Newswise — September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has unique tips about how to incorporate flaxseed into everyday recipes. Flaxseed, research shows, might reduce prostate cancer risks.
“It’s the omega 3 fatty acids and the lignan present in flaxseed that led us to look at flaxseed’s prostate cancer prevention properties,” says Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., professor of behavioral science at M. D. Anderson and head researcher for a recent study on flaxseed’s potential role as a power food.
When using flaxseed in recipes, keep an open mind. It’s easier to make flaxseed a daily dietary staple when it is consumed in a variety of creative ways.
Here are some easy ways to get going with flaxseed:
• Try crackers or tortilla chips with flaxseed, baked in, they have a pleasant nutty taste.
• Add ground flaxseed to cookies, muffins or cornbread recipes. Its mild and nutty flavor tastes great in peanut butter cookies, or in almost any baked good.
• Add ground flaxseed to yogurt or cottage cheese.
• Sprinkle flaxseed over your salad, or mix it into salad dressing.
• Sprinkle flaxseed over oatmeal, cold cereal or grits.
• Mix flaxseed into pancake or waffle batter. It also perks-up your maple syrup.
• Stir ground flaxseed into juice, water, sports drinks or smoothies.
• Sprinkle flaxseed over soup.
• Stir flaxseed in applesauce, jellies and jams.
• Mix flaxseed in with low-fat mayonnaise before putting it on a sandwich.
Research supports flaxseed’s prostate cancer fighting power
Research shows that cancer risks, including the risk for prostate cancer, may be reduced by 30 to 40 percent if people ate a more plant-based diet. This healthy diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds – including flaxseed.
“Cancer cells migrate by attaching onto other cells. The omega 3 fatty acids found in flaxseed keep cells from binding together and attaching to blood vessels,” Demark-Wahnefried says. “Lignan may reduce testosterone and other hormone levels. Lowering testosterone levels may reduce a man’s chances of getting prostate cancer.”
Demark-Wahnefried and her team learned about the potential cancer-reducing benefits of flaxseed during a study with 161 men. The men had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but had not started treatment. Each participant ate three tablespoons of flaxseed a day. This study and its results were published in the December 2008 issue of "Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention."
“While our study used three tablespoons a day, men who don’t have cancer but want to try flaxseed, probably don’t need that much,” Demark-Wahnefried says. “One tablespoon a day should be fine.”
How to prepare, store and buy flaxseed
Flaxseed is sometimes difficult to digest in its whole form, but can be easily ground-up and used in a variety of dishes. Try using a coffee grinder or a blender to grind flaxseed. The European way to prepare the seed is to soak it in water until the seeds break.
Grinding flaxseed makes it more digestible and increases the amount of nutrients absorbed. While the inside of the seed is the nutritional powerhouse, the outside provides most of the seed’s fiber.
Store unused portions of ground flaxseed in a tightly sealed container and keep it in a cool, dark and dry place, like the refrigerator or freezer, to keep it from spoiling. Whole flaxseed can be stored for at least a month. When the seed is ground, it is best to use within a few days.
A sometimes forgotten plant-based food, flaxseed is nutritious, low-cost and readily available on grocery store shelves. Stores sell the seed in bulk, retailing for only a few dollars a pound, and as an ingredient in crackers, chips and baked goods. The stalk of the flax plant is actually used to make linen.
Although the idea of eating a product used to make your favorite summer pants might sound unappetizing, flaxseed’s mild, nutty flavor is relatively easy to add into your diet.
For additional information, including flaxseed recipes, visit http://www.mdanderson.org/focused.
M. D. Anderson expert available for interview:
Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., Professor of Behavioral Science
Demark-Wahnefried is a nutrition scientist whose research spans from basic science studies focused on determining the role of food-related components on cancer progression to clinical research that involves nutrition-related concerns of cancer patients. Her research also investigates effective lifestyle interventions that improve the overall health of cancer survivors and their families. She has led several NIH-funded trials to improve the diet and exercise behaviors of cancer survivors and has contributed to national guidelines for cancer survivors from the Institute of Medicine, the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Sports Medicine.