Flaxseeds, whether yellow or brown, are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and full of dietary fiber. This, along with their light, nutty taste, makes them an easy addition for salads, soups and baked goods. The nutritional benefits of flax, however, are more readily available when it is ground into a meal, as the hard outer shell of the seed can make it difficult to digest. You can purchase ground flaxseed or you can grind it yourself at home.
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Benefits of Ground Flax
If you grind flax, you make the nutritional benefits of the seed more readily available to you. When whole flaxseeds pass undigested through your body, you may lose out on much of their nutritional content. By grinding flax you can also take advantage of the thickening properties of the seed. Flax is rich in soluble fiber, which absorbs liquids, creating a thick texture. When ground, this thickening property makes it useful for making vegan dishes, where it is used as an egg substitute or a thickener for sauces such as mayonnaise.
You can purchase ground flaxseed in grocery and health food stores. Look for flax meal that is stored in an airtight container, as ground flax can easily go rancid. You can also grind your own flax at home, using a blender, coffee grinder or even a mortar and pestle. Because of the small amounts needed, a high-powered mini-food processor works especially well. Flax meal is most commonly finely ground, so that it has a free-flowing consistency. However, coarse ground flax can add a welcome nuttiness to certain baked goods, such as multigrain breads. Toasting the seeds before grinding enhances flax's naturally nutty taste.
Storing Flax Meal
Ground flaxseed can go bad very quickly, so most people grind it as needed. Whole flaxseeds can stay fresh for up to one year or more if kept in an airtight container, but not so once they're ground. If you have extra ground flaxseed, also store it in an airtight container, but in a cool environment as well — such as your fridge or freezer. Keep it in an opaque container as the flax meal is also light-sensitive. Stored properly, ground flax can stay fresh for upward of 90 days. You can tell if the flax meal is no longer good to use, as it will develop a rotten smell and a dusty taste.
Using Ground Flax
Ground flax can be added to soups, cereals, salads, smoothies and baked goods to boost nutritional content. It is also commonly used as an egg or fat substitute. To make an egg substitute out of flax meal, combine flax meal and water in a 1-3 ratio. A 4-tablespoon serving of this mix is the equivalent of 1 egg for baked goods. You need to let the flax sit in the water for a few minutes to give the soluble fiber time to absorb the liquid and thicken the mix. As a fat substitute, you can use 3 parts flax meal for every 1 part fat, where 1 scant teaspoon of flax meal is the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of fat.