Lignans are a significant nutritional component of the Budwig Diet, it is one of the reasons freshly ground linseeds, which are a very rich source of lignans, are included in the diet.
Lignans are a large class of plant compound, which are antioxidants and mild phyto-oestrogens, which means they have chemical similarities with the human hormone oestrogen. Lignans occur naturally in many fibrous plants and are available in foods including berries, seeds, vegetables and legumes; whole linseeds are by far our richest source.
Plant lignans are converted to mammalian lignans by bacteria in the gut similar to the way vitamin K is made in the gut by bacteria. Mammalian lignans are compounds recognised by the body as oestrogen-like substances and can work in the body in a weakly similar way to oestrogen. This is why the lignans from linseed can buffer human tissue against the effects of its own hormones which helps protect women from breast and other sex-linked cancers and can replicate the effect of oestrogen through and after the menopause. Lignans are also thought to benefit and protect the health of the prostate. Dr Budwig considered the diet rich in lignans to be beneficial for women with breast cancer.
The lignans from linseed (flax) include secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, matairesinol and pinoresinol. Lignans are water soluble but as the lignans in linseed are contained in the fibrous part they are more easily digested from ground linseed than whole.
The lignans in linseed are powerful antioxidants (up to 800 times more antioxidant than Vitamin E) and protective of the health of the gut, research has suggested lignans help to protect the colon from cancer.
There is more information about the role of linseed (flax) lignans in cancer, particularly in breast cancer in an interesting series of videos by Dr Michael Greger MD.
Lignans are water soluble they don’t dissolve in oil and don’t occur in linseed oil, unless particles of linseed remain in the oil when bottled.
Some people recommend “high lignan”linseed (flax seed) oil. Lignans are really water soluble so the “lignans” in the oil are simply bits of linseeds that have been finely broken in the pressing process and not filtered out; high lignan linseed oil is really the ultimate in unfiltered linseed oil. As the lignans tend to settle to the bottom of the oil and need hard shaking to incorporate them back into the oil bottles of high lignan linseed oil should be stored on their side.
High lignan linseed (flax seed) oil does look a bit black, sludgy and unappetising! If you don’t fancy it or can’t find it don’t worry you are getting plenty of lignans from all the linseed you are grinding up and adding to your meals; by comparison to the amount we get from ground linseed even the highest lignan oil contributes only a small amount of lignans to your diet.
High lignan linseed oil isn’t necessary for the Budwig diet but it is an option worth considering for anyone wanting to get all the nutrients their food could have. High lignan linseed oil is online available from Flax Farm.
If you are already consuming ground linseeds you don’t really need to have High Lignan linseed oil because the amount of lignans you get in a tablespoon of oil is only be the equivalent of the lignans from a tiny pinch of ground linseed.