Oestrogen is the most ancient of hormones - think Mother Earth - and as such is found in both the animal and plant kingdoms.
Oestrogens found in plants (phytoestrogens) can be used in our bodies but with much milder effects than the oestrogen that our bodies make. There are two types of these plant oestrogens: isoflavones and lignans. They are found in soybeans, seeds, wholegrains, legumes and many fruits and veggies.
So eating a plant based diet is an awesome way of providing your body with its own natural form of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)!
Eating flaxseed daily is recommended to both reduce breast cancer risk but also helps to minimise menstrual pain. The isoflavones in soy can have a positive effect on hot flushes!
These plant oestrogens work both ways, if you have too much oestrogen floating around they can help to reduce and stabilise it. If you have too little oestrogen they can fill in what is missing.
Asian women who eat a diet high in fermented soy and vegetables have a 25% reduced risk of breast cancer, compared to western women eating the standard western diet, high in dairy and animal proteins.
Japanese women have the longest life expectancy at an average of 90 years. The longest lived centurion women from the Okinawa Islands have incredibly low rates of cancer and osteoporosis despite consumption of little or no dairy.
Again their diet is made up of 80% vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and sweet potatoes. Similar to the Mediterranean diet (Blog #47) we looked at a couple of weeks ago.
The risk factors aligned with soy came from an old study that has been largely discredited and the soy scares in the US are from genetically modified and heavily processed soy.
Choose soy products that are organic and non-GMO, in their most natural state.
Personally I eat a little organic tofu and tempeh but otherwise make good use of the foods listed below.
Eating foods high in phytoestrogens, may minimise the risk of hormone driven cancers, menopause symptoms including hot flushes and weight gain and pre menstrual symptoms.
Note that these foods are also high in fibre and other health promoting nutrients.
Here are some examples of foods that are high in phytoestrogens.
- Soy Beans (edamame)*
- Organic Tofu
- Miso Paste
- Miso soup
- Soy milk
- Dried Apricots
- Winter Squash
- Green beans
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Olive oil
- Sweet potatoes
- Mung beans
- Flaxseed (Linseed)* - in it's ground form
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Flaxseed crackers
- Soy and linseed bread
- Green tea
- Black tea
*Food with some of the highest phytoestrogens
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