Coconut & Flax Protein Bar
Go on, FLAX your muscles. Show me what you got pretty boy.
These grain-free seed bars are one of my favourite snacks. The recipe uses ground flaxseeds and other seeds and nuts, and best of all it is quick and easy to make. Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum) has been used for over 5000 years, even the Pharaohs of Egyptian times were in on the flax craze. The botanical name means “most useful” and it is exactly that! (1)
Flaxseed (also known as linseed) can be consumed as a whole seed, ground, crushed and mixed with sunflower seeds and almonds (LSA) or even used as an oil. The oil is known to have a high oxidation factor and should therefore be kept away from heat (so no cooking) and no light (store in a dark cupboard, and only buy in a dark, tinted bottle).
There is mixed information out there about flaxseed in terms of its omega 3 content – essential fatty acids that have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Some say that it is high in omega 3s and very beneficial, others say that the conversion rate from ALA, to EPA and DHA (think the support act) and then to eicosanoids (the main star of anti-inflammatory action) is only about 12%, too low to recommend it as a sole booster for Omega 3.
Stay with me here. I’ll break it down…
The process of making flaxseeds into the stuff we want for anti-inflammatory purposes is very inefficient. For this reason fish oil is the preferred choice if you’re looking for omega 3s, as the main star is already present – no need to take the steps of listening to the support act, we’ve skipped straight to the main act. Skip-to-the-lou-my-darlin!
Click to enlarge
Omega 3s can also protect against heart disease and are beneficial in conditions such as diabetes, depression, arthritis and skin disorders (1,2).
Flaxseeds also contain fiber compounds that are found in most oily seeds, known as lignans. Lignans have been reported to be anti-carcinogenic compounds and contain phytoestrogens, meaning they modulate the influence of the body’s estrogenic hormones(3). The lignans in flaxseed have been reported as inhibiting the growth of human breast cancer cells, reducing androgen (such as testosterone) levels in men with prostate cancer and women (females also make androgens) with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).(3, 5) However, even though phytoestrogens appear to have a regulating effect on our immune system and hormone production (particularly in women), some people can find it disrupts their hormonal balance, especially if you already have a hormone-sensitive condition.
Flaxseed is also a good source of magnesium and folate and lubricates the intestines therefore being useful to treat constipation.(6) However, there is talk out there of concern with the cyanide in flax seed, that is, the components within Flaxseeds that can form cyanide, especially when mixed with water. From what I can find online about this, its not much of a concern, because we are able to neutralise the very minimal amount cyanide that Flaxseed has. But if it makes you feel any better, cashews actually have more cyanide than flax(7).
Interestingly, the nutritional benefits of the seed are less than that of the milled or oil options. In one study comparing intake of the seed vs milled vs the oil, the beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) levels were only seen in the latter two (1).
The seed still contains beneficial dietary fibre and phytoestrogens but it is unclear whether there is as much of a health benefit in terms of supplying ALA. It is assumed that the seed, due to mostly being consumed whole, passes through our system undigested and therefore, fails to release the ALA benefits. So…crush it baby!!
I recommend buying the whole seed and crushing it in a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle just before use, as once crushed oxygen tends to affect the quality of the seed. If you are really looking for Omega 3 benefits though, fish oils are more likely to give you what you need. But if you are vegetarian and need the Omega 3 as you don’t eat fish, then try to use the ground flaxseed raw, as the ALA benefit is less likely to be converted after the cooking process.
So what are you waiting for, go and get flax’d!
- 1 Tb - ground flaxseeds
- 1 1/2 Tb - water
- 1 1/2 C - raw silvered almonds
- 2 C - shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/3 C - sunflower seeds
- 1/3 C - raw pepitas
- 1 Tb - sesame seeds
- 2 tsp - ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp - baking soda
- pinch - sea salt
- 1/4 - protein powder
- 1/4 - maca powder *optional - can substitute with equivalent of protein powder instead
- 1/3 C - coconut oil, warmed to a liquid
- 1/4 C - unsweetened almond butter
- 1/4 C - raw honey
- 1 - free range egg
- 1/2 C - dried fruit, such as apricot or sultana *optional - can use dark chocolate bits instead if you are feeling naughty
- 1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees
- 2. Prepare an 8x8 baking dish by lining it with baking paper or coconut oil
- 3. Combine the flax meal and water in a small bowl to let it emulsify
- 4. In a large bowel, Mix the wet ingredients with the flax mixture. Use a fork to combine
- 5. In another bowl, combine almonds, coconut, sunflower seeds, pepitas, sesame seeds, cinnamon, baking soda, sea salt, protein powder and maca.
- 6. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Stir thoroughly with a spoon.
- 7. Fold in the dried fruit, if desired.
- 8. Press mixture firmly into the baking dish.
- 9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Remove from oven and press top down with a spatula to remove any puffiness.
- 10. Cool and then place the dish in the refrigerator to cool completely so that slicing it will be a breeze!
- If you don't cool the mixture, it will crumble when cut. So be patient now...