Estrogen is a hormone essential for the development of secondary sexual characteristics in women and controling the menstrual cycle. Estrogen is also involved in numerous processes in both genders, such as bone growth. The amount of estrogen found in plants is insignificant, but many plants contain chemicals that are structurally similar to estrogen, called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens behave like estrogen in the body, but are not as powerful. According to the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the consumption of phytoestrogens may have beneficial health effects. Phytoestrogens occur in many plant foods, including vegetables and fruits. Canadian scientists found certain ones particularly rich in phytoestrogens.
Soybean sprouts have very high levels of coumestans. Coumestans are a class of phytoestrogens that are considered the most potent.
Garlic contains compounds that are turned into lignans in the digestive tract. Lignans are phytoestrogens that also have antioxidant properties.
Green beens are a source of phytoestrogens of the lignan and isoflavone families. Although lignans occur in a number of fruits and vegetabls, isoflavones are found mostly in legumes. Both these phytoestrogens have antioxidant properties.
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Winter squash, such as butternut squash, acorn squash and pumpkins, are another source of lignans, as are cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and collard greens. All these vegetables provide significant amounts of phytoestrogens.
Dried prunes, peaches, strawberries and raspberries are all good sources of lignans.
- “Endocrinology: An Integrated Approach” Stephan Nussey and Saffron A. Whitehead; 2001
- “Folia Histochemica Et Cytobiologica”; Mammalian sex hormones in plants; Anna Janeczko and Andrzej Skoczowski; 2005
- “Environmental Health Perspectives”; Phytoestrogens. Friends or Foes; J. Barrett; May 1996
- “Nutrition and Cancer”; Phytoestrogen content of foods consumed in Canada, including isoflavones, lignans and coumestan.; L. U. Thompson, B. A. Boucher, Z. Liu, M. Cotterchio, and N. Kreiger; 2006
Cathryn Chaney has worked as a gardening writer since 2002. Her horticultural experience working in the nursery industry informs her garden articles, especially those dealing with arid landscaping and drought-tolerant gardening. Chaney also writes poetry, which has appears in "Woman's World" magazine and elsewhere. Chaney graduated from the University of Arizona in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.