As with most undiagnosed sufferers of gluten intolerance, my major symptom was digestive issues. Initially, I was instructed to add more fiber to my diet, which, to me, meant eating wheat bran and fiber one cereal (only feeding the flame of my discomfort). In the months immediately following my diagnosis, I became increasingly interested in the world of nutrition, and how one food can do something for our body that another cannot. Quickly, I discovered the power of flaxseed meal.
Flaxseed, as its name suggests is a whole seed, with a structure similar to any other seed or grain. The health benefits cannot be derived from the whole seed itself (it will just go straight through your system), so you need to consume it in the ground up form.
In terms of health benefits, they are innumerable for both celiac sufferers and gluten indulgers alike.
In terms of the benefit I was initially most seeking, flaxseeds contain a mucilage, or gum, content. This refers to the water-soluble, gel-forming fiber that supports healthy digestion. Unique to flaxseed meal, however, is that these gums help prevent the excessively rapid emptying of stomach contents into our small intestine, which helps to improve our body’s own ability to absorb certain nutrients, which is a problem common to most people new to their gluten intolerances.
Additionally, flaxseeds contain lignans, which are antioxidants similar to those found in fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants are able to bind with circulating substances, or “free radicals” within our bodies that can cause oxidative damage, helping us to eliminate harmful toxins. Lignans are a relatively rare antioxidant in food, and researchers have actually ranked flaxseed meal as the number one source of these free radical fighters.
Thirdly, flaxseed meal is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. I’m sure everyone has heard about this source of dietary fat, but you may be confused at how it helps you. Omega-3s help to build the “good” cholesterol within our bodies, cutting down on inflammation and protecting blood vessels from inflammatory damage. This means lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This is especially good for vegetarian and vegan celiac’s, as most omega-3s are found in animal and fish sources of protein. So while the seeds may seem high in fat, it’s the fat that actually will help keep you fit and healthy.
I know some people are wary of trying new foods, especially when they don’t know how to incorporate them into their everyday eating habits. Fortunately, flaxseed meal has a nutty flavor that can agreeably incorporate itself into most morning meals. Mixing flaxseed into peanut butter is a great way to sneak it in, or adding 1-2 tablespoons into a morning smoothie will definitely add the boost of nutrition you need!