Facts and Food Sources of Lignans


Also called phytochemicals, phytonutrients are found in plant foods. Lignans are large group of polyphenols available in plants. Some of its examples include enterodiol, enterolignans and enterolactone. Lignans are found in high content in flaxseeds though there are also found in sesame seeds, fruits, berries, whole grains and vegetables. Lignan precursors assist gut bacteria to convert plant lignans into human lignans including enterolactone and enterodiol that have weak estrogenic activity. It is helpful for women’s health because high levels of estrogen leads weak estrogens from lignans to bind some of estrogen receptor sites by lowering total estrogen activity. In case of low estrogen levels, lignans assist to supplement level to improve optimal balance. It also contains phytoestrogens that imitate estrogen effects. The phytoestrogens are released when dietary lignans are being broken during digestion. Body tissues hold estrogen receptors which bind to hormone. Estrogen effects bones, heart, liver, reproductive organs and brain. Lignans are found in whole grains, red wine, sesame seeds, cruciferous vegetables and flaxseeds.

Dietary Sources

Food name Weight Lignan (mg)
Flaxseeds 1 oz 85.5
Sesame seeds 1 oz 11.2
Curly kale ½ cup, chopped 0.8
Broccoli ½ cup, chopped 0.6
Apricots ½ cup, sliced 0.4
Cabbage ½ cup, chopped 0.3
Brussels sprouts ½ cup, chopped 0.3
Strawberries ½ cup 0.2


Health Benefits of Lignans

Lignans are phytonutrients which possess both insoluble and soluble fiber. These are antioxidants which support human immune system. Moreover, lignans helps to balance hormone levels in the body. It balance estrogen levels in men and testosterone-DHT relationship in men and inhibit some enzymes required for converting testosterone to DHT. It reduces DHT levels which enhance prostate health and helps to maintain testosterone levels. It provides weaker and cleaner estrogen for balancing any deficit or surplus.

  1. Breast health

Study shows that women having high lignan levels in body measured from urine and blood samples and have better breast health.

  1. Lower bad cholesterol

Study concludes that high lignan flax has unique property of lower Ox-LDL.

  1. Antioxidant activity

Lignans have high content of antioxidant than other fruit or vegetable published in USDA database.

  1. Cardiovascular problems

Diets high in foods with plant lignans (nuts, whole grains, legumes, seeds, vegetables and fruits) are associated with lowering the chances of cardiovascular disease. Likely, various phytochemicals and nutrients found in these foods provide cardioprotective effects. A cohort study of 1889 with high levels of serum enterolactone levels are less prone to suffer from coronary heart disease or cardiovascular problems that with low levels.

  1. Uterine and Ovarian health

Lignans possess anti-estrogenic properties which imitate estrogen and bind to estrogen receptors but does not have same antagonistic estrogen effects. Plant estrogens are clear form of estrogen and more plant lignans are consumed, normally occurring estrogen is flushed out of the body. This mechanism behind studies shows better uterine and ovarian health.

  1. Prostate health

Study shows that higher serum enterolactone concentrations are related with better prostate health. Enterolactone is formed in intestines by bacteria acting on lignans. Flaxseeds have therapeutic role in lupus nephritis. Other study shows that vegetarian men have better prostate health in comparison to omnivorous males. Plant lignans upsurge to mammalian lignans, enterolactone and enterodiol.

  1. Digestive health

Hulls of flaxseeds have high content of fiber and lignans. Fiber is beneficial for digestion, cleansing colon and absorbing impurities. It promotes bowel movements and lowers the chances of colon cancer.

  1. Hair health

Study has shown that people having high content of lignans in the body have better hair health. Hormone DHT causes poor hair health. Flaxseeds lignans inhibit the formation of enzyme which converts testosterone into DHT. Asian study shows significant improvement in hair health in average of two months after taking lignans.

  1. Treat diabetes

Reactive oxygen species are involved in development of diabetes mellitus. SDG is detached from flaxseed which is an antioxidant. In rats, investigation of SDG’s effect was made to determine whether SDG could lower formation of diabetes and its prevention is associated with lowering oxidative stress.

Side effects

High intake of flaxseeds causes diarrhea. Sufficient studies are not found on effects of lignan on lactating or pregnant women. So it is better to avoid them or consult doctor before using by pregnant women. Those who are allergic to sesame seeds might experience allergies to sesame seed lignans and vice versa to flaxseeds.







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