From a scientific name that means "most useful," flax earns its status as a health food staple, especially for vegetarians and vegans looking for those ever-elusive omega-3s. Flax seeds are a smidgen larger than sesame seeds and can be brown or golden with a smooth and shiny shell. The warm, earthy and subtly nutty flavor of flaxseeds combined with an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids make them an increasingly popular addition to the diets of many a health conscious consumer. You can find flax in its whole seed form, ground or as an especially healthful oil.
Whether purchasing flaxseeds in bulk or in a packaged container at your local health foods store or supermarket (some carry them), make sure that there is no evidence of moisture. In bulk, make sure that you're buying from an establishment that has a high turnover of product to ensure freshnness. If you purchase whole flaxseeds, store them in an airtight container in a dark, dry and cool place where they will keep fresh for several months. Once ground, you must store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
With its mild nutty flavor, flax can be simply sprinkled over dishes like cereal (hot or cold) and stir-frys for some added flavor and nutritional value. Be a tad more creative and sprout the seeds and use them in salads and sandwiches to much delight. Flax seed also makes an awesome vegan alternative to eggs when baking: Grind the seeds in a coffee or seed grinder and mix with liquid to produce an egg white-like texture. This gelatinous mixture can be used in place of eggs to add body to baked goods like muffins and breads, but don't expect a leavening effect.
Note that grinding your flax seeds will enhance their digestibility and therefore their nutritional value.
These tiny seeds contain several essential nutrients including calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorous and vitamin E, and are also a rich source of fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids. And it's those wonderful omega-3 fatty polyunsaturated fatty acids present in flax seed that give it its wealth of health-giving status. Omega-3s and their consumption are tied to practically innumerable health benefits: From bone health to cardiovascular health to eye health and beyond. One study even found that flax seeds can help reduce hot flashes by 60 percent during menopause!
Luckily, farming flax requires few fertilizers or pesticides... theoretically. That said, conventional farmers might use 'em anyways. The only way to ensure you are ingesting the healthiest form of this incredibly healthy food is to purchase it from a certified organic source.