Hormones are a tricky thing. When they aren’t balance, your entire body feels out of whack. With the onset of menopause lurking, women are especially at risk for developing unwanted symptoms of a hormonal imbalance. These include hot flashes, a decrease in sex drive, weight gain, fatigue or insomnia, anxiety and depression, and much more.
Although there is no way around menopause, some women find relief from foods that contain estrogen-like activity. These include foods that either have phytoestrogens in them or other special dietary elements that act like estrogen in the body. While estrogen-rich foods won’t reverse your menopause completely, they can make your situation much more tolerable.
Estrogen is a female sex hormone that is responsible for regulating many functions in the body. Men have estrogen as well but their levels are not as high. Women who have low estrogen levels may experience menopause symptoms sooner than they would like. On the other hand, women with estrogen dominance have levels of estrogen in their body that are too high. This occurs when the estrogen and progesterone balance becomes out of whack. Neither situation is ideal. What you want is a balance of both hormones for optimal health.
Eating estrogen-rich foods can help offset low estrogen levels. You’ll want to make sure that you aren’t estrogen dominant before eating the following foods. Doing so could further worsen the imbalance. .In addition to focusing on estrogen-rich foods, be sure you’re sleeping well, exercising daily, and keeping stress levels down.
If you’ve been told by your doctor that your estrogen levels are low, you can use these estrogen-rich foods to get you back to where you need to be. You can also use this list as a way to avoid foods high in estrogen if you have too much estrogen in your body.
What are estrogen rich foods?
Certain foods contain phytoestrogens, which are special dietary estrogens that are found in foods that mimic the function of the hormone estrogen in the body. They work by binding to estrogen receptors and functioning like natural estrogen would. Other foods contain certain ingredients such as lignans that also have estrogen-like activity in the body because they can bind to estrogen receptors and help balance your levels. Most women eat estrogen-rich foods during menopause to help alleviate some of the symptoms.
What foods contain estrogen and phytoestrogen?
Examples of foods that contain estrogen and phytoestrogens include soy, flaxseed, rye, some grains, and various vegetables. We’ll provide you with a more detailed list below and share some tips for including them in your diet.
Why would someone need more estrogen?
Low estrogen levels are responsible for the unwanted symptoms of menopause, which occurs when a women stops having her monthly period and becomes incapable of getting pregnant. Adding estrogen-rich foods to a menopausal woman’s diet can help reduce some of these symptoms, which include hot flashes, mood swings, irritability, and weight gain.
If you’re nowhere near your menopausal years and experience irregular periods, painful intercourse or a thyroid disorder, it could be a sign of low estrogen. Having a family history of hormonal imbalances could also increase your risk of low estrogen. It’s important to seek treatment from your doctor in addition to including more of the following estrogen-rich foods in your diet.
Low estrogen and menopause
Menopause happens in all women, but some experience it sooner than they would like. Typically, menopause occurs in women during her 50’s, but it can also occur as early as her 30’s. If you suffer from low estrogen levels, it can bring on menopause quicker. Women with low estrogen levels are more likely to experience menopause-like symptoms, such as periods that get farther and farther apart until they eventually disappear altogether.
Estrogen is responsible for contributing to weight management in women. Low estrogen levels can make it easier for a menopausal woman to gain weight. It can also dictate how a woman stores weight. For example, low estrogen levels during a woman’s menopausal years can lead to an increase in abdominal fat, according to one study. Keep in mind that low estrogen levels doesn’t necessarily mean that you will gain weight, and it can be controlled with a healthy diet and exercise program.
What happens when estrogen levels are too high?
When a woman’s estrogen levels are too high, the condition is known as estrogen dominance. It occurs when there is more estrogen in your body than there is progesterone. Both hormones need to be equally balance for you to feel your best. However, because these two hormones compete with each other, an overabundance of one means that the other will suffer. Women with estrogen dominance have more estrogen in their bodies than they do progesterone. Symptoms include weight gain, mood swings, headaches, a decreased sex drive, hair loss, fatigue, and anxiety or panic attacks.
Is there anything else you can do to increase estrogen?
Unfortunately, a woman’s estrogen levels naturally decrease with age. This is a natural part of the aging process. Men experience a similar drop in testosterone. While you can’t prevent estrogen from decreasing entirely, there are things you can do to keep your levels as stable as possible, such as taking care of your health, exercising regularly, avoiding refined sugar, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to support the glands in your body that produce estrogen.
What Are Environmental Estrogens?
Although there are many healthy foods that can naturally help increase your estrogen levels, there are plenty of hazardous environmental estrogens that you should stay away from. These include certain food additives, hormones and antibiotics used in conventional meat and dairy, BPA, chemicals found in tap water, and phthalates.
The problem with these chemicals is that they are extremely inflammatory in the body. Although they have estrogenic-like activity in the body like many of the foods on this list, they have also been shown to increase your risk of cancer and other diseases.
For this reason, it’s best to stay away from environmental toxins such as plastic, canned foods, and foods that aren’t organic or are raised with antibiotics and growth hormones. Focus on whole, organic foods whenever possible and limit your exposure to foods that contain additives and other ingredients that you can’t pronounce.
