Grinding whole flax seeds breaks the hard outer shell, creating a light and slightly oily powder. Because the seed is already broken, you do not have to worry about chewing like you do with whole seed. Thus, flax seed meal is easily processed by your body, providing lignans and fibre, plus the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic (ALA). You can add flax seed meal easily to many cooked and uncooked foods, and it can act as a thickener or fat substitute in recipes. Because grinding releases the oil, some care must be taken in the storing and handling of meal. Sold to consumers in kilogram or pound packages, flax seed meal is only slightly more expensive than whole seeds.
In seconds, you can prepare flax seed meal from whole seeds, using your own kitchen blender or coffee grinder. Extending or shortening the grinding time creates a finer or coarser meal. You should aim for a free-flowing consistency. You can also purchase packaged ground flax seed, called flax seed meal. Flax seed meal can be used in a variety of ways:
Fresh Food Additive. Flax seed meal can be sprinkled onto yogurt, hot and cold cereals, hummus, or ice cream. Added to milk shakes, or juices, it makes a flavourful and nutritious snack.
In Cooking. Flax seed meal adds nutrition to many other recipes that you may prepare fresh, including casseroles, meat dishes and salads. Flax seed meal may be added to pasta dishes and meat loaves, or used as a breading on meats to be baked.
In Baking. Flax seed meal is easily added to cookie mixes, bread doughs, and almost any baked good mixture. Flax seed meal is stable at temperatures used to bake batters and doughs, such as muffins or breads, according to several studies.
As an Egg Replacer – Flax seed meal is very useful to vegans as a
replacement for eggs in baked goods recipes. You can use a water/flax seed meal mixture instead of an egg in recipes, such as pancakes, muffins and cookies.
One-egg substitute formula:
15 mL (1 Tbsp.) Flax seed meal (ground flax seeds)
45 mL (3 Tbsp.) Water
Mix the flax seed meal and water in a small bowl. Let the mixture sit for two
to three minutes to thicken it, before adding it to the recipe.
As a Fat Replacer – Flax seed meal can replace some, or all, of the fat such as
margarine, shortening, or butter in a recipe. Baked goods with flax as a fat replacer
tend to brown more quickly than regular recipes, so you may have to modify
normal cooking times.
Fat substitute formula:
The substitution ratio is three parts flax seed meal for every part oil
or fat you are replacing. For example, for 15 mL (1 Tbsp.) of fat to be
replaced, use 45 mL (3 Tbsp.) of flax seed meal.
Where to Buy
Purchasing prepared flax seed meal is ideal if you do not have the time to grind your own flax at home. You can purchase flax seed meal in plastic containers or in vacuum packages, which are similar to those which package ground coffee. Flax seed meal is sold in the health food sections of major supermarkets, in health food stores or through the Internet (Flax Council, Flax Products List).
How to Store
In 1997, the Flax Council conducted a study of 36 consumers that showed they could not tell the difference between the taste of breads baked with either freshly ground flax seed meal, or stored flax seed meal.
Home-Ground Meal. The best advice is to grind just the amount you need at the time it is needed. If you grind more than that, store the unused portion in a covered container in the freezer (see Storage below). Care is required because the grinding of the seed has released the oil from its protective coating. The omega-3 fatty acid in the oil is, therefore, subject to spoilage from light and heat.
Packaged Flax Meal. Generally, it is wise to treat any vegetable oil or oil product with care in order to prevent loss of quality or the formation of “off” odours. So, some caution should be applied to flax seed meal. To maintain high quality and freshness, store the meal in the refrigerator or freezer (see Storage below). Some purchased flax seed meal displays a “Best Before” date on the package to help guide you to a correct storage time. In these cases, follow the food manufacturer’s suggested guidelines for safe storage.
Storage. Studies conducted by the Flax Council of Canada show that coarsely ground flax seeds can be stored at room temperature for up to 10 months, without spoilage or loss of the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA.