In my previous two blogs, I wrote about the importance of the ratio between Omega-3s and Omega-6s. And I wrote briefly about some of the benefits of Omega-3s. In this blog I want to look at some of the food sources of Omega-3s and how they compare to flaxseed.
Health Canada (Canadian Health and Welfare) recommends a daily Omega-3 intake of at least .5% of total calories. What this means is that if you eat 2000 calories per day, you should have about one gram of Omega-3 fatty acids per day. This recommended daily amount can be met by eating at least four fatty fish meals per week. Alternatively, you can simply incorporate one tablespoon of flaxseed into your daily diet and you have exceeded the recommended dosage. Two tablespoons gives you close to three grams of Omega-3 fatty acids.
This does not mean that you can substitute flaxseed for fish. We need both types of Omega-3s so even if you are taking two to four tablespoons of flaxseed every day, it is still recommended that you eat fish a couple of times per week.
Now let’s look at how flaxseed compares to other plant-based sources. “Flaxseed is by far the best plant source of linolenic acid, an Omega-3 fatty acid…” is a statement that is made by every resource I have consulted about flaxseed. And Elaine Magee’s The Flax Cookbook is no exception. In her book, Magee outlines a detailed comparison between flaxseed, oat bran, and wheat germ. Two tablespoons of flaxseed has 2.7 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids as compared to only .12 grams in wheat germ or .03 grams in oat bran. This means that although two tablespoons of flaxseed gives you more than the recommended daily intake of Omega-3s, you would have to take over 40 tablespoons of wheat germ or over 160 tablespoons of oat bran to achieve the same level of Omega-3s.
Magee also goes into the composition of flaxseed, showing us that flaxseed consists of 41% fat, of which 73% are polyunsaturated fats (57% Omega-3s and 16% Omega-6s), 18% are monounsaturated fats, and 9% are saturated fats. That’s a lot of Omega-3s, far more than any other plant source. As a matter of fact, flaxseed has almost three times as much Omega-3s as hemp, the only other plant-based source that comes close to flaxseed. Other plant-based sources of Omega-3s include canola oil, soybean oil, olive oil, walnuts, butternuts, soybeans and purslane (a nutritious weed increasingly used in agriculture and cooking recipes).
After explaining that she is a firm believer in looking at food intake as a whole, Magee does admit that flaxseed is “the closest thing to a magic bullet,” and uses the first chapter of the book to illustrate why. She also covers 101 important tips and facts about flaxseed, including how to store it, how to grind it, and how to add it to many delicious dishes. And since her book is a cookbook, she includes 85 recipes, along with the macronutrient counts and the corresponding Weight Watchers Points. I can’t wait to try out her many recipes and I invite you to share the ones you have tried.
The Flax Cookbook, by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, Marlowe & Company, New York, NY (2002).
Flax – A Health and Nutrition Primer (4th Ed), by Dr. Diane H. Morris, PhD, Flax Council of Canada, Winnipeg, MB, www.flaxcouncil.ca
Cooking with Foods that Fight Cancer, by Drs. Richard Beliveau, PhD, and Denis Gingras, PhD, McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, ON (2007).
365 WAYS to use flaxseed: #3 – Triple Omega Energy Balls
This is another recipe created by Victoria Laine, and can be found on page 93 in her first cookbook: Health by Chocolate, which is now available by e-book since the hard copies have sold out. Victoria has also just recently written her second cookbook: Real-Life Vegan (10 weeks of complete whole-food meals with gluten-free, vegetarian and meat-lover variations). For information on both these cookbooks, see the link at the end of the recipe.
- You need moist dried fruits for this recipe. If they are too dried out, soak them in hot water for several minutes to soften and re-hydrate. Drain water before using.
- If grinding flaxseed, place in a spice or coffee grinder and pulse several times.
- Place all ingredients, except sesame seeds and chocolate chips, into a food processor. Process several minutes (usually at least two) with an “S” blade, until mixture forms a moist mass.
- Roll mixture into ping-pong sized balls. Quickly dip each ball into a bowl of water. Then roll each ball into the melted chocolate chips. Then into the sesame seeds to coat.
- Refrigerate any leftovers.
Add other health building ingredients, for example: goji berries, spirulina, greens powder, etc. instead of, or as well as, maca or ginseng.
For more information on the benefits of flaxseed, check out the following websites:
For more information on Victoria Laine, Nutrition & Yoga, and her cookbooks, Health by Chocolate and Real-Life Vegan, check out her website at: