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What are phytoestrogens?

Phytoestrogens are a type of plant chemical that have a similar structure to the hormone estrogen, however they are not identical in their effects. Two major types of phytoestrogens are isoflavones and lignans. Phytoestrogens occur naturally in legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds, and many vegetables and fruits

Do phytoestrogens raise estrogen levels?

Although phytoestrogens have a similar structure to estrogen, consuming phytoestrogens is not known to increase estrogen levels in the body. 

What foods are high in phytoestrogens?

Phytoestrogens can be found in many vegetables, seeds, fruits, grains, and legumes. Some examples of foods that are good sources of phytoestrogens include tofu, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, berries, lentils, apples, wheat, and oats.

Are there benefits to consuming phytoestrogens?

Many possible health benefits are discussed with phytoestrogens. It is thought that consuming phytoestrogens can help decrease some symptoms of menopause, including osteoporosis and hot flashes. Other possible benefits include decreased risk for chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and breast cancer. 

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Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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