Flaxseed is known for its fiber, healthy fats, and nutty flavor. However, it has another claim to fame through a type of chemicals called lignans. Lignans are phytoestrogens or an estrogen-like chemical in plants. They also act as antioxidants.
In 1 oz flaxseed, you’ll get 85.5 milligrams of lignans. Even though you can find them in apricots, broccoli, and kale, which offer anywhere from 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams, flaxseed comes out on top. While the perks of lignans aren’t quite clear, they do hold a lot of promise. Here’s how flaxseed lignans can help your health.
1. Lower Cholesterol And Prevent Heart Disease
In America, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. It kills 610,000 people each year. That’s 1 in every 4 deaths!1 Thankfully, diets rich in lignans have been shown to reduce the risk.
For instance, a 2008 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition fed 62 men and postmenopausal women 40 g flaxseed a day. After 5 weeks, their “bad” LDL cholesterol decreased considerably.2 Many studies acknowledge that lignans probably don’t work alone. Several other nutrients such as fiber and omega-3 fatty acids are also at play. These compounds are known to lower total and LDL blood cholesterol while suppressing inflammation.3.
2. Fight Breast, Endometrial, And Prostate Cancer
Lignans are phytoestrogens, which means they can mimic the activity of estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. Hence, patients with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer may benefit from flaxseed lignans. Estrogen receptors need to be blocked in order to treat ER+ breast cancer as this prevents the growth of cancer cells. Tamoxifen is a standard medication that does the job by binding with those receptors.
Animal studies have found that lignans might actually strengthen tamoxifen.4 They’re also linked to less aggressive tumors and mortality rate, according to several studies.5 6 Other hormone-sensitive conditions like endometrial and prostate cancers might also benefit from lignans.7
3. Prevent Osteoporosis
Aging increases the risk of osteoporosis. This degenerative bone disease weakens and thins the bones. What should you do to slow down bone loss? Simply stay active and quit smoking. Including calcium and vitamin D in your daily diet can keep your bones strong, but lignans may also lend a hand in doing so.8
In postmenopausal women, estrogen deficiency is responsible for osteoporosis as it enhances the activity of osteoclasts, which is a type of bone cell that breaks down bone tissue.9 But thanks to the phytoestrogenic activity, lignans might help as well. But, again, more research is needed to validate this.
Trying to find out ways to include flaxseeds in your diet? Just add them to smoothies, salads, or yogurt! Flaxseed lignans are also available as supplements. Have a word with your doctor in case you would like to take them!
|↑1||Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Bloedon, LeAnne T., Shilpa Balikai, Jesse Chittams, Stephen C. Cunnane, Jesse A. Berlin, Daniel J. Rader, and Philippe O. Szapary. “Flaxseed and cardiovascular risk factors: results from a double blind, randomized, controlled clinical trial.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 27, no. 1 (2008): 65-74.|
|↑3||Chishty, Sadia and Monika Bissu. “Health Benefits and Nutritional Value of Flaxseed- a Review.” Indian Journal of Applied Research 6, no. 1 (2016): 243-245.|
|↑4||Flaxseeds and Breast Cancer. Oncology of Nutrition, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.|
|↑5||McCann, Susan E., Katie C. Hootman, Anne M. Weaver, Lilian U. Thompson, Carl Morrison, Helena Hwang, Stephen B. Edge, Christine B. Ambrosone, Peter J. Horvath, and Swati A. Kulkarni. “Dietary intakes of total and specific lignans are associated with clinical breast tumor characteristics.” The Journal of nutrition (2012): jn-111.|
|↑6||McCann, Susan E., Lilian U. Thompson, Jing Nie, Joan Dorn, Maurizio Trevisan, Peter G. Shields, Christine B. Ambrosone et al. “Dietary lignan intakes in relation to survival among women with breast cancer: the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer (WEB) Study.” Breast cancer research and treatment 122, no. 1 (2010): 229-235.|
|↑7||Goyal, Ankit, Vivek Sharma, Neelam Upadhyay, Sandeep Gill, and Manvesh Sihag. “Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food.” Journal of food science and technology 51, no. 9 (2014): 1633-1653.|
|↑8||Osteoporosis. U .S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑9||Riggs, B. Lawrence. “The mechanisms of estrogen regulation of bone resorption.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 106, no. 10 (2000): 1203.|