as easily get whole ones and pulverize them in a spice grinder. Most packaged flaxseed will have an expiration date, and it should always be stored in the refrigerator for optimal freshness.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a flax egg? Like chia seed, flaxseed is one of those magical foods that can mimic eggs in baking. To make a flax egg, Fabor recommends using a ratio of one tablespoon of ground flaxseed with three tablespoons of water, then letting the mixture sit for about one minute. After the seed has gelled, the flax egg can be used in all sorts of baked goods, and even veggie burgers.

This gelling is exactly what I observed going on in my mother’s yogurt when I was a kid. While I’m all for that texture when mimicking an egg, it’s not what I’m looking for in my breakfast bowl. If I want to incorporate flaxseed into a yogurt bowl, I’ll mix a teaspoon or two with oats, coconut, and toasted nuts, then stir everything into the yogurt, so there’s a bit more crunch going on. Same goes for adding flaxseed to oatmeal. Flaxseed’s gelling ability is, however, ideal for smoothies, as it helps thicken the drink. Instead of dropping a whole frozen banana or avocado into the blender, I’ll opt for a tablespoon of flaxseed and half of the fruit. Of course, one of my favorite ways to use flaxseed is by tossing a couple tablespoons into pancake or waffle batter. Not only does it amp up the nutrient factor of the dish, it adds just the finest nutty flavor, which pairs wonderfully with a big glug of maple syrup.

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