Monday, January 3, 2011

flax: ancient superfood.

Photo Credit: Michelle Shefveland

Nutrition legislation is a relatively new phenomenon; the U.S. Department of Agriculture wasn't established until 1862, the Food and Drugs Act wasn't passed until 1906, the first food standards weren't passed until 1939, and the National School Lunch Program wasn't instituted until 1946 ( Oh wait, that's if you don't count King Charlemagne, ruler of the Franks and the Romans from 768-814. That's right, Charlemagne (as advised by Hippocrates) believed that flax seed was so essential to health that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume a mandated amount each year. While we don't encourage every ancient health practice (I think bloodletting has been abandoned by most physicians), current research strongly backs up this 1200 year old law.

Both ground flax seeds and their oil are used for their health benefits; flax's biggest claim to fame is its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, but this tiny seed is also packed with soluble fiber and lignans (lignans are a type of insoluble fiber that are also antioxidants).  Adding flax to muffins, breads, cookies, and even smoothies and soups is a super-easy way to boost nutrition. One of my newest favorite whole wheat treats to bake are Pumpkin Flax Muffins, which I adapted from a recipe at They make a great breakfast-on-the-go or afternoon snack. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Flax Muffins
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup white flour
- 1/2 cup flax seed meal
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin
- 3/4 cup plain yogurt
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla

1. Combine first nine ingredients in a medium bowl, and make a well in the center.
2. Combine next six ingredients, add to flour mixture, and stir until just moist.
3. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray and spoon in batter.
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Makes between 18 and 24 muffins.

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