Phytoestrogens are chemical compounds found in many plants like soy. Due to their estrogenic properties, phytoestrogens, specifically those in soy, have been a hot topic for many years. Are they good for you? Should you be eating them? What do they do to your body?

Here are five facts to break down what phytoestrogens really are and why they're far from scary.

1. Yes, Soy Contains Phytoestrogens

dairy product, cheese, milk, candy, tofu
Laura Palladino

Soy is a plant-based protein source that contains every amino acid your body can't make on its own. This makes it an excellent protein source for vegans and vegetarians. Soy does contain phytoestrogens — compounds that naturally occur in plants. There is a common assumption that the phytoestrogens in soy affect the body negatively because they are technically estrogen; however, this isn't exactly the case.

2. Phytoestrogens Aren’t Real Estrogen

legume, vegetable, pea, pasture, cereal, soy, mung bean, lentil
Emanuel Storch

Phytoestrogens aren't actually real estrogen (a hormone your body produces). They’re called phytoestrogens because the compounds play similar roles as estrogen does in the body. They are sometimes called dietary estrogen, because they come naturally from food. Phytoestrogens do not bind to estrogen receptors as firmly as actual estrogen produced by the body, so their effects may be weaker.

3. Phytoestrogens Can Be Beneficial

vegetable, stir-fry, tofu, pepper, meat
Katherine Baker

Phytoestrogens in soy can help your body in many positive ways such as:

Preventing bone loss: Estrogen deficiency after menopause can negatively affect bone density. Normal treatment is Hormone Replacement Therapy; however, phytoestrogens may be a natural remedy. A 2011 study found that phytoestrogens helped combat postmenopausal osteoporosis.

Treating acne: Many women get acne from an imbalance in hormones. Phytoestrogens may help clear up skin by rebalancing those out of wack hormones.

Preventing cancer: Some studies have found that the consumption of phytoestrogens may lower the risk of certain cancers.

4. Phytoestrogens Aren't Just in Soy

berry, pomegranate, cranberry, sweet, juice, vegetable
Dina Zaret

Believe it or not, phytoestrogens aren’t just found in soy. Here is a list of soy free foods that are abundant in phytoestrogens.

- Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, sunflower      seeds, sesame seeds)

- Fruits (apples, carrots, strawberries, cranberries, grapes,      pomegranates)

- Vegetables (yams, lentils, alfalfa sprouts, mung beans,        sprouts)

- Herbs (red clover, licorice root)

- Liquids (coffee, bourbon, beer, red wine, olive oil)

- Grains (barley, oats, wheat germ)

5. MYTH: Men Can't Eat Soy Because it Will Cause Them to Produce More Estrogen.

Spoon University

Despite the common belief that phytoestrogens will give men "feminine" traits, this is not true! There have been ideas that high intake of phytoestrogens may impair the fertility of men, however there is no strong evidence to suggest this. Additionally, multiple studies have found that the intake of soy and phytoestrogens does not affect testosterone levels at all.

Keep Eating that Tofu!

Phytoestrogens aren't bad for you. They are in a wide range of foods, not just soy, and have many benefits for the body. There are many myths and assumptions about how eating soy can negatively affect your hormone levels, but the majority of them are supported by little to no evidence. The golden rule is enjoy everything in moderation — including soy and phytoestrogens!