Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Flax seed, the new egg

I don’t know about you but I often find myself about to make a recipe, usually cookies or muffins only to discover I don’t have any eggs. Fortunately, from my brief foray into veganism I’ve found a great substitute. You just have to make sure that you always have flax meal (aka ground flax seed) on hand.

To make the equivalent of one egg using flax meal, mix one tablespoon of flax with three tablespoons of warm water. Leave to form a gel for a few minutes. Use in recipe as you would use actual eggs. To avoid adding colour to your recipe you may want to use golden flax rather than brown flax.

Flax has a high polyunsaturated oil content which means that it can go rancid with exposure to light or heat. Once you’ve opened your flax you should store it in the fridge or freezer to keep it fresh for longer. It’s also true what you’ve heard about whole flax seeds; they’ll go right through you. If you want to obtain the nutritional benefits of flax you should always use milled flax.

Two tablespoons of milled flax contains about 65 calories, 6 grams of fat (3.5 g omega-3, 1.0 g omega-6, and 1 g monounsaturated), 4 g of fibre, and 3 g of protein. While not a major source of the omega-3 fatty acids that we need the most (i.e. DHA and EPA) we can convert some of the ALA (the type of fatty acid predominant in flax) into EPA and DHA. Our ability to convert ALA is not hugely efficient though so if you are consuming a vegan, or strict vegetarian diet, you should consider adding other sources of these essential fatty acids (such as sea vegetables and micro-algae) to your diet.


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Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is an ingredient turning up in a lot more recipes of late. It differs from the active yeast used to leaven breads and rolls in that it’s been “deactivated”. It’s particularly popular in vegan recipes to bump up the nutritional content and add a cheesy flavour. It looks like flakes and is often fortified with essential B vitamins, including B12 which can normally only be found in animal products and poorly washed root vegetables.

Nutritional yeast used to be much harder to come by but as it increases in popularity more and more grocery stores are carrying it (look for it in the organic/natural foods section).

A quarter of a cup of nutritional yeast contains about 45 calories, 240 mg of potassium, 3 g of fibre, 6 g of protein, and well over 100% of your daily vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12 needs.

People seem to enjoy it sprinkled over popcorn for a snack. I’ve used it, with success, in vegan macaroni and cheese, and vegan pesto, among other recipes.