Foods rich in Phytoestrogens (and their health benefits)

There are some foods of plant origin, such as nuts, oilseeds or soy products, which contain compounds very similar to human estrogens and, therefore, perform a similar function. These compounds are compounds are known as phytoestrogens.

Some examples of phytoestrogens in food include isoflavones, flavones, terpenoids, quercetins, resveratrol and lignins.

The consumption of this type of food can have several health benefits, especially during menopause or in women who suffer from premenstrual tension, popularly known as PMS.

The main benefits of including this type of food in the diet are:

1. Reduces symptoms of menopause and PMS

Phytoestrogens help relieve menopausal symptoms, especially night sweats and hot flashes. In addition, they also allow better control of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, as they regulate and balance the levels of estrogen in the body.

2. Maintains bone health

Estrogen deficiency increases the risk of suffering from osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women. This is because estrogens are primarily responsible for counteracting the action of other hormones that promote bone resorption, in addition to preventing calcium loss, which keeps bones strong and healthy.

Thus, eating foods rich in phytoestrogens can be a good strategy to try to keep estrogen levels better regulated, preventing osteoporosis.

3. Prevents cardiovascular disease

Phytoestrogens also help to prevent cardiovascular diseases, since they improve the concentration of lipids in the blood, reduce the formation of clots, improve blood pressure and have antioxidant action.

Some studies suggest that isoflavones are the main responsible for the antioxidant action, decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL), preventing its accumulation in the arteries and thus decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis.

4. Avoid memory problems

Memory is usually affected after menopause, due to decreased levels of estrogens in the woman’s body. Thus, some studies indicate that the consumption of phytoestrogens can help to treat the lack of memory, if it is related to the decrease of estrogens, besides appearing to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

5. Prevents cancer

Phytoestrogens, especially lignans, have potential anti-cancer activity as they have strong antioxidant action that helps to decrease inflammation and protect the body’s cells from the effect of free radicals. Thus, this type of phytoestrogen has been linked, in certain studies, to a reduced risk of cancer of the breast, uterus and prostate.

Lignans can be found in foods such as flaxseeds, soybeans, nuts and seeds. It is recommended to consume 1 spoonful of flaxseed per day to obtain this type of effect, which can be added to yogurts, vitamins, salads or on fruits.

6. Prevents diabetes and obesity

Phytoestrogens have an effect on the production of insulin, helping to keep it regulated and facilitating the control of blood sugar levels, which can therefore prevent the onset of diabetes.

In addition, some studies suggest that phytoestrogens can also modulate adipose tissue, favoring its reduction and preventing obesity.

Composition of phytoestrogens in food

The following table shows the amount of phytoestrogens per 100 grams of food:

Food (100g) Amount of phytoestrogens (μg) Food (100g) Amount of phytoestrogens (μg)
Flax seeds 379380 Broccoli 94
Soya beans 103920 Cabbage 80
Tofu 27151 Peach 65
Soy yogurt 10275 Red wine 54
Sesame seeds 8008 Strawberry 52
Flaxseed bread 7540 Raspberry 48
Multicereal bread 4799 Lentils 37
Soy milk 2958 Peanut 34,5
Humus 993 Onion 32
Garlic 604 Mirtilos 17,5
Alfalfa 442 Green tea 13
Pistachio 383 White wine 12,7
Sunflower seeds 216 Corn 9
Prune 184 Black tea 8,9
Olive oil 181 Café 6,3
Almond 131 Watermelon 2,9
Cashew nut 122 Beer 2,7
Hazelnut 108 Cow milk 1,2
Pea 106    

Other foods

In addition to soy and flaxseed, other foods that are also sources of phytoestrogens are:

  • Fruits: apple, pomegranates, strawberry, cranberries, grapes;
  • Vegetables: carrot, yam;
  • Grains: oats, barley, wheat germ;
  • Oils: sunflower oil, soy oil, almond oil.

In addition, many industrialized foods such as cookies, pasta, breads and cakes also contain soy derivatives, such as oil or soy extract in their composition.

Consumption of phytoestrogens in men

There is no solid scientific evidence associated with the ingestion of phytoestrogens in men and infertility problems, altered testosterone levels or decreased semen quality, however, further studies are needed.

Leave a Comment