In multiple ways the lignans of the tiny, shiny brown and golden seeds of the flax plant help protect and promote good health. These seeds are thought to help confer protection against breast cancer in women and similarly against prostate cancer in men.
Studies have shown that flax seeds may help infertility too through their action as weak estrogens, and as a source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. In one study women consuming ground flax seed daily had less anovulatory menstrual cycles (cycles without ovulation) and the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle was consistently longer when compared to similar menstrual cycles without flax seed.
During the flax seed cycles luteal phase progesterone and estrogen ratios were significantly higher and the mid-follicular testosterone levels were a little higher too. This study concluded that:
"...our data suggest a significant specific role for lignans in the relationship between diet and sex steroid action, and possibly between diet and the risk of breast and other hormonally dependent cancers."
Flax seed may be exerting some of its beneficial effects though its action as an antioxidant. The lignans of flax seed are known to be powerful antioxidants protecting against DNA damage too - essential for preserving egg quality. Flax seed is also a rich source of omega-3 fats which exert a powerful anti-inflammatory effect throughout the body.
Research shows that it is probably not good to have too much flax seed during pregnancy, but when your trying to conceive a tablespoon or two a day may possibly be helpful.
Brown and golden flax seeds are nutritionally similar and can be purchased in most whole food stores in bulk - or prepackaged. They are most potent when ground fresh daily in a coffee grinder, this breaks the seeds open allowing their nutrients to be better absorbed and prevents rancidity which may develop in pre-ground, old flax seeds.
Ground flax seeds can be added to smoothies, stirred into yogurt or applesauce or sprinkled on salads. A word of caution, if you leave flax seeds sitting on - or in - your food too long they become gelatinous and thicken liquids.
This article is for purely informational and educational purposes and is not intended to substitute for medical diagnosis or dietetic advice.
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Effect of flax seed ingestion on the menstrual cycle. WR Phipps, MC Martini, JW Lampe, JL Slavin and MS Kurzer, Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology, University of Rochester, New York 14642.
Health effects with consumption of the flax lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside. Br J Nutr. 2010 Apr;103(7):929-38. Epub 2009 Dec 15. Adolphe JL et al.
Antioxidant activities of the flaxseed lignan secoisolariciresinol diglucoside, its aglycone secoisolariciresinol and the mammalian lignans enterodiol and enterolactone in vitro. Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Nov;45(11):2219-27. Epub 2007 Jun 2.