Do oats, quinoa, flax seeds need to be cooked to gain their nutrients?
August 7, 2013 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Am I gaining all the nutritional value from oats, quinoa, and flax seeds which I've ground fine and stirred into food? Does cooking these foods unlock beneficial nutrients that I'm not getting by simply grinding and eating uncooked? And: How much flax seed daily to get the needed good-guy omega-3 and omega-6 fats from them?

Simple breakfast -- non-fat yogurt, a pack of stevia, dump in cereal made by the ezekiel bread people. Into this, I also stir in steel-cut oats, flax seeds, and quinoa, after grinding them all down to flour. Then blueberries, maybe some browned bananas if any are about, give it all a stir -- fast, easy breakfast.

Question: Am I gaining all the nutritional value from oats, quinoa, and flax seeds which I've ground fine and stirred into food? Does cooking these foods unlock beneficial nutrients that I'm not getting by simply grinding and eating uncooked?

And: How much flax seed daily to get the good-guy omega-3 and omega-6 fats from them?

Any guidance appreciated -- thx!
posted by dancestoblue to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You will obtain more nutrition from the oats and quinoa if you cook them. This is the case for just about any food you can think of, by the way. It doesn't matter if the flax seeds are raw or roasted because that does not have any effect on the fatty acids in the flax seed's oil. I have seen recommended daily intake of 1-2 being the most common. My more general concern with your breakfast is that is it high sugar and low protein. I'd have something more like eggs/eggs whites or some other animal protein. (not specifically requested, but I think it may fall under "any guidance")

FWIW, I avoid Ezekel products because they omit a crucial ingredient needed for authenticity.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:13 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Grinding food *may* increase their GI value, and *may* make the non-soluble fiber less effective.

I'm not sure about nutrient loss via cooking, but the usual thing that concerns people about grains and seeds is phytic acid, an "anti-nutrient" that can interfere, to some degree, with mineral absorption. Solution: soaking!

Why go to the extra effort of grinding, may I ask? You can soak grains, nuts, seeds and berries overnight in milk, alterna-milk (soy, almond, rice, hemp), yogurt or kefir. After a night's soak, they are utterly delicious and edible.

Steel cut oats versus large flake rolled oats may be a challenge, but if you're grinding steel cut, you may be better with rolled oats. OTOH, soaked steel cut oats may actually work overnight.

Soaked quinoa: make this separately, then stir in?
posted by maudlin at 2:15 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Be aware, that consuming whole flax seeds may not give you all the nutrients contained in them, and people often pass them through having only extracted some lignans.

Therefore, it makes sense to grind your flax seeds as you need them - the result is flax meal. I use a coffee grinder. Store the flax seeds in a dark dry cool place (or even better: vacuum-packed in the freezer), grind a half a cup for convenience, and store the resulting flax meal in the freezer too; then take 1 tablespoon daily with your cereal - this should last you about a week or so - then grind another batch and store in the freezer.

Whole flax seeds are pretty stable even when baked (350-450 F), but the story changes somewhat once you've ground them. Once you've ground them, you have access to all the nutrients, but the saturated fatty acids also lose some of the protection of the cell matrix and therefore should not be heated, because the fatty acids they contain are easily oxidized.

So the rule is: flax seeds are OK to heat, but have limited nutritional value. Flax meal allows you to absorb the full nutritional potential of the seeds, but should not be heated.
posted by VikingSword at 4:58 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Be aware, that consuming whole flax seeds may not give you all the nutrients contained in them, and people often pass them through having only extracted some lignans.
Exactly. Which is also why I am grinding the quinoa -- while I love the crunchiness of quinoa sprinkled on toast or in that yogurt, most of it doesn't get crunched, and passes right on through me.

So the rule is: flax seeds are OK to heat, but have limited nutritional value. Flax meal allows you to absorb the full nutritional potential of the seeds, but should not be heated.
posted by VikingSword at 6:58 PM on August 7

That's great news there, exactly what I'd hoped.

Why go to the extra effort of grinding, may I ask?
posted by maudlin at 4:15 PM on August 7

I am going through the time/trouble of grinding these foods so that they don't just pass on through me. The steel cut oats lose so much when smashed down into traditional oat meal flakes but steel cut oats take a long time to cook. And yes, steel cut oats can be -- in theory -- put into liquid in the fridge overnight and then eaten the next day and gain all the goods. In practice though, the oats are just not softened up much at all, and I suspected I was not getting the goods from them. Hence the grinder scene.

