At Wellness Bakeries, we take your health VERY seriously. In addition to the significant effort it takes to formulate products that are unlike anything else on the market, we also commit a great deal of time and expense to research the ingredients that we use.
We want to know the pros and cons of everything that goes into our products – and we reject anything that would promote inflammation, spike blood sugar levels or otherwise put a damper on your health. After all, the products we create for the public are the same ones that we enjoy in our own home as part of our healthy, grain-free, low glycemic diet.
From sourcing sustainably produced organic non-dutched cocoa… to buying as many ingredients as we can from organic farmers here in United States… to ensuring that our blending and preparation methods yield the most delicious AND nutritious results.
You can rest assured that we have carefully considered the health benefits and nutritional profile of every single ingredient that we use. We are completely transparent about our ingredients and want you to know as much about them as we do. That’s why we often point you directly to the research, by providing references. And it’s also why we address the concerns or criticisms of our customers and subscribers head on.
In that regard, we’d like to share with you a comment that we received on our website about our Better Bread mix, submitted by subscriber, Kris Kern, a naturopath in Australia:
“As a naturopath I wouldn’t suggest using this mix as the ingredients include ground flax seed which should NEVER, EVER be heated as it goes rancid extremely quickly when exposed to heat and light. Rancid fats are one of the most unhealthy things we could possibly put in our bodies! They cause free-radical damage which is one of the biggest cause of ageing!”
Rancid oils are definitely hazardous to your health. In fact, I (Kelley Herring) covered this topic extensively in a book I wrote titled, Fats that Heal, Fats that Harm. But that’s where the truth of the above statement ends.
So what is the research on flaxseeds and rancidity, anyway?
Are Rancid Fats Dangerous?
Rancid oils – fats which have been structurally compromised by heat or light – are extremely harmful to cellular health. They damage lipid membranes and cause an onslaught of free radical damage to tissues and organs.
In fact, the kinds of fats you eat are probably the single most important factor in your overall health and well-being as they affect cellular communication, metabolism, brain function… and even your genes!
The Rancidity of Flaxseed Oil
The fats that are primarily found in Wellness Bakeries products are the stable monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) from almonds, as well as saturated fats from coconut. These fats comprise the vast majority of fat content (and volume) of our products.
We should note that ground organic golden flaxseed is used only in our Better Bread product. It is currently not used in the formulation of any other products.
So what about flaxseeds?
Flaxseed, also known as linseed, contains a high concentration of an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
While flaxseed oil – the extracted, isolated oil of the flaxseed – should NEVER be heated due to its delicate structure and propensity to oxidize, studies show that when whole or ground flaxseeds are used in baking there is neither oxidative damage to the oils nor degradation of the nutrients.
The Research: Is Baking with Flaxseed Safe?
Unlike isolated flaxseed oil, whole flaxseeds contain an assortment of compounds including vitamins, minerals, fiber and lignans. It is this “matrix” of compounds that helps to make flaxseed heat stable and resistant to degradion.
One lignan found in the hull of the flaxseed – called secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG) – is a powerful antioxidant that provides protective properties to the fats in flaxseed.
So how do you know if flaxseed has gone rancid?
Of course, you can smell and taste rancid oils. But often, rancidity has occurred before the telltale odor is present.
Luckily, researchers don’t have to use their sniffers! They have several sophisticated scientific techniques that help them determine whether rancidity has occurred – including measurements of oxygen, peroxide, thiobarbituric acid, malondialdehyde, as well as changes in fatty acid composition.
Let’s take a look at the research on baking with flaxseed and the effects on rancidity (references included as end notes):
- One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that muffins containing 25 grams of flaxseed baked at 350 F and even higher – experienced no change to ALA content. The researchers also found that malondialdehyde (MDA) – a lipid peroxidation product – was not significantly increased in the muffins, showing that baking time and temperature did not promote rancidity or degradation.
