Are you experiencing the fluctuating hormone symptoms of the perimenopause?
Did you know that there are plant oestrogens called ‘phytoestrogens’ which can help to limit hormone changes which contribute to symptoms such as hot flushes?
How do Phytoestrogens help?
Phytoestrogens are plant synthesised compounds which act to imitate oestrogen in the body. They are a weaker form of oestrogen, which attach to oestrogen receptors, producing a balancing effect; aiding in raising oestrogen levels when they are low, and reducing levels when they are high. This makes them very helpful during perimenopause and menopause when women experience changes to their hormones. Studies have shown consumption of phytoestrogens to improve symptoms of hot flashes and may lower the risk of osteoporosis and lower cholesterol.
Phytoestrogens are characterised into three groups: isoflavones, coumestans, and lignans. These phytoestrogens must be synthesised in the gut to form their active substances, so having healthy digestive system and microbiome is important to benefit from their hormone supporting properties.
Phytoestrogens are found in many plant foods and including everyday store cupboard essentials, which make them easy to incorporate into your diet.
Top Phytoestrogen foods to include:
These small seeds certainly pack a punch where hormone support is concerned. Ground linseeds contain potent phytoestrogens called Lignans.
A small number of studies have demonstrated improvements to peri-menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness with daily consumption of 40g ground flaxseed.
It is best to grind flax seeds only when you need them, in order to keep them fresh and preserve their seed oils. Flaxseeds are also an excellent source of Omega 3-fatty acids, antioxidants, and protein. You can grind them and keep in the fridge, use up within 3 days. Linseeds can easily be added to smoothies, salads, soups and in baking.
Soya products such as tempeh, tofu, miso and, raw soya beans, edamame, contain high levels of isoflavones. Studies on soya isoflavones have demonstrated promising use for supporting the reduction of menopausal symptoms, like hot flushes and night sweats.
Isoflavones break down into four other compounds: genistein, daidzein, biochanin A, and formononetin. These compounds are activated in the gut, so a healthy gut microbiome is essential to reap their benefits. Also ensure you opt for high quality organic non-GMO soya products to protect against pesticide residues such as glyphosate.
Fibre and protein rich chickpeas are also an excellent source of isoflavones, they contain all four of the active phytoestrogen compounds; genistein, daidzein, biochanin A and formononetin. Chickpeas are a delicious addition to curries, soups, stews, salads and they also make the ultimate dip, hummus!
Lentils and red kidney beans are other legumes with high levels of isoflavones
Sesame seeds are excellent sources of lignans. This versatile nutty seed can be sprinkled on soups, salads and used in baking or crushed to make tahini and added to sweet and savoury recipes. Sesame seeds are also an excellent source of iron, fibre, protein, Magnesium, B Vitamins, healthy fatty acids, and Vitamin E.
Dried fruits, in particular, dried prunes, apricots, and dates contain higher levels of phytoestrogens than their fresh varieties. For example, dried apricots are incredibly rich in phytoestrogens, supplying a generous 445.5 micrograms per 100 grams.
Dried foods make great additions to baking or a sweet snack treat.
Grains such as rice, oats, barley, rice bran, rye, and wheat bran all contain beneficial amounts of phytoestrogen lignans. There is a limited amount of research on the effects of grains on oestrogen, but studies suggest they may have a balancing effect on oestrogen levels in women.
These sprouted seeds are high in coumestans. So are the cruciferous veggies brussels sprouts and cabbage.
A diet rich in plant foods is incredibly beneficial and it is recommended that phytoestrogens are consumed in whole food form and not supplementally, as these isolated compounds may have negative effects. It is also advised that those suffering with oestrogenic cancers to seek medical advice from your healthcare provider before increasing levels of phytoestrogens in your diet.
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