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Estrogen is a female sex hormone responsible for female fertility. It also helps to promote bone formation. Some foods contain a hormone called phyotestrogen, a weaker form of the female hormone. Phytoestrogens in food can mimic the effects of estrogen and may help to prevent cancer and osteoporosis, and may also be a form of treatment for menopausal symptoms, according to the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities 2.
Soy foods contain high amounts of phytoestrogens 12. The phytoestrogens in soy foods are known as isoflavonoids 12. The isoflavonoids are among the most studied of the phytoestrogens, with conflicting results 2. According to Cornell University, some studies have linked high intakes of soy with a reduction in breast cancer risk, while other studies have shown no benefit. No single study has reliably demonstrated that high intakes of soy increases your risk of breast cancer. The Center for Bioenvironmental Research says high intakes of soy can protect against other cancers, such as prostate and ovarian cancer, and decrease tumor growth. Soy foods that mimic the female hormone include tofu, edamame, soy beans, soy nuts and soy milk.
- Soy foods contain high amounts of phytoestrogens 1.
- According to Cornell University, some studies have linked high intakes of soy with a reduction in breast cancer risk, while other studies have shown no benefit.
Seeds and Nuts
Foods That Act Like Estrogen
Nuts and seeds also provide substances that work like female hormones. The phytoestrogen in most nuts and seeds is called lignan. Lignan has both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects, meaning they can act like estrogen and bond to estrogen receptors in the cell or can block estrogen from bonding to the cell. High intakes of lignans may protect you against cardiovascular disease, according to the Linus Pauling Institute 3. In addition, women with high intakes of lignans have lower rates of endometrial cancer. Nuts and seeds that contain the female-like hormone include flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and chestnuts.
- Nuts and seeds also provide substances that work like female hormones.
- High intakes of lignans may protect you against cardiovascular disease, according to the Linus Pauling Institute 3.
Whole grains also contain high amounts of the hormone that acts like estrogen, primarily the phytoestrogen lignan. Examples include whole wheat, barley, oats and rye. Increase your intake of phytoestrogens by choosing whole grain foods such as whole wheat bread and whole wheat cereals 2. A whole grain food will list a whole grain as the first ingredient on the nutrition facts label.
- Whole grains also contain high amounts of the hormone that acts like estrogen, primarily the phytoestrogen lignan.
- Increase your intake of phytoestrogens by choosing whole grain foods such as whole wheat bread and whole wheat cereals 2.
Fruits and Vegetables
What Foods Contain Estrogen Hormones?
Fruits and vegetables also contain high amounts of the female-like hormone lignan. They include:
- green beans
- winter squash
Some sprouts, including alfalfa and clover sprouts, also contain high amounts of phytoestrogen in the form of coumestans. Coumestans may be able to inhibit the replication of the Hepatitis C virus, according to a 2007 study published in "Oxford Journals."
Foods That Act Like Estrogen
What Foods Contain Estrogen Hormones?
Foods That Reduce the Production of the Androgen Hormones
Foods for Ovarian Cancer
Which Foods Are High in Natural Estrogen?
Soy Estrogen and Weight Gain
What Is the Effect of Phytoestrogen on Breasts
Soy Milk and Birth Control
Wheat Germ & Estrogen
The Health Benefits of Fo-Ti
- Dietary Fiber Foods: Phytoestrogen and Its Food Sources
- E.Hormone: Phytoestrogens
- Linus Pauling Institute: Lignans
- Zhang GQ, Chen JL, Liu Q, et al. Soy Intake Is Associated With Lower Endometrial Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 Dec;94(50):e2281. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000002281.
- Tse G, Eslick D. Soy and isoflavone consumption and risk of gastrointestinal cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Nutr. 2016 Feb;55(1):63-73. doi: 10.1007/s00394-014-0824-7
- Anderson JW, Bush HM. Soy protein effects on serum lipoproteins: a quality assessment and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled studies. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2011 Apr;30(2):79-91.
- Greendale GA, Tseng CH, Han W, et al. Dietary Isoflavones and Bone Mineral Density during Mid-Life and the Menopause Transition: Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Results from the SWAN Phytoestrogen Study. Menopause. 2015 Mar;22(3):279-88. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000000305
- Rietjens IMCM, Louisse J, Beekmann K. The potential health effects of dietary phytoestrogens. Bri J Pharmacol. 2017 Jun;174(11):1263-80. doi:10.1111/bph.13622
- Terzic M, Micic J, Dotlic J, et al. Impact of Phytoestrogens on Serum Lipids in Postmenopausal Women. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 2012 Jun;72(6):527-31. doi:10.1055/s-0031-1298624
- Wei P, Liu M, Chen Y, Chen DC. Systematic review of soy isoflavone supplements on osteoporosis in women. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2012 Mar;5(3):243-8. doi:10.1016/S1995-7645(12)60033-9
- Yu Y, Jing X, Li H, et al. Soy isoflavone consumption and colorectal cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sci Rep. 2016;6:25939. doi:10.1038/srep25939
- Ziaei S, Halaby R. Dietary Isoflavones and Breast Cancer Risk. Medicines (Basel). 2017 Jun;4(2):18. doi:10.3390/medicines4020018
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.