- Another study published in Journal of American Oil Chemists Society evaluated temperature and time on the rancidity of whole and milled flaxseed, as well as flaxseed oil. One gram samples of whole flaxseed, milled flaxseed, and extracted flaxseed oil were kept in individual sealed glass tubes for 280 days at room temperature with 12 hours alternating dark/light cycles. Results showed little change in oxidation (measured by head space oxygen) although the flaxseed oil sample was more variable. The fatty acid composition of all three samples remained unchanged suggesting that alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is stable to both heat and light.
- A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry evaluated the effects of temperature and time on the rancidity of flaxseed. In the study, whole and ground flaxseeds were stored for 44 weeks (about 10 months) at 39 degrees F and 72 degrees F. Both the fatty acid composition and peroxide value remained virtually unchanged. In the same study, whole and milled flaxseeds were heated for 60 minutes at either 212 degrees F or 662 degrees F. No changes in peroxide values or fatty acids composition were observed by the researchers.
- Healthy, young adults ate two flax muffins each day (total of 50 grams of milled flaxseed) for four weeks in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Each adult stored their muffins in the freezer and defrosted as needed. Researchers found that baking the muffins did not change the ALA content or the thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances – a key measurement of rancidity.
- A study published in the 2006 issue of Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry evaluated the plasma fatty acid profiles of two groups of women. One group consumed raw, freshly ground flaxseed every day for four weeks, while the other group consumed milled flaxseed that was baked in bread, every day for four weeks. The researchers found no significant differences in the plasma fatty acid profiles among the two groups of women.
Why We Use Cold-Milled Organic Golden Flaxseed from North Dakota
We proudly use Premium Gold Organic Flaxseed in our Better Bread Mix.
In addition to its superior taste and clean, organic profile, Premium Gold utilizes a unique and proprietary process called True Cold Milling. This cold-milling process gently grinds the flaxseed at low temperatures. In fact, this method is so effective that it naturally extends the shelf life for 18 to 24 months after opening – no refrigeration required.
Golden organic flaxseed gives our Better Bread a wonderful texture, but as noted before, it is only a complement to the other ingredients we use – making up just 10% of the dry weight of the product.
Distilling the Truth
We hope that you’ve learned a little bit more about the safety of using flaxseed in baking (and why you should avoid flaxseed oil in cooking!)
In this day and age of mass and mis- information it’s important to “separate the wheat from the chaff”, as the saying goes.
When it comes to your health, don’t take someone else’s word for it. Do your own research. It’s all readily available at the National Library of Medicine.
At Wellness Bakeries, we believe in continuous learning and digging deep. Stay up to date with the latest research on functional foods, healthy cooking and baking methods and much, much more when you sign up for our free newsletter.
- Malcolmson LJ, Przybylski R, Daun JK. Storage stability of milled flaxseed. Journal of the American Oil Chemist’s Society. 2000;77(3):235-238.
- Hyvarinen HK, et al. Effect of processing and storage on the stability of flaxseed lignan added to bakery products. J Agri Food Chem. 2006;54(1):48-53.
- Cunnane SC, Ganguli S, et al. High alpha-linolenic acid flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum): some nutritional properties in humans. Br J Nutr. 1993 Mar;69(2):443-53.
- Hallund J, Ravn-Haren G, et al. A lignan complex isolated from flaxseed does not affect plasma lipid concentrations or antioxidant capacity in healthy postmenopausal women. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1):112-6.
- Hyvarinen HK, Pihlava JM, et al. Effect of processing and storage on the stability of flaxseed lignan added to bakery products. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 Jan 11;54(1):48-53.
- Manthey FA, Lee RE, Hall CA 3rd. Processing and cooking effects on lipid content and stability of alpha-linolenic acid in spaghetti containing ground flaxseed. J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Mar 13;50(6):1668-71.
- Chen Z-Y, Ratnayake WMN, and Cunnane SC. “Stability of Flaxseed during Baking.” Journal of American Oil Chemists Society71 (1992): 629-632.
- Ratnayake WMN, Behrens WA, Fischer PWF,L’Abbe MR, Mongeau R. and Beare-Rogers JL. “Flaxseed: Chemical Stability and Nutritional Properties.”Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 3 (1992): 232-240.