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Women's health

10 Foods High in Estrogen — and Why They Matter

How incorporating foods high in estrogen into your diet can help to raise estrogen levels naturally.

10 Foods High in Estrogen — and Why They Matter

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If you're in the food health community, you've come across debates on dietary estrogen and whether it poses a health risk, right? Well, it turns out that eating foods high in estrogen isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Kimberly Gomer (MS, RD/LDN), a licensed dietitian, says there are some benefits to eating high-estrogen foods. "Eating these foods may benefit those with conditions related to low estrogen levels," she tells Today's Parent. However, consuming an excessive amount of foods high in estrogen can have certain drawbacks, particularly if it throws off your estrogen levels.

In this piece, we'll examine foods high in estrogen, discover different types of estrogen, and share foods that you can incorporate into your meals.

What is estrogen?

Believe it or not, estrogen plays a pretty important role in how our bodies function. According to the Cleveland Clinic, estrogen is in charge of sexual and reproductive health. However, it also aids in managing cholesterol levels, regulating blood sugar, producing collagen, and maintaining the health of our bones and brain.

While fluctuations in estrogen levels are normal throughout a person's lifetime, imbalances in these hormone levels can adversely affect overall health. Cleveland Clinic warns that an excess of estrogen in the body can negatively impact cardiovascular and bone health and can cause irregular periods.

What are the signs of low estrogen?

Not having enough estrogen in the body can cause problems, too. Endocrine Society notes that low estrogen levels occur during menopause and or after the surgical removal of ovaries. Signs of low estrogen include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, and migraines.

Hormone replacement therapy is one solution for postmenopausal women dealing with low estrogen levels. However, incorporating foods high in estrogen into the diet can help to raise these levels naturally.

What are the types of estrogen in food?

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Surprisingly, many foods can contain estrogen. Kelsey Costa (MS, RDN) tells Today's Parent that phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that mimic estrogen in the body, albeit with less potency than synthetic or natural estrogen.

Costa mentions that animal-based products like milk and eggs can add estrogen to our diet. These products contain higher levels of estrogen because they come from hormone-producing organs in animals. That being said, it’s advisable to consume these foods in moderation.

What foods are high in estrogen, and why does that matter?

Since estrogen is critical in a variety of bodily functions, Costa explains that having estrogen irregularities may carry risks. Therefore, it may be beneficial for some people to eat high-estrogen foods to keep their levels in balance.

"For example, women with menopause who have a natural drop in their estrogen levels may benefit from eating high-estrogen foods," she says.

"Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and bone health may improve. There is also a link between eating more estrogen and a lower risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer."

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However, there are risks of eating too many high-estrogen foods. In a 2017 study by British Journal of Pharmacology, estrogen is considered an endocrine disruptor, and eating too many of these foods may have adverse health effects such as infertility and increased risks of cancer in estrogen-sensitive organs.

That's why sticking to a well-balanced diet is important.

Top foods high in estrogen

Sesame Seeds/Other Nuts

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Sesame seeds are more than just a delicious addition to your hummus or morning bagel. Kristina Zalnieraite, licensed dietitian, and head of dietetics and medical affairs at Guthealth.care, says they are packed with essential vitamins, nutrients, and a type of phytoestrogen called lignans, which have been linked to various health benefits.

"These benefits range from reducing the risk of certain cancers and heart disease to combating inflammation and boosting heart health," she tells Today's Parent.

Grains

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Ro Huntriss (RD) a registered dietitian and the chief nutrition officer of Simple, says that although whole grains are a great source of fiber and other nutrients, they are also a phytoestrogen powerhouse.

"Whole grains are an important part of the diet and provide us with nutrients and antioxidants that are associated with reduced risk of certain diseases. The phytoestrogens contained within whole grains are likely to add further benefit."

Dairy

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For holistic nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, dairy products contain naturally occurring hormones, including estrogen and estradiol, and small amounts of other hormones like estrone and estriol. Snyder advises that consuming too much of these hormones can throw off the body’s hormonal balance, so it’s best to eat dairy in moderation.

Berries

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Although raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries are rich in antioxidants, Gomer explains they are also good sources of phytoestrogens.

"These fruits may be beneficial in helping women looking to rebalance hormones, especially when they reach perimenopause and menopause."

Lentils

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Great fiber content aside, Gomer says lentils are also high in phytoestrogens. "They have the same impact on health – all positive as other foods with these same components," she explains. Besides lentils, other legumes like navy, kidney, and pinto beans are also high in estrogen, as stated by the University Of Wisconsin Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

Dried Fruits

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Snyder tells Today's Parent that dried fruits such as dried apricots, dates, and prunes specifically stand out for their particularly high phytoestrogen content.

"I often emphasize the importance of incorporating phytoestrogen-rich foods like dried apricots, dates, and prunes into your diet for their benefits in managing menopausal symptoms and promoting hormonal balance," she says. Snyder also advises choosing unsulphured dried fruits to avoid sulfites.

Tofu and Tempeh

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Zalnieraite mentions that foods like tofu and tempeh, which are made from soy, are packed with isoflavones, which is a type of phytoestrogen. "These can be pretty good for your health if you include them in a well-rounded diet," she says.

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However, Zalnieraite warns that while most people can enjoy soy products without problems, consuming excessive amounts of them, especially processed varieties, may affect hormone levels.

Soy Milk

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If you're looking for a dairy-free option, why not try soy milk? Gomer highlights that it's packed with plant-based phytoestrogens, just like tofu and tempeh.

While there have been concerns about the possible health risks of consuming soy, Gomer mentions that the American Cancer Society has stated that soy products do not cause cancer. She notes individuals who include soy in their diet tend to have a lower risk of developing cancer.

Cruciferous Vegetables

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"Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage and dark leafy greens like spinach contain phytoestrogens with known anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties," Costa says. "Consumption of these vegetables correlates with a reduced risk of various chronic diseases, including heart conditions."

Flaxseeds 

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Flaxseeds are a fantastic source of omega-three fatty acids, whether you blend them into smoothies or sprinkle them over your morning oatmeal. Registered dietitian Dana Conley (MS, RDN) says flaxseeds have the highest phytoestrogen content among all foods, which is beneficial to your health.

“Including foods rich in lignan in your diet is associated with promoting good health and potentially warding off chronic diseases, as per studies," she explains.

Experts

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Courtney Leiva has over 11 years of experience producing content for numerous digital mediums, including features, breaking news stories, e-commerce buying guides, trends, and evergreen pieces. Her articles have been featured in HuffPost, Buzzfeed, PEOPLE, and more.

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