Top Foods High in Estrogen

Estrogen is an important naturally-occurring hormone. It’s key to women’s sexual and reproductive development. It may support heart-healthy and anti-cancer effects for women and men. Estrogen levels are higher in women, but the evidence is that good levels are also important for men’s health. Research shows estrogen may support bone health, mood regulation, and a lower cancer risk in both genders.

Phytoestrogens are a form of dietary estrogen we get from food. Research is ongoing into the effects of these plant-based nutrients. Studies indicate they can mimic or enhance the natural hormone’s health benefits. 

While most research points to positive effects, in some cases phytoestrogens can block or disrupt estrogen in your body. It’s important to talk to your doctor about managing your hormone levels with your diet. 

Why You Need Estrogen

Estrogen’s main function is to control reproductive changes in women, but it serves other roles in both male and female bodies, including:

Our estrogen levels can change for many reasons. For some, managing these effects may require treatment such as hormone replacement therapy

The phytoestrogens in foods may help support estrogen’s natural functions. Research shows these nutrients are linked to several health benefits, including:

Menopausal Relief in Women

Women’s estrogen levels decrease with age, causing changes in the body referred to as menopause. Studies show that phytoestrogens can help relieve some of menopause’s physical symptoms, like the frequency of hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Improved Bone Health

Estrogens help maintain healthy bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis in both men and women. Studies show that phytoestrogens from food may support this effect, improving long-term bone health.  

May Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Studies show phytonutrients may help manage cholesterol. Maintaining good cholesterol levels keeps your arteries free from fatty build-up, reducing the risk of heart problems and stroke.

May Reduce the Risk of Cancers

According to research, higher estrogen and phytoestrogen levels are associated with lower rates of breast cancer. Phytoestrogens have also been shown to kill prostate cancer cells, an effect scientists continue to study for the nutrients’ use in cancer prevention or management.  

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Foods With Estrogen

Many types of food-based phytoestrogens are studied for their potential health benefits. These include:

Each of these phytoestrogens has antioxidant properties. This means that in addition to the nutrients’ potential health benefits, they fight cell damage in our bodies linked to a wide range of chronic diseases

The best dietary sources of phytoestrogens include:

1.  Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are the richest dietary source of lignans (polyphenols found in plants). Researchers believe they lower breast cancer risk. You can sprinkle flaxseeds on many dishes, bake them into bread and cookies, or blend them into smoothies and spreads. 

2.  Soy

Soy contains high levels of isoflavones, phytoestrogens that may mimic estrogen’s effects and reduce the risk of both breast and prostate cancer. Soy is also rich in a range of essential vitamins and minerals. It can support heart health as an alternative to red and processed meats. It’s also extremely versatile — you can include soy in your diet with foods like tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soymilk.  

3.  Peaches 

Because of their high lignan content, studies show that eating two servings of peaches or nectarines a week reduces a woman’s breast cancer risk. Researchers find similar effects from consuming blueberries and strawberries

4.  Garlic

Regular garlic consumption can help lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and prevent clots — all heart disease risk factors. Research shows garlic can influence estrogen levels in the body, perhaps helping reduce age-related bone loss. But more research is needed to study this effect. 

5. Red Wine

Red wine is rich in resveratrol, a phytoestrogen researchers believe reduces heart disease risk by regulating cholesterol levels. Another study found that phytoestrogens in red wine may stop cancer cell growth, particularly among postmenopausal women. 

6. Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are easy to add to almost any meal — and they may help improve your cholesterol levels. Studies show they affect estrogen levels, with potent antioxidant activity fighting chronic disease risk factors. 

7. Cruciferous Vegetables

Vegetables like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and kale contain phytoestrogens with anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Diets rich in cruciferous vegetables are also associated with lower risk of many chronic diseases, including heart problems. 

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8. Nuts

Nuts like cashews, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios are a great source of heart-healthy phytoestrogens. They’re easy to add to your diet. But because most nuts are high in calories and fat, be sure to limit your portions to the recommended serving size. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 17, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Flaxseeds and Breast Cancer.”.

Aging Male: “Is there a role for estrogens in the maintenance of men's health?”

Breast Cancer Research and Treatment: “Intake of specific fruits and vegetables in relation to risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer among postmenopausal women.”

Cedars-Sinai: “Red Wine: Is It Good for You or Not?”

Clinical Cases in Mineral and Bone Metabolism: “Phytoestrogens: food or drug?”

Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology: “The pros and cons of phytoestrogens.”

Harvard Medical School: “Straight Talk About Soy.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Estrogen's Effects on the Female Body.”

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Phytoestrogen Content of Beverages, Nuts, Seeds, and Oils.”

Journal of Dietary Supplements: “The effect of garlic tablet on pro-inflammatory cytokines in postmenopausal osteoporotic women: a randomized controlled clinical trial.”

The Journal of Nutrition: “Sesame ingestion affects sex hormones, antioxidant status, and blood lipids in postmenopausal women.”

Journal of Postgraduate Medicine: “Vegetables, fruits and phytoestrogens in the prevention Vegetables, fruits and phytoestrogens in the prevention of diseases of diseases.”

Mayo Clinic: “Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health.”

Northwestern University: “Red Wine's Health Benefits May Be Due In Part To "Estrogen" In Grape Skin.”

Physiological Reviews: “Estrogens in Male Physiology.”

Susan G. Komen Foundation: “Garlic.”

The New England Journal of Medicine: “Some Phytoestrogens Relieve Some Menopause Symptoms — Somewhat.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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