Isoflavones are phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring compounds found in plants that potentially have strong biological activity (and, therefore, a physiological effect) in the body. They may help lower the risk for various diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Similar in chemical structure to estrogen, isoflavones are, in fact, weak estrogens, and may have an effect similar to estrogens on the body. Nonestrogenic effects of isoflavones include reduction of cholesterol levels and inhibition of cancer-cell growth. Food sources include soy products such as soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and miso, but not soy sauce or soybean oil. Isoflavones may or may not be found in soy protein, depending on the processing method.

Susan Mitchel