Nowadays, people are focussing on eating more plant-based food mainly because of the health benefits. It is a well-known fact that plant-based diets reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases as this has been proven right time and again by various surveys and scientific studies. Also, some food contains chemical compounds called phytochemicals that affect our body because they are like those produced by our body. Consuming them can be either good or bad, and this depends on various factors. The purpose of this article is to investigate the phytochemical phytoestrogens; read on to know more about it.
What Are Phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are compounds naturally found in plant-based food. When consumed, they affect a person in the same way as estrogen. It is found in a wide variety of food like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and some grains. But its amount is high in soybeans and soy-based food products. The term phytoestrogen has two parts; phyto means plant, and estrogen is the female hormone.
The hormone estrogen regulates the development of physical features in women during adolescence, and after that, it regulates the menstrual cycle up to menopause. The phytoestrogen found in plant-based food has similar effects; so, it is known as dietary estrogen.
How Does Phytoestrogen Work?
Phytoestrogen produces effects like estrogen because both have a similar chemical structure. So, when you ingest it through food, the estrogen receptors in the body bind to it as if it were the hormone produced by the body. This is disadvantageous as it disrupts the normal endocrine functions. However, these receptors do not bind to phytoestrogens with the same strength as they bind to estrogen, so the effect of the phytochemical is less pronounced.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Phytoestrogens?
Since phytoestrogens mimic the estrogen produced by our bodies, there are health benefits associated with it. For example, they can be used as a natural hormone replacement therapy to a limited extent; this is only useful when you use phytoestrogen supplements. Shared below are the main health benefits of phytoestrogens in your diet.
Relief From Hot Flashes
Women enter perimenopause in their late 40’s; it is the reproductive stage in their life where the body stops producing or the production of estrogen is significantly reduced. This causes different types of discomforts like hot flashes, decreased libido, and mood swings. A study has shown that phytoestrogens reduced hot flashes. Also, numerous studies have found positive effects of this phytochemical on perimenopausal symptoms. So, research is conducted to better understand the potential uses of phytoestrogen for women in their perimenopause.
Aging women are prone to developing osteoporosis because of the reduction or stoppage in estrogen production after menopause; estrogen helps to maintain bone health. This can be reduced to a limited extent with the help of phytoestrogen, as it is like the hormone produced by the body.
The estrogen levels might drop during certain times of the menstrual cycle, and this causes uncomfortable symptoms. Relief can be obtained from this if the hormone can be replaced. So, some women use phytoestrogen supplements as a natural remedy as it is like the estrogen produced by the body. Having said that, more research is required to better understand this so that it can be done safely.
Promoting Heart Health
A study conducted in 2016 has shown that phytoestrogens improved heart health and positively affected arteries in postmenopausal women. Besides, more research is conducted to better understand this effect.
Women get acne when there is a rise in the levels of male hormones-androgens. This can be combated using phytoestrogens because it is like estrogen; estrogen counters androgens. Also, this is supported by some research, and more studies are required to get a good understanding of this.
What Are The Risks And Side Effects Of Using Phytoestrogens?
Research has shown that the effects of phytoestrogens are like that of synthetic estrogen used in hormone replacement therapy. Because of this similarity, it poses some risks, and they are listed below:
- Reproductive issues
Also, an independent study has found that high amounts of soy products affected ovarian function in women.
Which Plant-Based Food Contains Phytoestrogen?
Listed below are the foods that contain phytoestrogens:
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds are high in phytoestrogens. So, women suffering from perimenopausal symptoms must consume them in their plant-based meal.
Fruits like apples, cranberries, pomegranates, strawberries, and grapes are rich in phytoestrogen.
Other Plant-Based Food
Yams, alfalfa sprouts, mung bean, lentils, and sprouts are good sources of phytoestrogens.
Herbs like red clover, hops, and licorice roots contain phytoestrogens.
Soybean and soy products like tofu, tempeh, miso paste, and miso soup are rich in phytoestrogens.
Grains like oats, wheat gram, and barley contain phytoestrogen, and because of this, it is good to include them in your plant-based meal.