Flax (Linum usitatissimum), Family Linaceae
Flaxseed or Linseed is the seed of an annual flowering plant, flax, (Linum usitatissimum) of the family Linaceae. Flax is one of the oldest cultivated plants that has been grown since the beginning of civilizations (www.agiruclture.org)
Two types of Linum usitatissimum are cultivated in cool regions of the world. In North America flax is mainly grown for seed and in Europe flax, grown for fibre, is cultivated in a wide coastal band of Western Europe stretching from the South of Normandy in Northern France through Belgium and the Netherlands. France is the leading producer (Jos vanneste) . The end products include decorative fabrics, Linen (for bedsheets, garments and table linen), technical canvas, and embroidery linen (Libeco Belgian Linen) .
A third variety of Flax called Linola™ or solin with yellow seed coat was developed in Canada through mutation breeding efforts. It has very low levels of ALA (alpha linolenic acid) and its fatty acid composition is similar to other polyunsaturated oils like sunflower. The aim was to introduce it to the margarine industry but unfortunately its market potential was never explored and its production was was ceased in Canada. (Flax council Canada)
The Main Flaxseed Products
Flaxseed (Linseed) yields three main products: oil for human consumption, oil for industrial use and the by-product, Flaxseed meal (linseed cake) used to prepare animal feed.The amount of oil in the seeds ranges from 45-50% of which about 50% is the essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Linseed oil is composed of five main fatty acids: palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and alpha-linolenic (ALA).
Flax seeds can be brown or golden yellow in colour. Both seeds contain approximately the same amounts of fats and omega-3 fatty acids (which colour is is better?)
Production of Flax (Linum usitatissimum)
Since 1994, Canada has been the world’s leader in the production and export of flax, accounting for about 40% of the world production. When combined, China, the United States and India account for another 40 percent of world production. (www.agiruclture.org)
Canada produced about 875,000 mt (2014/15) and 940,000 mt. (2015/16). In 2014/15, Canada shipped 50% of its flax exports to China, 23% to the EU and 21% to the United States. (Flax Council of Canada)
Flax production in the United States occurs primarily in North Dakota, followed by South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota (www.agiruclture.org)
The Main Use of Flaxseed (Linseed)
Flaxseed can be brown or golden in colour. Both seed types contain approximately the same amount of fats and omega-3 fatty acids (which colour seed is is better?)
Flaxseed is typically processed by cold pressing to obtain flaxseed oil suitable for human consumption and by solvent extraction to obtain flaxseed oil for industrial purposes. Flaxseed meal (linseed cake) is the protein rich by product remaining after flaxseed has been crushed for oil. (www.agiruclture.org).
Nutritionally, flaxseed is high in: fibre, the essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), protein, vitamin B1 and the trace minerals magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and iron. In fact, flaxseed has the highest ALA of any plant source.
Flaxseed can be consumed as an ingredient in foods or as a supplement. Whole flax seed or milled flax is added to cereals, multigrain breads, bagels, tortilla, muffins, crackers, pizza crusts, cookies, energy drinks, smoothies, (not more than 4 tablespoons per day).
Health benefits: In the last ten years, there has been a surge on flaxseed products in the health market due to findings suggesting it can provide several health benefits like: reducing heart disease and cancer risks, lowering blood cholesterol level, moderating blood sugar levels and benefits related to autoimmune system. Flaxseed products include: pasta, energy bars, processed foods (hamburgers, soy-based ham, chicken cutlets) and prepared meals (lasagna, meat-pies, pizza).
Omega-3 enriched eggs from hens fed rations containing flax are also very popular. These eggs contain eight to 10 times more omega-3 fatty acids than regular eggs.
Other omega-3 nutritionally-enhanced foods in the marketplace include milk, margarines, mayonnaise, dressings and yogurts.
Edible Linseed oil is used to produce nutritional supplements such as flaxseed oil capsules.
Flaxseed meal (linseed cake) is protein rich and is used as a feed for poultry, cattle and hogs and horses. It’s also gaining huge interest as an ingredient in the pet food market.
Industrial Linseed oil: is a major ingredient in many fine oil paints, varnishes, and wood stains (Linseed Oil Protects Wood) and in linoleum and printing inks (Flax Council Canada)
Nutrition Facts for Flaxseed
100g (3.5oz) ground flaxseed provides 534 calories and contains the following:
Fat: 42.16g (Saturated 3.66g, Monounsaturated 7.52g, Polyunsaturated 28.73g; Omega-3 22.8g, omega-6, (5.9g)
Carbohydrate: 28.8g (sugar 1.55g, Fibre 27.3g);
Recommended Daily Allowance. (RDA)
Minerals: Magnesium 110%; Phosphorus (92%); Zinc (46%), Iron (44%) and Calcium (26%)
Vitamins: B1, thiamine (143%); B6 (36%), B5 (20%)
Baking: Yeast breads, to bagels and cookie mixes.
Use of Flax Fibre
The paper and pulp industry uses the fibre extracted from the the stem of flax plants to produce Linen (for bedsheets, garments, napkins and table linen) and for fine papers like parchment paper and cigarette paper.
More recently, there is renewed interest for the use of the fibre for industrial fibre products such as pulp sweeteners, geotextiles, insulation and plastic composites. (Flax Council Canada)
- Food Sources of Alpha Linoleum Acids.
- Omega-3 fats in Flax and Fish are Similar in Many ways.
- Prepared Flax Foods.
- Flax: a healthy Food.
- How Healthful is Flaxseed?.