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Flax seeds… touted for their amazing nutrients, are also known as the “holy binder” of raw foods. So what makes them so magical when it comes to using them in recipes? For being such a tiny, itty bitty seed, it has an outer hull consisting of five layers.
The outermost layer, called the epiderm, contains the mucilaginous material that is activated in the presence of liquid. Give it a stir and a little time to relax and bam (!) you have a slimy material known as mucilage, or gel.
Flax seeds contain both the soluble and insoluble types and can be very bulk forming in the colon. This process can be a real blessing for those who suffer constipation but it can also hinder movement when you don’t drink enough water with them.
To get the best bang for your buck in nutrition, grinding the seeds is the way to go. You can even just blitz them in a spice grinder, cracking the seeds… making it possible to benefit from the core nutrition of the seed. There is some benefit to just soaking the seeds in water and obtaining the mucilage. That mucilage is known to help to prevent toxic build-up in the bowel during fasting or a healing diet. Only you can feel your body’s response to individual foods, so pay attention. :)
Taste wise, flax seeds don’t have an overpowering taste so it won’t alter the flavor of your foods, unless you use too much. They can add a delightful nuttiness to just about any recipe. Some of you may be sensitive to the taste or don’t care for it. If this is you, chia seeds can often be used as a substitution or just be cautious in the volume you use in a recipe. For a standard, family-sized recipe, you don’t want to add more than about 3 Tbsp of flax flour to it if you are sensitive to the taste.
Here is a photo of what it looks like when soaked.
The liquid dripping from the colander is the mucilage that
I have been talking about.
I wanted to touch on a few things that I see some confusion with. Flax seeds don’t require soaking and dehydrating in order to use them… like you do with nuts and seeds. It’s true that flax seeds need to either be soaked or ground in order to get all the nutrients from them but what approach you use will depend on how you are using them in recipes.
If you wish to keep the seeds whole for aesthetic reasons you will need to soak them prior to adding to a recipe or add them to a recipe that has extra liquid in it. That liquid will help to release the mucilage that is within the seeds, making them more digestible and absorbable. This mucilage that surrounds the whole seeds works as a binder and thickener. I used whole soaked flax seeds in my Italian Sun-Dried Tomato Flax Crackers. I wanted the visual effect of the whole seed, yet I needed them to act as a binder to hold the cracker together.
You can add either whole flax seeds to smoothies if you machine is powerful enough to grind the seeds down. But you can also just add ground seeds if you already have them prepared.
First of all, it is best to always grind your own flax seeds to ensure that they are fresh and haven’t gone rancid. It will also retain more of the nutrients. It is very easy to do. You can use a Vitamix or Blendec machine, spice grinder or coffee grinder. Or even by hand with a mortar and pestle. A good rule of thumb… once ground it doubles the volume. So 1/4 cup of flax seeds turns into 1/2 cup of ground.
Ground flax seeds are used in raw recipes to create a binding effect with ingredients and also as a thickener. For instance I used them in my Raw Caraway and Dill Onion Crackers (nut-free). Another recipe where I used ground flax seeds was in my Raw Churro Pastries with Chocolate Dipping Sauce. I used the ground flax as a binder and to add bulk to my churros. In my Raw Spicy BBQ Flax Crackers, I used both whole and ground flax seeds. I wanted the visual effect of the seeds, the binding effect from the mucilage and then by adding in ground flax seeds, I created a thickener, giving the cracker more body. (also doubling up as a binder)
I hope this helps! amie sue