A couple of weekends ago whilst doing my weekly grocery shopping, I made a discovery as life-altering as man’s discovery of black gold. Okay perhaps that is a gross exaggeration, still, it was a noteworthy find. I had stumbled upon flaxseed (flax) flour. I have long known flax (linseed) to be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which as we know are paramount for a healthy brain and are essential for the cardiovascular system (heart). But while perusing the nutritional content of the flour two things stood out, namely the protein and fibre contents. Conventional wisdom leads us to believe that the best source of protein is meat in the shape of chicken and beef or protein supplements e.g. protein shakes. But as we shall see, not only are the proposed sources of protein sub-par; they are replete with issues.
Issues with proverbial sources of protein
Elevated fat content (meat)
While lean meats are a high source of protein (chicken and beef contain about 24g per 100g) most of the beef and chicken accessible (and affordable) to the public is not lean. In pursuit of profits, large farms almost unilaterally employ antibiotics to produce jumbo sized chickens and other livestock. In addition to antibiotics, the diet of livestock in factory farms almost sorely consists of corn, a cheaper and fattier feedstock. What all of this culminates in are cows, chickens and pigs with a much higher fat to muscle ratio. Simply put, what we believe are prime sources of protein are nothing but fat-laden, hormone-saturated and protein barren meats. Unless you are getting your protein from free-range sources, you are most likely consuming substandard products.
Costly (protein shakes)
Whey and other protein shakes are sought after for their high protein content, convenience and also how quickly the protein is absorbed into the body. Unadulterated whey contains anywhere between 60 to 90g of protein per 100g, which is as good as you going to get as far as protein content is concerned. While whey and other protein shakes undoubtedly provide a convenient and rich source of protein, they come at a cost. Costing anywhere between $30 –100 for 1kg, (depending on the brand and quality), there are not for those on shoestring budgets.
Lactose intolerance (protein shakes)
Whey and other protein shakes are derivatives of animal milk. While there are several issues associated with animal milk consumption, a significant one is lactose intolerance. While kids can digest lactose (sugar from milk), most of us lose that ability as we age (the lactase enzymes which break down lactose deplete). About 75% of all adults cannot properly digest milk and this can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms including bloating, cramps, diarrhoea and flatulence.
Fibre deficient (meat and protein shakes)
Whey protein and meat (chicken and beef) essentially contain zero (or negligible) amounts of fibre. While fibre (soluble in particular) is well known to facilitate regular bowel movement, its lesser appreciated trait, its ability to foster an environment which is conducive to gut bacteria, is perhaps more telling. A gut teeming with lots of good bacteria helps protect the colon against cancerous outbreaks and helps maintain cellular homeostasis. Fibre also helps lower cholesterol and reduces the chance of type two diabetes.
Mighty punch of flax flour
Now, back to my discovery i.e. flax flour (simply made by milling flaxseed). Remember lean chicken, the proverbial choice of protein, which has about 24g of protein per 100g; flax flour has 32.8g per 100g. So not only does flax flour trump chicken in protein content but it also comes with a generous dose of healthy omega 3 fatty acids instead of saturated fats and cholesterol. But the news gets better. Flax flour is loaded with 33.4g of fibre per 100g, now in comparison pasta has 2.7g /100g, whey has zero and regular cake flour has about 3.7/100g. So how much does all of this cost? A mere $6 per 1kg, which is approximately 10 times cheaper than whey protein. So as a source of fibre few foods pack the same punch as flax flour. Research shows that most of us (on western diets) are deficient in fibre i.e., we get 18g per day when we ought to get 30g a day. Given the deficiency, it makes sense to introduce flaxseed flour into your diet.
In this video, I compare the nutritional value of flax flour to other pantry staples.
How to incorporate this superfood into your diet?
Fortunately, there are couple options available including adding a spoonful into your breakfast cereals or smoothies/ shakes or mixing it with regular flour at a proportion of about 15 to 30% – which of course you can use for a myriad of baking applications. In my experience, I would guard against liberal usage of the flour. The flour has this undesirable coagulating characteristic (makes things gooey). To limit this gooeyness, it is best to use it sparingly; never exceed more than 30%, no matter the application.
Flaxseed flour is cheap ($6 for 1kg) and serves as a great source of protein, fibre, essential omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin and minerals. With multiple ways of incorporating it into your diet, there is no reason why this superfood should not be in your pantry.
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Let’s make 2018 healthier.