Tofu may seem to like a healthier alternative to meat, but did you know that it’s a hormone disruptor? This food fact is no myth: according to the Emory University School of Medicine, phytoestrogens naturally occur in soy, grains like wheat and alfalfa, citrus fruits, licorice, fennel, and celery.
So what are phytoestrogens? They’re plant hormones that can mimic naturally occurring hormones in our body and “may disrupt the production of hormones or hormone receptors and alter the chemical message sent by hormones,” says Emory University. While some studies have shown potential positive benefits (like lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and menopause symptoms) the British Journal of Pharmocology recently concluded that “the current evidence on these beneficial health effects is not so obvious that they clearly outweigh the possible health risks.”
Although experts and dietitians aren’t suggesting that we steer completely clear of soy products (everything in moderation, right?), University Health News says that women with a history of hormonal-driven cancers and health issues may want to avoid foods with phytoestrogens, like flax seeds and tofu.
That’s why many people with food sensitivities or genetic health issues turn to a paleo diet, which focuses on meats, fish, nuts, veggies, seeds, and leafy greens. Those thinking about going paleo are often worried that the diet will starve their tastebuds — but as Mixed Makeup Wellness host and paleo chef Mary Shenouda explains, all you need are a few simple food swaps.
In addition to swapping soy sauce with coconut amino acids (which is free of hormone disruptors), Shenouda suggests subbing peanut butter for sun butter. Foodies with nut allergies can still enjoy their own version of PB&J without the hives and other side effects.
Watch the full video below for more of Shenouda’s top paleo food swaps!