ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Health Benefit of Lignans

Updated on April 21, 2015

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.

Related Hubs - click on title to learn more

Black Sesame Seeds - a little fountain of youth

Black sesame seeds have been touted as having the ability to prevent or reverse gray hair. Is it true that these little seeds have anti-aging properties?

5 Unusual Seeds Used for Salads - Healthy Alternatives to Add In

For those that get bored with salads on a regular basis, there are a variety of ways to bring new flavor and texture.

Healthy Breakfast Recipes with Flax Seed

Cranberry Sesame Seed Salad Recipe

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


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      ron jackson 5 years ago

      lignans can purchased on their own.. ron

    • Keri Summers profile image

      Keri Summers 6 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.

    • Keri Summers profile image

      Keri Summers 6 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?

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 6 years ago from Indiana

      @ SD Dickens - Thanks for stopping by!

    • SD Dickens profile image

      SD Dickens 6 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.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 6 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!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 6 years ago from Indiana

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

    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 6 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 6 years ago from Indiana

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

    • akune profile image

      akune 6 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

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

    • rlaha profile image

      rlaha 6 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 :).

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 6 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.

    • thesingernurse profile image

      thesingernurse 6 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

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