Flaxseed as a Functional Ingredient

Organic Food

In recent times there has been a lot of interest in phytochemicals as bioactive components
in foods. Functional foods are an evolving area in the field of food science because the new
age health conscious consumers are intrigued by the health promoting properties exhibited
by these foods.

Functional foods
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics defined functional foods as, “Foods defined as
whole foods along with fortified, enriched, or enhanced foods that have a potentially
beneficial effect on health when consumed as part of a varied diet on a regular basis at
effective levels”.

Flaxseed as functional food
In recent times flaxseed has emerged as a popular functional ingredient because of its
nutritional and therapeutic benefits. It is a versatile ingredient and is convenient to use as
whole or milled in batters, dough and various baked products.
Flaxseed is nature’s gift loaded with potential health improving components. Flaxseed
contains good amount of α-Linolenic acid an omega-3 fatty acid, protein, dietary fiber,
lignan and secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG). Because of the nutritional and
phytochemical components flaxseed incorporated food products are gaining popularity.
Flaxseed is considered as functional food due to the existence of three principal bioactive

  1.  Alpha-linolenic acid
  2. Lignans
  3. Dietary fiber

Flaxseed are used in various products because of the properties they exhibit
Flaxseed as an alternate for egg in bakery products
Flaxseed-water mixture can function as a substitute for egg in the in baked products such as
muffins, cookies and also in pancakes. Baked products made using flaxseed are a little
gummier and chewier. The loaf volume is also lower than normal loaf volume when egg is
used. But for vegans and vegetarians it would be a healthy substitute.
One tablespoon of milled flaxseed (1 table spoon is about 15 grams or 3 tsp) with three
tablespoons of water (45 ml) can work as an alternate to one egg.

Flaxseed as a stabilizer

Mucilage constituent of flaxseed is responsible for the property of stabilizer and emulsifier.
Flaxseed gum which accounts for 0.45 % w/w can be utilized for stabilization of emulsion in
case of salad dressings. It can be also used in sauces, sausages, meat emulsions etc. It has
also been shown that the mucilage has the property of an anti-staling agent in baked

products and it also Improves cooking quality of noodles. Flaxseed protein also contributes
to stabilizer and emulsifier action in ice cream, sauces and meat emulsions

Flaxseed alpha-linoleic acid in baked products
Flaxseed products are stable for a longer period at ambient temperature though there is
significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid. This review states that there is evidence that
storing the milled flaxseed for about 4 months did not result in deterioration of quality.
A study in which brown bread prepared with the flaxseed oil cake at the rate of 10 and 15 %
had peroxide levels well below the threshold limits after the 6 months of storage.

Health benefits of including flaxseed
Because of the omega- 3 fatty acid, dietary fiber and other constituents, flaxseed emerged
as one of the nutritive and functional ingredients in food products. Studies indicate that SDG
metabolites known to have antioxidant property may protect against CVD and the metabolic

The mechanisms by which they are protective are

  1. Reducing lipid and glucose concentrations in blood
  2. Lowering blood pressure
  3. Decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation

Flaxseed incorporation in various products would make it easier to include flaxseed in our
daily diets. To avail all the nutritional and health benefits flaxseeds should be consumed as
part of a balanced diet regularly.

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