Lignans are naturally-occurring compounds in various foods that have both oestrogenic and antioestrogenic activity (phytoestrogens); may provide some protection against breast and uterine cancer, and useful as menopausal hormone replacement therapy.

Flax seed and sesame seed are among the highest known sources of lignans. The principal lignan precursor found in flaxseed is secoisolariciresinol diglucoside. Other sources of lignans include cereals (rye, wheat, oat and barley - rye being the richest source), pumpkin seeds, soybeans, broccoli, beans and some berries.

Secoisolariciresinol and matairesinol were the first plant lignans identified in foods. Pinoresinol and lariciresinol are more recently identified plant lignans that contribute substantially to the total dietary lignan intakes. Typically, lariciresinol and pinoresinol contribute about 75% to the total lignan intake whereas secoisolariciresinol and matairesinol contribute only about 25%. This distribution may change as the contributions of syringaresinol and hydroxymatairesinol have not properly been quantified in foods.

Sources of lignans:

Source Amount per 100g

Flaxseed 300,000 µg (0.3 g)
Sesame seed 29,000 µg (29 mg)
Brassica vegetables 185 - 2321 µg
Grains 7 - 764 µg
Red wine 91 µg

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