Phytoestrogens, substances found in plants, can have estrogen-like properties. Because these substances attach to your cells’ receptor sites for estrogen, they have a weak estrogen effect. Consuming phytoestrogens may help to reduce cancer risk and decrease symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes. Numerous types of foods contain phytoestrogens, most notably soybeans and other legumes. Consult your physician for specific food recommendations.
Soybeans contain a high concentration of isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen. Soybeans have one of the highest amounts of phytoestrogens, containing 103,920 international units per 100 grams. This means that any product made with soy, including tofu, soymilk or some meat alternatives are high in phytoestrogens. Other legumes that are high in phytoestrogens include hummus, chickpeas, green beans, mung bean sprouts, kudzu root, red clover blossom, red clover sprout and alfalfa sprouts.
Grains, Seeds and Nuts
Whole grains are high in phytoestrogens, such as rye, oats, barley, millet, rice, wheat and corn. Flax seeds contain the highest amount of phytoestrogen of any foods, with 379,380 international units in 100 grams. Sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are also a good source of phytoestrogens. Quinoa, a type of seed, is high in phytoestrogens. Many nuts have phytoestrogens as well, including chestnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, walnuts and hazelnuts.
Fruits and Vegetables
Some fruits and vegetables contain phytoestrogens. Dried apricots, dried dates and dried prunes have the highest amount of phytoestrogens of the fruits. Other fruits that have phytoestrogens are peaches, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Watermelon has a small amount of phytoestrogen as well. Soybean sprouts and garlic have a high amount of phytoestrogen compared to other vegetables. Winter squash, broccoli, green beans, collards, cabbage and onions are also sources of phytoestrogen. Other fruits and vegetables also contain phytoestrogens in smaller amounts.
Phytoestrogens are also found in various herbs. According to the NYU Langone Medical Center, the herbs with the highest amount of phytoestrogens are alfalfa, hops, licorice , thyme and verbena. Other herbs claim to have phytoestrogens but do not actually have it. Black beans and black licorice are very high in phytoestrogens. Some beverages also contain a small amount of phytoestrogens, including wine, coffee, tea and beer. Olive oil is a good source of phytoestrogens as well.
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Phytoestrogens
- Polycystic Kidney Disease Diet: Phytoestrogen and Its Food Sources
- Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry: Evaluation of the Estrogenic Effects of Legume Extracts Containing Phytoestrogens
- Feminist Women’s Health Center: Phytoestrogens - Friends or Foes?
Ireland Wolfe has been writing professionally since 2009, contributing to Toonari Post, Africana Online and Winzer Insurance. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Master of Arts in mental health counseling. She is also a licensed mental health counselor, registered nutritionist and yoga teacher.