The Health Benefit of Lignans


Copyright 2011

You may be asking yourself: "What in the world are lignans?"

Lignan is not a word we hear every day, that's for sure!

Lignans are a group of chemical compounds found in a variety of plants. They are classified as "phytoestrogens" which are estrogen-like and they are antioxidants.

These chemical compounds are believed to protect against cancer by blocking certain enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism and by interfering with the growth and spread of tumor cells.

There are different types of lignans

At least 24 different lignans have been isolated and identified from a number of grains, nuts, fruits, veggies, and seeds.

These phytoestrogens have been found in:

  • wheat
  • oats
  • barely
  • rye
  • triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye)
  • corn bran
  • amaranth
  • flax seed (aka linseed)
  • sesame seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • soybeans
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • apricots
  • strawberries
  • pomegranate

Linseed (flax seed) and sesame seed are the most lignan-rich. They contain 1000x higher levels than grains, nuts, fruits and veggies that have been analyzed.

Phytoestrogens and reducing cancer risk

Phytoestrogens are thought to have tissue-selective activities that may help reduce the risk of hormone-associated cancers in men and women, including ovarian, uterine, breast, and prostate cancers.

Ingested phytoestrogens may also help maintain bone density although this is an area that only has a few preliminary studies done and it is still being actively researched.

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Healthy Breakfast Recipes with Flax Seed

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10 Ways to Increase Your Lignan Intake

  1. Add ground flax seed to a smoothie or cereal
  2. Add sesame seeds to a salad
  3. Sprinkle sesame seeds on roasted chicken
  4. Add strawberries to a spinach salad
  5. Add pomegranate seeds to a salad
  6. Snack on dried apricots
  7. Add sesame seeds to you favorite stir fry
  8. Add raw pumpkin seeds to a salad
  9. Add ground flax seed to your favorite bread or muffin recipe
  10. Add ground flax seed to yogurt


Fisher et al. 2011 Determination of Lignans in Edible and Nonedible Parts of Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) and Products Derived Therefrom, Particularly Focusing on the Quantitation of Isolariciresinol Using HPLC-DAD-ESI/MSn J. Agric. Food Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jf203598m

Smeds et al. 2007. Quantification of a Broad Spectrum of Lignans in Cereals, Oilseeds, and Nuts. J. Agric. Food Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jf0629134 DOI: 10.1021/jf0629134

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Comments 13 comments

thesingernurse profile image

thesingernurse 5 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

Thank you for sharing! Am glad to find broccoli in the list. :)

L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

Thanks for this hub explaining the health benefits of lignans. I am personally trying to follow a Mediterranean style diet; fruits, seeds, vegetables and nuts play an important part in that eating style.

rlaha profile image

rlaha 5 years ago from Spartanburg, SC

This is very informative. Thank you so much for sharing!

@L.L.Woodard: The Mediterranean diet is a really healthy diet! It is also very tasty :).

akune profile image

akune 5 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

Every day one learns. Thank you for an informative article.

Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana Author

@akune - you are welcome - thanks for stopping by!

dinkan53 profile image

dinkan53 5 years ago from India

Like this article about Lignans, useful one. Daily intake of Lignans(for example flaxseed) can also reduce LDL cholesterol(bad cholesterol)and can control sugar levels in a small extent.

Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana Author

@dinkan53 - thanks for stopping by and the comments. Flax seed is an all around fantastic functional food. It has so many health benefits!

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Thanks for the great and healthy advice. Will look into getting my daily dose of lignans. Absolutely love broccoli. Hope you have a wonderful New Year!

SD Dickens profile image

SD Dickens 5 years ago

Great information...I had heard of lignans but didn't know what they did. I'll now consider adding flax seeds to my diet.

Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana Author

@ SD Dickens - Thanks for stopping by!

Keri Summers profile image

Keri Summers 5 years ago from West of England

Hi Kris, I knew that soybeans contained phytoestrogens, as well as other plants, but was not aware that these were beneficial. In fact I'd heard that eating too much soy might be not a great idea because too much phytoestrogen could be harmful and perhaps contribute to cancer risks. So I am intrigued now, and would love to know more about the science and opinions here. Perhaps I'll turn it into a Question. Would you be happy for me to do so?

Keri Summers profile image

Keri Summers 5 years ago from West of England

Just wanted to add (because I ran out of time to edit my comment) that I know that these things are often more complex that we non-scientists are led to understand, esp when there's a natural tendency for the media to oversimplify it for us. I've been a little worried that I drink too much soy milk, so would be delighted if I don't need to be too concerned about this. Great hub.

ron jackson 4 years ago

lignans can purchased on their own.. ron

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