Holiday Food Gifts: Healthier Goodies (cont.)

10. On the 10th day of Christmas my FOODIE gave to me ... 10 facts about flaxseed.

Send your special someone the healthy gift of flax, which I consider one of the most nutritionally powerful plant foods on the planet. You could send a pound of ground flaxseed along with a printed version of the "10 Facts about Flax" below. Or put together a Flax Pack: Package a cookbook with flaxseed recipes (like my book, The Flax Cookbook) with a pound of ground flaxseed, all wrapped up in ribbon with a shiny new tablespoon measure dangling from the bow.

10 Facts about Flax

To help motivate you to add flaxseed to your diet, here are 10 interesting facts about flax:

1. Flaxseed has been on the planet for thousands of years, and is now mostly grown in Canada and the Dakotas.
2. Flaxseed contains a high concentration of plant omega-3 fatty acids (around 1.5 grams per tablespoon) and lignans (phytoestrogen phytochemicals), which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Omega-3s are thought to be highly protective against heart disease.
3. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contributes about 2.3 grams of fiber. It's a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber.
4. A tablespoon of ground flaxseed also contributes important vitamins and minerals: 6% of the recommended daily amount for vitamin B6, 6% for vitamin E, 15% for folic acid, and 12% for magnesium.
5. Along with flaxseed's heart-healthy qualities, some studies over the years have pointed to possible protective effects against breast, prostate, and colon cancer.
6. One tablespoon is a good amount of flax to strive for each day (which is why you'd include a tablespoon measure in your Flax Pack). "I think it is reasonable to take one tablespoon of ground flaxseed a day," says Lilian Thompson, PhD, an expert on flaxseed from the University of Toronto.
7. Be sure to either to buy flaxseed already ground, or grind it before you eat it (or cook with it). Otherwise it passes through your digestive system, and you don't get all the nutritional benefits.
8. The freezer is a great place to store flaxseed.
9. To sneak flaxseed into your baking recipes, try replacing 1/8 of a cup of ground flaxseed per cup of flour called for in the recipe. You can also add it to cereal, smoothies, or yogurt.
10. Keep in mind that researchers have yet to conduct large, randomized studies on the role of flaxseed in reducing cancer and other health risks. For example, there is no conclusive data on the safety of flaxseed taken daily by children, and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on anti-estrogen medications.

11. On the eleventh day of Christmas my FOODIE gave to me... 11 cups of coffee

But not just any coffee. Give them the best coffee on the planet (at least what you think is the best coffee). You might want to know if they like their coffee locked and loaded (with caffeine) or if they are discrete decaf-ers. Obviously the "best" coffee is highly subjective. But if you're looking for a company that sells coffee befitting fine restaurants around the world and that packages that fabulous coffee in sleek, festive-looking tins, give Illy at look.

Illy is not just for espresso machines anymore. They now sell coffee ground perfectly for a drip coffee system. For $26, you can get two tins (8.8 ounces each) of medium grind for drip coffee in medium or dark roast, with an Illy-engraved measuring spoon thrown in. The Illy company was founded in Italy in 1933, and now its coffee is brewed in more than 41,000 restaurants and coffee bars and is sold in over 100 countries around the world --- totaling over 6 million cups of Illy espresso a day! It's been my own experience that Illy offers coffee enthusiasts an authentic Italian experience in every cup. I will travel to Italy one of these years, but in the meantime, at least I've got my Illy coffee. Visit them at

12. On the 12th day of Christmas my FOODIE gave to me ... 12 pieces of personalized fudge.

What candy says "Christmas" more than fudge? And this lighter fudge recipe is super-special because it literally takes 5 minutes to make in the microwave. The recipe also gives you some options to personalize your fudge. Your recipient will know the fudge was created just for him or her.

Personalized 5-Minute Fudge

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 portion light dessert (without mix-ins). With mix-ins, journal as 1 portion medium dessert.

3 cups chocolate chips, according to preference (such as 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips plus 1 1/2 semi-sweet chocolate chips)
14 ounces fat-free sweetened condensed milk
Dash salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix-ins to personalize your fudge, such as:

  • For Rocky Road Fudge: 1 1/4 cups miniature marshmallows + 1 cup walnut pieces.
  • For German Chocolate Cake Fudge: 1 cup flaked or shredded coconut + 1 cup pecan pieces.
  • For Peppermint Stick Fudge: 1 cup crunched-up candy canes.
  • For Choco Mint Fudge: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract instead of vanilla extract (same calories as vanilla fudge)
  • For Peanut Butter Fudge: 1 cup of peanut butter M&Ms.

  • Line an 8x8-inch or 9x9-inch square baking dish with foil.
  • Add chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and dash salt to an 8-cup microwave-safe glass measure and stir to blend. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir and microwave 1 minute more. Stir until chocolate chips are completely melted and a smooth mixture has formed.
  • Stir in any mix-ins you're using to personalize your fudge (including vanilla extract) and spoon into prepared baking dish. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least two hours, or until firm. Pull foil out of baking dish so you can easily cut fudge into about 49 squares (cut 7 columns vertically, then horizontally).

Yield: 64 squares

Per 2 squares (not including mix-ins): 110 calories, 1.5 g protein, 16 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, <5 mg cholesterol, 1.0 g fiber, 19 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 37%.

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2006 Elaine Magee

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

Published December 8, 2006.

SOURCES: The Flax Cookbook, Elaine Magee, 2003. Lilian Thompson, PhD, professor of nutrition, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto.

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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