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Does broccoli clear estrogen?

Broccoli is a nutritious vegetable that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals like sulforaphane. Some claim that broccoli can help “clear” excess estrogen from the body, but does the science support this? In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at broccoli and estrogen.

What is broccoli?

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that is closely related to cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage. It has a green stalk and florets that are arranged in a tree-like shape. Some key facts about broccoli:

– Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. italica
– Part of the cabbage family known as cruciferous vegetables
– High in vitamins C, K and folate
– Good source of fiber, potassium, manganese and antioxidants like sulforaphane

Broccoli has become popular in recent years due to its impressive nutrient profile. It packs a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants into a low calorie package.

What are phytoestrogens?

Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that are structurally similar to the hormone estrogen. When consumed, they can mimic some of the effects of estrogen in the body by weakly binding to estrogen receptors. The two main classes of phytoestrogens are:

– Isoflavones – found in soy, beans, lentils, clover
– Lignans – found in flaxseeds, whole grains, legumes, fruits, veggies

Many plants contain phytoestrogens, but soy products like tofu, tempeh and edamame tend to be the richest sources. Broccoli contains small amounts of lignans.

Do phytoestrogens act like estrogen in the body?

The relationship between phytoestrogens and estrogen activity in humans is complex. On one hand, phytoestrogens weakly mimic some of the effects of estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors. However, they can also act as anti-estrogens by inhibiting the activity of stronger estrogens like estradiol.

The effects of phytoestrogens can depend on the current levels of estrogen in the body. When estrogen levels are high, phytoestrogens may mildly suppress estrogen effects. When estrogen levels are low, they may weakly augment estrogen effects.

In summary, phytoestrogens have a complex and nuanced relationship with estrogen activity in the human body. Their effects depend on dosage as well as a person’s natural hormone levels.

Does broccoli contain phytoestrogens?

Yes, broccoli contains small amounts of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen. The main lignans found in broccoli include:

  • Pinoresinol
  • Lariciresinol
  • Secoisolariciresinol

However, broccoli contains far lower amounts of lignans than flaxseeds, sesame seeds and legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans. One cup of cooked broccoli contains approximately 0.4-1 mg of lignans. For comparison, 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds contains around 85 mg of lignans.

So while broccoli does supply phytoestrogens, it is not considered a major source compared to some other foods.

Can broccoli help “clear” excess estrogen?

Some websites claim that eating broccoli can help rid the body of excess estrogen. But the evidence for this is weak and speculative. Here is a critical look at some of the proposed mechanisms:


Broccoli contains a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) that is produced when it’s cut or chewed. I3C may support estrogen metabolism by:

– Promoting production of 2-OH estrogen metabolites, which are considered less potent forms of estrogen.

– Increasing 2-OH estrogen excretion in urine.

However, studies on I3C have used supplements in very high doses. It’s unknown if normal dietary intake of broccoli would provide enough I3C for these effects.

Calcium d-glucarate

This compound is also formed when broccoli is crushed. In theory, it may help the body eliminate excess estrogen. But evidence is currently lacking to confirm this effect from dietary broccoli intake.


As phytoestrogens, broccoli’s lignans could weakly bind to estrogen receptors, potentially having an anti-estrogenic effect at high levels of estrogen exposure. However, broccoli is not a major source of lignans compared to flaxseeds and sesame seeds.


Broccoli is rich in this antioxidant compound. In lab studies, sulforaphane may limit an enzyme involved in estrogen activity and metabolism. However, human evidence is lacking.

Overall, some compounds in broccoli may help support estrogen balance, but evidence is preliminary and weak. It’s unlikely that standard dietary intake of broccoli significantly “clears” excess estrogen as some websites claim. More rigorous studies are needed.

Should you eat broccoli for hormone balance?

Despite the lack of clear evidence, including broccoli as part of an overall healthy, phytoestrogen-rich diet still seems sensible for women looking to optimize hormone health. Other steps that may support estrogen metabolism include:

– Eating plenty of fiber to promote healthy elimination
– Staying active and exercising regularly
– Maintaining a healthy body weight
– Avoiding alcohol and smoking
– Reducing exposure to pesticides and plastics that may disrupt hormones
– Managing stress levels

Broccoli and other veggies provide great nutrition not found in supplements. Prioritizing a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant proteins supports overall women’s health.

Key takeaways

– Broccoli contains some phytoestrogens (lignans) but is not a major source compared to flaxseeds, sesame seeds and soy.
– Evidence is lacking to confirm that broccoli specifically helps “clear” excess estrogen from the body. Some compounds like I3C and calcium d-glucarate may help, but studies use very high supplemental doses.
– Including broccoli as part of a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant proteins supports overall hormone health in women. But hormone balance involves many factors beyond just diet.


Broccoli is a healthy vegetable that provides great nutrition for women looking to maintain hormone balance. However, evidence does not confirm that broccoli has special estrogen clearing effects as some claim. While adding more broccoli to your diet certainly has health benefits, it’s likely not a magic bullet for excess estrogen on its own. As always, speak to a healthcare professional for personalized advice about diet, supplements and hormone health.