The Health Benefit of Lignans
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:
- triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye)
- corn bran
- flax seed (aka linseed)
- sesame seeds
- pumpkin seeds
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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For those that get bored with salads on a regular basis, there are a variety of ways to bring new flavor and texture.
10 Ways to Increase Your Lignan Intake
- Add ground flax seed to a smoothie or cereal
- Add sesame seeds to a salad
- Sprinkle sesame seeds on roasted chicken
- Add strawberries to a spinach salad
- Add pomegranate seeds to a salad
- Snack on dried apricots
- Add sesame seeds to you favorite stir fry
- Add raw pumpkin seeds to a salad
- Add ground flax seed to your favorite bread or muffin recipe
- 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