Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tips and Tricks with Flaxmeal

If you're  a low carber, chances are you've at least tried flaxmeal in some context or other.  Flaxmeal is simply ground-up flaxseed -- and yes, flax is the same fibrous plant from which fabric used to be made.

In the health food world, flaxseed is considered a superfood, with claims of benefits ranging from reducing your risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.  These various benefits come from three components of flaxseed:  Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber (both soluble and insoluble) and lignans, which are powerful antioxidants and rich in plant estrogens.  There are conflicting studies over whether flaxseed also helps with menopausal symptoms (my personal, anecdotal, completely unscientific experience of this is a resounding YES).

If you're a low carber, however, flaxseed has an entirely different benefit package -- it's a "grain" that's not a grain.  The carbs in flaxmeal are almost entirely fiber:  Out of 2.02 carbs in one tablespoon of flaxseed, 1.9 of those carbs are fiber.

The flaxmeal "muffin in a minute" recipe is ubiquitous on low carb sites and lists.  Structurally speaking, here's the basics: a teaspoon or so of butter or coconut oil, melted, beaten together with an egg, mix in a quarter cup of flaxmeal and whatever flavorings you like (cinnamon, Splenda, what have you) and half a teaspoon of baking powder, stir together in a microwave-safe mug or bowl and microwave for one minute.  You can make sweet MIMs, savory MIMs, add nuts or dried blueberries or cheese or whatever.  You can make MIMs in a selected bowl or container, split and toast for sandwich buns or bread.  I just posted a Zucchini bread that started out as an MIM recipe.

I use the above MIM recipe, with a little salt, vanilla extract, and Splenda added, for pancakes.  One "batch" makes two palm-sized, lovely pancakes that are very reminiscent of buckwheat pancakes.

I also make a flaxmeal cereal, particularly now in cold weather.  It's very simple:  Mix whatever quantity of flaxmeal with just less than twice the amount of water, some cinnamon, a little salt and Splenda.  Drop a couple hunks of butter in, stir thoroughly (so there aren't any flaxmeal lumps) and microwave for one minute, then stir thoroughly again.  It's very Cream of Wheat.  Important note:  Don't omit the butter, and I personally will never try coconut oil again instead.

All this said, there are two kinds of flaxmeal you can buy:  Regular "brown" flax, and golden (often organic) flax.  You can also choose between whole seeds and pre-ground flaxmeal.

Proponents of flax's health benefits say you should buy whole flaxseed and grind your own as you use it, and that's probably optimal.  However, after trying two different coffee grinders and one Vitamix blender, I still can't get a nice fine consistent grind, and I refuse to spend the megabucks on a dedicated grain mill, so I buy already-ground flaxmeal.  So sue me.  Because of flaxseed's high oil content, you should store your flaxseeds or flaxmeal in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container.

I use both brown and golden flaxmeal, but not interchangeably.  I prefer the brown flaxmeal for my hot flax cereal above; to me the golden flax makes the cereal too -- well, mucus-y -- and the consistency of the brown flax is much better.  On the other hand, for MIMs and pancakes and so forth, I much prefer the golden flax.

Speaking of failed experiments, I've never liked flaxmeal used in any way as a breading, which is too bad because it does stick nicely, but it makes a shell rather than a crust, and not a pleasantly textured one, either.  It can work as a binder in things like meatloaf, but I like other products more.


  1. Very good info all around! I agree with all your tips and I might add that I also do a maple-walnut version of the cereal by adding a couple Tbls chopped walnuts and using a good SF maple syrup instead of sweetener. (Can also use maple extract + sweetener.)

  2. I once put chopped walnuts AND sugar free chocolate chips in it. I'm all about the hedonism. But by and large I default to cinnamon toast flavor!