Don’t let this tiny seed’s size mislead you. Derived from the flax plant, an annual herb believed to have originated in Egypt, flaxseed boasts countless potential health benefits and has been ingested and revered for its nutritional properties for centuries.

Flaxseed boasts a whole list of purported health benefits, but three key properties, in particular, make it stand out as a nutritional heavy hitter: omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fiber.

Flaxseed contains omega-3 fatty acids (“good” fats). These essential fatty acids may act as an anti-inflammatory and are not synthesized by the human body, meaning they must be ingested for good health. The second element, lignans, have antioxidant qualities and might reduce the risk of some types of cancers in both men and women. Finally, flaxseed is loaded with what many Americans lack in their daily diet - fiber. Just one tablespoon of flax contains about 8 grams of this bowel-moving material.

Despite its slightly nutty flavor, flaxseed blends in nicely with other ingredients and can disguise itself pretty well in a surprising number of dishes. Sub some of the flour in your baked goods with ground flaxseed, add it to pancake mix or cereal, mix it in with yogurt or toss some into a breakfast smoothie. It even hides well in meatballs, stews and breaded chicken.

Flaxseeds have a golden brown, impermeable coating that enable them to pass right through your body and go undigested. Buy whole organic flaxseed for freshness, but grind your seeds before consuming for maximum nutrition absorption. Use a coffee grinder to do so and keep your ground reserve in an airtight container. Store your whole seeds in the refrigerator for optimal freshness.

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