Linseed derives from Linum usitatissimum, a plant so versatile that it is used for nutritional and medicinal purposes, as well as in the textile and paper-making industries. It’s also known as flaxseed, or simply flax. But before exploring what makes this seed attractive to gourmands, let’s take a look at where it came from and what it can do for your body.
This little seed was first cultivated for food in Mesopotamia (in the Middle East) over nine thousand years ago, although there is evidence that it was woven into fabric as long as 30,000 years ago. It was important to successive empires, especially the Egyptians and Romans. Today the biggest producers of linseed are Kazakhstan, Canada, Russia and China.
Linseed nutrition facts
Linseed provides a good balance between the three main sources of energy: carbs, fats and protein. Flaxseed’s carbs are mostly fibre, so flaxseed can be considered a low-carb food, and the fibre itself is an important nutritional contribution. Its fats are mostly of the polyunsaturated variety, Omega-3 acids to be specific. These are generally recognised as beneficial and necessary fats, and this little seed is one of the richest sources, at about 1.8 grams per tablespoon. The seed also holds an assortment of vitamins and minerals, like thiamine (vitamin B1), and copper.
Flax’s fibre and fatty acids, together with its special compounds called lignans, offer a slew of advantages. They can help reduce risk of heart disease and stroke (because these fatty acids and lignans can reduce the buildup of plaque, that stuff that can gunk up your blood vessels and send blockages into your brain). Omega-3s are also good for brain function. The combined effect of flax’s three major health properties can lower your cholesterol. It is good for digestive health. And the list goes on.
Now, for the more complex issues, in other words, how can we introduce linseed to our diet in tasty recipes.The seeds may be left whole or crushed: it is only a question of taste and chewing capacity. In either case, they lend themselves to enhancing numerous dishes.
Yogurt, porridge and desserts
Yogurt with fresh fruit, or porridge sweetened with a drizzle of honey? Add linseed for two complete and healthy breakfast solutions. Linseed teams up equally well with biscuits, cakes and muffins.
Without forgetting its use in savoury dishes: linseed adds aroma, flavour and crispness even to the dullest of salads.
Linseed derivatives: oil and flour
The seeds can be eaten 'as they are', or used to make oil and flour. Linseed oil is widely adopted in the cosmetics industry (have you ever tried using it as a hair mask?) with amazing results, and may also be used on food. It is not, however, suitable as a cooking oil, so try it in your salad dressing or for adding a final touch to soup: however, do not exaggerate when dosing it because it tends to be laxative. Linseed flour, on the other hand, is versatile and lends itself to various uses – barring the above mentioned cases.
Linseed may replace egg
Strange to say, it may also be used as a substitute for eggs in making desserts and leavened recipes.
You may also like this recipe for sesame and flax seed crackers.