DEAR DR. BLONZ: My daughter is sensitive to gluten, so I was wondering if glutamate will cause similar trouble. I cannot find anything helpful. One label, on a can of chicken broth, says: "Small amount of glutamate occurs naturally in yeast extract." Is this a likely problem? -- A.M.H., via email
DEAR A.M.H.: I am not aware of any connection between being sensitive to gluten and being sensitive to glutamate. These are completely different substances. Gluten is a unique mix of proteins found in the wheat family of grains, while glutamate is an amino acid found in all complete proteins -- in foods and in our bodies.
Yeast is a living organism that contains protein, so it is not surprising that it will contain some glutamate, along with other amino acids. However, yeast does not contain gluten. In short, sensitivity to gluten does not translate to sensitivity to glutamate.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I put flax meal in my morning smoothies and sometimes on sandwiches and cereal. After opening a new package, should it be frozen or refrigerated? Would I be better off grinding my own from flaxseeds? Also: Is organic or gold flax any better than conventional? I consume about two tablespoons of it daily; is that too much? -- S.S., via email
DEAR S.S.: Flaxseeds should be stored in a cool place away from any direct sun or heat. Once ground, rely on refrigerated storage in a well-sealed container. Some already-ground flaxmeal is sold refrigerated, but if properly sealed (with little, if any, air, or with a controlled atmosphere in the package), the risk of oxidation is limited.
As regards grinding at home: As long as it's properly packaged and stored, there is no "better off" either way, so the choice would be yours. Always check for freshness dating on the package. I don't favor purchases from a room-temperature bulk bin.
Flax should have a mild, nutty flavor and aroma, so give it a sensory check when the package is first opened. This can provide a baseline for repeat assessments after the ground flax has been around for a while. If you detect "off" odors or flavors, that's a sign that it's time to toss it out (or put it in your compost bin). I also favor organic, not necessarily because of significant evidence that the organic flaxseeds are more healthful, but because I feel we need to encourage (with our purchases) this method of agriculture when possible. It benefits the land, and those who work in agriculture.
Ground flaxseed can add a flavor dimension and nutritional quality to other foods. There is no daily requirement for flax, so the amount you consume is up to you. Depending on the brand, a two-tablespoon serving of ground flaxseed will provide in the range of 3-4 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 6-8 grams of fat and 4-6 grams of dietary fiber.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.