Consider healthy flax

Flaxseed (along with chia) is the new darling of the seed world. My mother always had a jar of wheat germ in her refrigerator. Today, she'd had a package of milled flax seeds.

Mom chose wheat germ for the added fiber, and while flax also gives a fiber boost, there may be another reason to choose flax seed.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, flax seed most often raises questions regarding breast cancer because it contains lignans. These compounds, sometimes called phytoestrogens, have a chemical structure similar to estrogen. At first glance, it might seem that would increase risk of estrogen-sensitive (ER-positive) breast cancer, which is spurred by excess estrogen. However, research suggests these tiny brown seeds do not increase cancer risk and could even be protective. In animal studies of human breast cancer, flaxseed and lignans isolated from it actually reduce breast cancer development, slow growth of existing breast tumors and lower levels of several growth factors that promote breast cancer. Human studies are limited but suggest that if anything, including one to four tablespoons of flaxseed per day might reduce breast cancer risk, especially in post-menopausal women. Research also does not support fears that flaxseed increases breast cancer recurrence. In animal studies, flaxseed did not interfere with the effectiveness of the anti-estrogen medication tamoxifen, according to the AICR.

Lignans are found in a variety of plant foods, including nuts and other seeds, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and even coffee. Studies that link higher blood levels of lignans with cancer-protective effects may also be reflecting protective effects of an overall eating pattern high in plant foods, with potential for many plant food components to act synergistically.

The bottom line: choose milled or ground flaxseed to allow your body to absorb the lignans and omega-3 fats. You can grind flaxseed in a coffee grinder or food processor and then store in the refrigerator -- or simply purchase it already milled. With the whole flaxseed, you'll still get the fiber but its other healthy compounds can't be absorbed. It's also important, to eat flaxseed at least one hour before or two hours after taking any medication. Otherwise the concentrated fiber -- 8 grams in just 4 tablespoons -- could decrease how much of the medication you absorb.

If there's a downside to flax, it's that it's high in calories -- 150 calories per 4 tablespoons. With almost 150 calories in four tablespoons, account for this before you add it too liberally. Remember that when it comes to reducing breast cancer risk or improving outcome for breast cancer survivors, avoiding excess calories that can lead to weight gain is a priority that research clearly supports.

Q and A 

Q: Should people with arthritis avoid nightshade vegetables, such as peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes? 

A: No dietary regimen has ever been shown to alleviate or prevent osteoarthritis -- except for a diet that helps you lose weight, If you're overweight, since that lessens the burden on painful joints. There are claims about countless dietary regimens - from avoiding fruits and vegetables in the nightshade family, meat, dairy products, cooked or processed foods and wheat to eating large amounts of garlic, alfalfa, wheat germ oil and molasses. Anecdotal success stories are plentiful. The problem is that osteoarthritis on its own gets better, then worse, then better again, but can't be cured - only managed. As such, it naturally inspires home remedies. Anything can seem like a miracle worker at some point. That's the insidious part of it - and why arthritis is such a fertile field for marketers. Vegetables and fruits in the nightshade family, especially peppers and tomatoes, are rich in nutrients, fiber and other potentially beneficial compounds. Don't give them up. -- University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter.


Cherries and pork make a good marriage - try them in this recipe for Pork Medallions with a Red Wine Cherry Sauce, from Cooking Light magazine. The pork is a good choice for a lean, low-fat, high protein meat.

Pork Medallions with a Red Wine Cherry Sauce 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 (1 pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 12 slices

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, divided

1/2 cup dry red wine

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup unsalted chicken stock

1/3 cup cherry preserves

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add pork slices; cook 2 minutes on each side. Remove pork from pan and keep warm. Increase heat to high. Add 2 teaspoons thyme to drippings in pan; cook 30 seconds. Add wine, salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add stock and preserves; cook 8 minutes or until reduced to about 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally. Spoon cherry mixture evenly over pork; sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon thyme. Serves 4 (serving size: 3 pork medallions and about 2 tablespoon sauce).

Per serving: 251 calories, 24 g protein, 18 g carbohydrate, 7.4 g fat, 74 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 452 mg sodium.

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