Phytoestrogen foods: Good or bad?

Phytoestrogen foods are source of everlasting debate. Some say that compounds such as isoflavonoids and lignans have beneficial effect on our health, while others preach about their hazardous effect.

The truth is, they have numerous benefits, if they aren't genetically modified. For instance, soy is the most popular source of these estrogen mimicking compounds.

Although there is nothing wrong with regular soy, the problem is that 80 % of soy crops on the market today are genetically modified.

For instance, natural progesterone cream is much safer then syntetic progestin. Same rule applies for natural phytoestrogen foods, when compared to genetically modified crops.


Although GM soy is present in many proccessed foods these days, there are many other safer choices, when it comes to phytoestrogen rich foods and herbs. They are:

  • Alfalfa
  • Beans and Lentils
  • Pomegranates
  • Ginseng
  • Flaxseeds, Sunflower seeds, Sesame seeds
  • Barley, Oats and Brown Rice
  • Kudzu root and Red Clover
  • Licorice
  • Hops
  • Spices such as Fennel, Fenugreek and Anise
  • Peanuts

Phytoestrogens are also found in numerous other herbs, fruits, vegetables and nuts. However, foods listed here are the richest source of phytoestrogens.


When consumed in healthy amounts, phytoestrogen foods can offer numerous benefits:

  • Reduce the risk of hormonal cancer, by occupying estrogen receptors thereby blocking xenoestrogens and estradiol. 
  • Stimulate hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, by acting as natural SERMs or selective estrogen receptor modulators.
  • Raise good HDL cholesterol and lower total cholesterol.
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, brain disorders and heart attack. 
  • Improve bone density and lower the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Alleviate the symptoms of menopause.
  • Slow down the aging process, prevent photo-aging in human skin and promote formation of hyaluronic acid.

There have been many scientific studies done on phytoestrogens. Despite many researchers pointing out on potential benefits, they still warn about possible side effects.


Phytoestrogens may cause side effects, if they are consumed in high quantities or by people which are very sensitive to 'estrogen like compounds'. Potential side effects may include:

  • They could have negative effect on testosterone production and male libido.
  • Cause gynecomastia in men.
  • Impair thyroid function and trigger hypothyroidism.
  • Increase the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
  • Stomach and gastrointestinal problems.
  • Allergies.
  • Reduced absorption of minerals.

NOTE: Most of these side effects can also be caused by eating genetically modified soy. Natural phytoestrogens in food will rarely lead to these kind of problems.


At the end of the day, phytoestrogen intake is different from person to person. Most people find these kind of foods very helpful, while others don't respond to them at all or they find them counter-productive, in some cases. 

So, try it and see how it goes. If phytoestrogen foods have positive effect, great. If not, try to avoid them or reduce the amount of phytoestrogens in your diet.

The only thing I would advise you, is to stay away from genetically modified soy. The rest is up to you.

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