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Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant-derived phytochemicals, whose common biological roles are to protect plants from stress or to act as part of a plant’s defense mechanism. Although composed of a wide group of nonsteroidal compounds of diverse structure, phytoestrogens have been shown to bind estrogen receptors and to behave as weak agonist/antagonist in both animals and humans.

Phytoestrogens include mainly isoflavones (IF), coumestans, and lignans. These compounds are known to be present in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains commonly consumed by humans. IF are found in legumes–mainly soybeans–whereas flaxseed is a major source of lignans, and coumestans are significantly present in clover, alfalfa and soybean sprouts.

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sprouts and bean shoots