The principal phyto-oestrogens (PO) in food are isoflavones, lignans, coumestans and prenylated flavonoids, with isoflavones and lignans being the most commonly found in UK diets. Until recently obtaining accurate data on the PO content of foods was hampered by lack of suitable analytical methods and validation techniques. Furthermore, although PO data exist for some foods, these foods may not be available in the UK. The aim of the present study was to construct a new, comprehensive isoflavone (total genistein + daidzein) database. Using data, mainly from recent GC–MS analysis, for approximately 300 foods available in the UK, and extensive recipe calculations, a new database was constructed containing approximately 6000 foods allocated an isoflavone value. By analysing 7d weighed food diaries, the database was subsequently used to estimate isoflavone intake in two groups of healthy volunteers, omnivores (n 9) and vegetarians (n 10). Mean isoflavone intake in the vegetarian and omnivorous group was 7·4 (sem 3·05) and 1·2 (sem 0·43) mg/d, respectively. Mean intake for the total group was 4·5 (sem 1·89) mg/d. Main food sources of isoflavones for the vegetarian group were soya milk (plain), meat-substitute foods containing textured vegetable protein and soya protein isolate, soya mince, wholemeal bread and rolls, white bread and rolls, croissants and pitta breads, beans, raisins and soya sauce. Main food sources of isoflavones for the omnivorous group were soya yogurts, wholemeal bread and rolls, white bread and rolls, garlic bread, nan bread and brown bread, sultanas and scones.