Phytoestrogens | Marla Ahlgrimm

Marla AhlgrimmQ: What are phytoestrogens?

Marla Ahlgrimm: These are weak estrogens that occur naturally in plants. They are chemically similar to the estrogens found in a woman’s body. Phytoestrogens are considerably less potent than natural estrogens produced by the body.

Q: How do phytoestrogens affect the body?

Marla Ahlgrimm: There is very little definitive evidence that they have any major impact on the body. However, it’s accepted that plant estrogens may affect hot flashes, breast and heart health and bone strength. Phytoestrogens may be beneficial in helping to prevent heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol levels.

Q: Are there different types of phytoestrogens?

Marla Ahlgrimm: The term phytoestrogen is quite broad and actually refers to over one hundred distinct estrogens. There are five major classes which are usually considered when referring to phytoestrogens: Lignans, Isoflavones, Flavonones, Flavanols, and Flavones.

Q: Is a soy diet a sure way to prevent cancer?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Soy is considered an excellent source of phytoestrogens and has recently gained a reputation, both in natural and supplemental state, as a secret weapon on the side of health. The argument is that since women in Asian cultures consume a higher amount of soy per year and have lower rates of breast cancer, the two must be related. While the addition of soy to the diet probably isn’t going to hurt anything, it may or may not actually help.

Q: Is soy the only source of phytoestrogens?

Marla Ahlgrimm: No, soybeans are only one source, albeit a popular one. Onions, tomatoes, citrus, and apples are all nutrient rich foods that also contain phytoestrogens.

Q: What is the best way for a woman to add phytoestrogens to her diet?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Consuming soy is one of the easiest ways to add phytoestrogens since it’s widely available. Soy milk is an excellent alternative to dairy for many and can be used for both drinking and cooking.

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