I've a small processor that I use, have used a coffee grinder also but this thing grinds a bit more at a time than the coffee grinder, though a bit slower. I have been grinding up enough for about a week at a time. I do add back in some quinoa, for that crunch fun.

The point is to not have to cook anything when I'm staggering around putting breakfast together.

I'd have something more like eggs/eggs whites or some other animal protein.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:13 PM on August 7

I'd gladly cook breakfast every flippin' day of the year if I could eat big honkin' eggs slow fried in olive oil. But my cardiologist is totally, completely specific: No. No no no. No eggs, pal. And he is not at all impressed that I've "read on the internet that eggs are okay nowadays, that all that old science about eggs being bad for you has been disproven" and that "hey, even the Livestrong page tells you to eat them every day, and rub them all over your head and stuff, too." He just gave me that look he's got. I asked him how many eggs he eats. He told me he'd had one, in the past year.

I don't want to, but I've decided I have to trust him. It bothers me. But I trust him. It's a decision I made. He save my life. I'm going to trust him.

I grieve eggs. Cheeseburgers -- okay, I can deal. Pizza? Okay, I'm bummed but I can deal. But eggs? Come on. But here I am, eating yogurt and flax seeds and organic dirt and grit, maybe keep my cholesterol levels in check.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:12 PM on August 7, 2013


But my cardiologist is totally, completely specific: No. No no no. No eggs, pal. And he is not at all impressed that I've "read on the internet that eggs are okay nowadays, that all that old science about eggs being bad for you has been disproven" and that "hey, even the Livestrong page tells you to eat them every day, and rub them all over your head and stuff, too."

FWIW, your cardiologist is absolutely right. People usually focus on the cholesterol content of eggs, and the controversy over whether that's deleterious or harmless (it is not harmless), but that's not the whole story. You don't even want to consume egg whites (completely free of cholesterol) too often. And the reason is that they are disproportionately high in several essential amino-acids, which can be very problematic for your long term health. One such is methionine.

Here is a study from 2006 [PMID: 16487911]:

High dietary methionine intake increases the risk of acute coronary events in middle-aged men.

CONCLUSIONS:
The main finding of this study is that long-term, moderately high dietary methionine intake may increase the risk of acute coronary events in middle-aged Finnish men free of prior CHD. More prospective research is needed to confirm the role of dietary methionine in the development of CVD, and whether its effects are independent of homocysteine.

Note, this study is about dietary intake of methionine. So you should examine your food for high methionine content, because note, even "moderately high dietary methionine" can lead to bad results. Note further, that we are not even talking about people who already have heart disease - this study was specifically in men who were free of prior CHD. Eggs are high in methionine.

Methionine in excess is bad news, and for some it can be a factor in cancer.

Conversely, methionine restriction has led to life extension in the animals studied, f.ex. rats and mice (it would be hard and somewhat unethical to do such a study in humans).

Methionine is an essential amino-acid. Your body absolutely needs it from dietary sources. But you should be extremely careful not to overdo it (like most things, it seems!).

Listen to your cardiologist.
posted by VikingSword at 7:01 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Egg whites are now evil? Shit.
posted by maudlin at 7:14 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


On your update, I would never tell you to disregard your doctor. You might ask him about egg whites though or other meal ideas. I would be interested to know what he thinks of your sugar bomb of a breakfast. (and I assure you he has eaten more than one egg in a year - eggs are far too common an ingredient)

For myself, I am a person who does not like the idea of "breakfast food". I eat the same food for breakfast that I might have for lunch or dinner. I often have grilled skinless chicken breast for breakfast on those days when I have breakfast, but any lean protein will do. You might want to give that a try. I know you said you don't want to cook in the morning, so maybe you could cook some lean protein the night before (or heat last night's leftovers).

I read the Finnish article full text and did not take from it that egg whites or other high-methonine foods such as all animal protein are the devil, but as always, listen to your treating physician. (which you are already doing)
posted by Tanizaki at 7:59 PM on August 7, 2013


Any particular food is rarely going to be "the devil". Occasional consumption of eggs is not going to be terribly deleterious to health. As always, it's the dose that makes the poison.

To be clear, cholesterol and methionine are not the only reasons to be careful not to overdo egg consumption. There is for example, also the issue of choline, which is quite high in eggs. Regular high consumption of choline can result in alterations of the microbiota such that it results in unfavorable cardiovascular outcomes:

Intestinal Microbial Metabolism of Phosphatidylcholine and Cardiovascular Risk

And if that is not enough, there are other risks. However, this is getting outside of the scope of the OP, so I'll conclude by reiterating that the best thing to do is to follow your cardiologist's recommendations.
posted by VikingSword at 8:37 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


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