hormone nutrition May 22, 2019

Menopause SUPERFOOD - Phytoestrogens


Phytoestrogens are compounds found in plants that have an estrogen-like effect in the body. They have a similar shape to oestradiol and have the ability to bind to and activate estrogen receptors. They are found in nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts), seeds (flaxseed/linseed, sesame, sunflower), legumes (chickpea, black beans, mung beans, lentils, red kidney beans, spilt beans) garlic, rice, coffee, sprouts (alfalfa), fruit (apples, pomegranates, grapes, berries) and vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, celery, carrots, sweet potato)


They can be further classified into isoflavones, stilbene, coumestan, and lignan.


Isoflavones are the most widely studied phytoestrogen and are mostly found in soy and legumes. There is a lot of talk about soy products; I personally do not recommend soy as most of it is genetically altered and highly-processed these days. Soy is also goitrogenic. Goitrogenic foods can reduce thyroid function. Reduced thyroid function is linked with worsening menopausal symptoms.


Resveratrol is found in grapes and peanuts is the most common stilbene containing phytoestrogen.


Coumestan containing foods include nuts, broccoli, cabbage, and spinach.


Flaxseed/linseeds is the highest source of lignans. Peanuts, fruits, berries, vegetables, tea, and coffee are other sources.


Dietary phytoestrogens need to be metabolised by your digestive bacteria.  Hence why it’s so important to have a healthy microbiome. Your microbiome is your collection of good bacteria or probiotics. Without them, you can not break down your food or utilise your phytoestrogens.


As phytoestrogens can bind to estrogen receptors they are useful in cases of estrogen dominance (as can be found in peri-menopause) as they are weaker than estradiol and can dilute the number of free receptors available to bind to actual estrogen molecules. They are also useful in cases of low estrogen levels (post-menopause) as they can bind to receptors and help increase the function of the available estrogen.


They can also reduce the risk of estrogen-related cancers as they inhibit the action of cytochrome P450. This enzyme converts androgens to estrogens. Elevated cytochrome P450 is associated with breast, adrenal and endometrial cancers. It’s a win-win scenario for all women.

Other benefits of phytoestrogens include:

  • Improving general health and longevity via its action of being an anti-oxidant
  • Reduce total and LDL cholesterol
  • Reduced elevated blood pressure
  • Reduce blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Assist in weight loss by reducing visceral fat, improving leptin levels, suppressing appetite
  • May improve bone density
  • Help maintain and improve cognitive function
  • Reduce aging of the skin
  • Improves immune response and can reduce symptoms of allergy


Also in this series:

Menopause Nutrition Basics - Part 1

Menopause Nutrition Basics - Part 2 - Macronutrients

Menopause Nutrition Basics - Part 3 - Drinks

Menopause Diet Checklist


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