What are isoflavones and what are they for?

The estrogen are considered as steroid sex hormones, especially female, which are mainly produced not only by the ovaries but also by the adrenal glands. Man also possesses estrogen (just like progesterone) but in a smaller amount.

They are mainly responsible for development of secondary sexual characteristics of women, as for example is the case of the growth of the breasts, the appearance of menstruation and the widening of the hips.

Therefore, they tend to appear in greater quantity during puberty, when their production rises, and the maturation of the uterus, the fallopian tubes, the endometrium and the vagina is stimulated. Then, its level remains certainly stable until the arrival of the menopause, just when a significant decrease occurs.

While estrogens are endogenous hormones (that is, they are produced by our own organism), we can also find other hormones with more or less similar action on the human body, but which are present in certain foods of plant origin.

They are known as phytoestrogens, which basically consist of chemical compounds present in some foods of plant origin, which as we indicated tend to exert an action in our organism quite similar to human estrogens. But we must take into account something fundamental: The effects of isoflavones are less than those of estrogen.

What are isoflavones?

Isoflavones are plant substances that act in the body as endogenous estrogens do (that is, those produced by the body itself). We find them mostly in soy, which is why they are popularly known simply as soy isoflavones, since in fact it is the main food source.

They consist of a set of compounds found especially in soybeans. Within the family of isoflavones we can distinguish genistein, glycitein and daidzein. In fact, 100 grams of soy contribute around 300 mg. of isoflavones, while other legumes tend to provide only 5 to 10 mg.

However, unlike what is thought, the isoflavones consumed from fermented soybeans (such as tempeh, soy sauce or tamari) are much better, given that their absorption is much better.

What are the main functions of isoflavones

Isoflavones have a double activity. On the one hand, they act as estrogenic. While, on the other hand, they also have the ability to act as antiestrogenics, which is why it gives isoflavones a series of unique qualities to regulate the hormonal balance of women depending on the time they are in.

So, for example, we can summarize its main functions below:

  • Reduce the symptoms of menopause: specifically, it helps to combat and reduce the most common and typical climacteric symptoms, such as hot flashes, excessive sweating, headaches, irritability and emotional instability, insomnia, anxiety and nervousness. Why? Fundamentally because isoflavones tend to compensate the decrease in estrogen that usually occurs during this stage.
  • Prevents cardiovascular diseases: by helping to reduce LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. As you surely know, after the arrival of menopause there is a greater risk of cardiovascular problems.
  • Improves calcium absorption: thanks to the presence of saponins, useful to maintain adequate bone density, so it helps in the prevention of osteoporosis.
  • Improve defenses: By producing greater activity of both white blood cells and macrophages, isoflavones improve the immune system in general.

Despite all these qualities, we must take into account that in people who do not need estrogen, or in those who consume it in an exaggerated way, can produce autoimmune thyroiditis or goiter, so that It is advised to consult with a specialist before choosing to consume isoflavones on our behalf. This article is published for informational purposes only. You can not and should not replace the consultation with a Nutritionist. We advise you to consult your trusted Nutritionist.

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