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Are There Foods That Work Like Female Hormones?

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD ; Updated August 14, 2017

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.

Soy Foods

Soy foods contain high amounts of phytoestrogens. The phytoestrogens in soy foods are known as isoflavonoids. The isoflavonoids are among the most studied of the phytoestrogens, with conflicting results. 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.

Seeds and Nuts

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. 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.

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Whole Grains

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. A whole grain food will list a whole grain as the first ingredient on the nutrition facts label.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables also contain high amounts of the female-like hormone lignan. They include prunes, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, broccoli, green beans, collards and 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."

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