Tiny, nutty-tasting flaxseeds boast a wealth of nutritional benefits, including supporting digestive and cardiovascular health. Of particular interest to scientists, however, is their high content of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen or plant compound that can mimic estrogen in the body. Flaxseeds, in fact, contain more lignans than any other food, says the Linus Pauling Institute. The lignans in flaxseed may help protect against hormone-related cancers and possibly improve bone health.
Flaxseed and Estrogen
Adding flaxseeds to the diet can actually have an anti-estrogenic effect, meaning that it can cause the body to produce less-active forms of estrogen rather than more. This has the potential to protect women, especially after menopause, from estrogen-receptive cancers such as breast, uterine and ovarian. Studies on the use of flaxseed for symptoms of menopause -- a time when the ovaries produce smaller amounts of estrogen -- have not been quite as promising, according to a review published in “Menopause” in 2013. In hot flashes, flaxseed did not lessen symptoms, and a small number of studies on the use of flaxseed to improve bone density were inconclusive.
Mix a tablespoon of flaxseed into your morning oatmeal or cereal, or sprinkle it onto a dish of yogurt. Eating flaxseed is generally considered safe, but consult a gynecologist for questions about your estrogen levels and flaxseed consumption.
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: Lignans
- Oncology Nutrition: Hot Topics: Flaxseeds and Breast Cancer
- National Institute on Aging: Health and Aging: Menopause
- PubMed.gov: U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health: Menopause: Controlled Flax Interventions for the Improvement of Menopausal Symptoms and Postmenopausal Bone Health: A Systematic Review