There’s neither oil nor sugar in these muffins, but you’d never know it. Full to the brim with flavor, they also pack a powerful punch of anti-cancer food – flaxseed.

Flaxseed, also known as linseed, is a rich source of lignans. Lignans have been shown to have anti-estrogenic effects that inhibit cell growth in breast tumors.

One study [1] found that flaxseed might be protective against breast cancer with results indicating increased tumor cell death (apoptosis), decreased HER-2 expression, decreased tumor cell proliferation, and anti-angiogenic activity (the creation of new blood vessels that supply the tumor).

Flaxseed helps to boost our body’s natural ability to block the action of an inflammatory molecule called interleukin-1, which is suspected of helping tumors to feed and grow. (The hormonal treatment Tamoxifen is also used to help block interleukin-1, but with more potential side effects.)

How does a tiny flaxseed do all of this? It’s complicated! But here’s at least one way in which flaxseed offers breast cancer protection: When you eat and digest plant lignans, your gut microbes metabolize some of them into other types of “human” lignans, one of which is called enterolactone. Studies [1]  [2] have shown an inverse association between enterolactone levels and the risk of breast cancer (the lower the level of enterolactone, the higher the risk of breast cancer). 

It’s important to know that a course of antibiotics can wipe out your ability to create enterolactone for a period of time, so you might want to increase your lignan intake if you’ve recently taken antibiotics.

It’s thought that to raise your levels of enterolactone to beneficial levels, you need approximately 50mg of lignans each day, which is about two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds. A variety of plants can supply you with lignans, but flaxseed is the queen when it comes to getting the biggest bang for your buck – just check out the following table from the Linus Pauling Institute.


Because whole flaxseeds have a very tough outer shell, they pass through your intestine undigested. They’ll provide you with insoluble fiber, which is good for maintaining regular bowel movements, but you won’t get any of the flaxseed’s other goodness. So use ground flaxseed and you’ll get insoluble fiber as well as all the other awesome benefits. 

Flaxseed quickly goes rancid so keep it in the fridge or freezer. You can buy whole flaxseed and grind what you need when you need it, or you can buy pre-ground (sometimes called flaxseed meal). The flaxseed I use is Spectrum Organic Ground Flaxseed. To add even more fruity flavor, you can use Spectrum Essentials Ground Flaxseed with Mixed Berries. You might be thinking that two tablespoons of ground flaxseed is a lot of dry stuff to eat, and wondering how you can manage it. Spread it through the day – at breakfast, sprinkle some (one or two teaspoonsful) into your granola or oatmeal, and at lunch, sprinkle some over salad, or add to your favorite smoothie. At dinner, add some to any dish that has even a bit of moisture – it will help thicken the sauce and you won’t notice any change in flavor. And for a treat, try these muffins!

Yields Approximately 20 muffins

Starbright berry muffins| Foodie Friday

A tasty treat with a protective punch of anti-cancer ingredients.

15 minPrep Time

25 minCook Time

40 minTotal Time

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  • 6 medjool dates, pitted, quartered
  • 2 medium, over-ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats or wholegrain, unsweetened puffed rice
  • 3 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup berries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc)
  • Coconut oil for greasing the muffin pan


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
  2. If using, put paper muffin cups into a muffin pan, otherwise lightly grease each cup in the muffin pan.
  3. In a food processor, whiz the dates, bananas, and vanilla essence until very smooth. It's OK if there are a few tiny bits of date that don't get completely incorporated.
  4. In a bowl, mix together the oat flour, almond meal, oats or puffed rice, flaxseed, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda.
  5. Add the banana mixture to the bowl. Take care not to over mix.
  6. Fold in the berries and nuts.
  7. Spoon into muffin cups.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes at 350F.
  9. Cool for ten minutes in the baking dish, then transfer to cooling rack until fully cooled.


All berries, fresh, frozen, or thawed are good in this recipe. If you use frozen berries, you might need to add a few minutes of baking time. If you use big berries (such as boysenberries or blackberries), you might want to cut them in half or even quarters before adding them. You can make your own oat flour by pulsing rolled oats in your food processor for just a few seconds until the oats are finely ground. (One cup of oats will make approximately one cup of oat flour.)



This muffin is satisfyingly nutty, fruity, moist, dense, and delicious. Enjoy it for a quick bite on the run, or as a mid-afternoon treat.

The recipe is quite forgiving – you can use whichever berries and nuts you prefer, or what you find in your kitchen.

Store the muffins in the fridge, or you can freeze them. (They freeze very well and defrost in just a few minutes.)

What’s good about this recipe

With no oil and no sugar, this muffin is already a healthy snack, and the deeply colorful berries lets you know that it’s also full of anti-oxidants.

The muffin’s sweetness comes from bananas and dates, not refined sugar. The addition of cinnamon and the high fiber content (from the flaxseed, wholegrains, and fruit), also work to slow the release of the fruit’s natural sugars to prevent any spike in blood sugar.

Flaxseed is a miraculous tiny seed that’s a powerhouse of health benefits.

You can use gluten free flour if preferred.

[1] Flower, G., Fritz, H., Balneaves, L., Verma, S., Skidmore, B., Fernandes, R., Kennedy, D., Cooley, K., Wong, R., Sagar, S., Fergusson, D. and Seely, D. (2013). Flax and Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 13(3), pp.181-192.

[2] Pietinen, P., Stumpf, K., Mannisto, S., Kataja, V.,Uusitupa, M., and Adlercreutz, H. (2001). Serum Enterolactone and Risk of Breast Cancer: A Case-Control Study in Eastern Finland. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers PrevApril 2001 10; 339-344.

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