Foods High in Estrogen
1. Dried Fruits
Dried fruit, especially dried apricots, dates, and prunes, can help balance your estrogen levels in a big way. They are also a healthy snack that can keep you away from the vending machine with a sweet and satisfying chewiness, as well as added fiber.
These dried fruits contain phytoestrogens, which will mimic the way estrogen is used by the body, helping to fill any shortages you may have in estrogen, and producing the same effect as if you had generated more estrogen in the body.
When eating dried fruit, remember that the drying process concentrates all parts of the fruit. This means you’ll generally be getting more vitamins and nutrients from them, but you’ll also be getting more sugar, so it may take less dried fruit to make a serving than if it were fresh.
Tips for eating more: Dried fruits are best eaten in the spring, and the best fruit for estrogen are apricots, dates, and prunes. Be sure to look for a brand of dried fruit that does not contain added sugar. This might be hard to do, but it’s worth the time and effort to avoid such an inflammatory ingredient.
Flaxseeds are the number one way to help get more estrogen into the body. Research shows that flaxseed supplementation alters estrogen metabolism better than soy in postmenopausal women. This is due to their lignan content, which is a type of polyphenol. You can either eat them directly or add them to other foods, just be sure to add them to your diet if estrogen is a concern.
Flaxseeds are high in fiber, and will therefore help you feel full during and after a meal, and help a sluggish digestive system. They are often recommended for weight loss because of their fiber content, and can help lower cholesterol as well. That’s a lot of benefit from a little seed.
Flaxseeds are a fantastic source of omega-3s as well, but it’s the ALA form from plants, and not the same as you get from salmon and other animal sources. This form of omega-3 is helpful at keeping arteries from hardening, which can help prevent strokes and heart attacks and provide other heart healthy benefits.
Tips for eating more: Ground flaxseed is the best way to incorporate it into your cooking more. It basically disappears into soups and smoothies, and can be sprinkled onto a salad without noticing it’s there. Tip: Add the dressing to the salad first and the flaxseed will cling to it so you get some in each bite.
Here are some tips for using flaxseed oil.
3. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds contain phytoestrogens, and you can also use sesame seed oil if that makes it easier, as they both contain lignans with possess the phytoestrogens. Specifically, research shows that sesame seeds contain a type of sesame lignan called sesamin that is converted by intestinal bacteria to enterolactone, a compound with estrogenic activity.
Sesame seeds are loaded with fiber, and they are also a great source of minerals. Because of their small size, you can easily add them to other foods that are lacking to help make up for some of that deficiency. For example, a tablespoon of sesame seeds is going to give you nearly a tenth of what you need each day for iron, magnesium, and calcium, as well as 4% of your total fiber.
Unfortunately, the sesame seeds stuck to the bun of a Big Mac don’t qualify. You’ll want to sesame seeds by themselves or in conjunction with other healthy foods to reap their benefits.
Tips for eating more: Keep a supply of sesame seeds on hand for adding to soups or onto a salad. They also make a great crust for a chicken breast.
Chickpeas are a natural source of isoflavones, which aren’t actually estrogen, but does a good job of standing in for it. Research shows that chickpeas have a moderate estrogenic activity as demonestrated by rat studies.
The most common way chickpeas are prepared and eaten is in the form of hummus, but falafel is also a popular way to go. They don’t have much flavor of their own, so it’s important to mix them with other foods, spices, and seasonings to make them something you’ll enjoy eating.
Chickpeas are also high in fiber and protein, which makes them a great choice if you’re looking to reduce your meat consumption. They’ll help you feel full, and keep you feeling that way longer because of that combination of fiber and protein.
Tips for eating more: Hummus is perhaps the easiest way to eat more chickpeas, and is basically made from mashing up chickpeas and adding tahini and olive oil until the right consistency is achieved. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Beans have long been considered a healthy food thanks to their high fiber content and ability to lower cholesterol. They’re also a food that is relatively high in phytoestrogen, although they seldom get attention for this feature.
Because of their high fiber and protein content, you’ll often see beans in a meatless main dish. They have a texture to them that helps fill you up, and they are digested slowly by the body, making them a good carbohydrate choice for diabetics or anyone looking to maintain healthy blood glucose levels.
You can choose your favorite bean, and chances are it will have a respectable amount of phytoestrogens in it to help you in your quest to balance your hormone levels.
Tips for eating more: Beans make a great side dish and are a staple food for many types of cuisine. You can add them to soups to thicken things up and add texture.
Peas are the perfect side dish if you’re looking for an estrogen boost. That’s because they are a source of phytoestrogens, much like many of the other foods featured here.
And like many foods on our list of estrogen foods, peas bring more to the table than just phytoestrogens. They contain minerals like magnesium, iron, and potassium, even pack some protein.
Peas are full of fiber and are a surprising source of vitamin C. This means that you’ll be helping to boost your immune system in addition to getting an increase in your phytoestrogen numbers. The overall result is that you’ll be healthy overall with fewer symptoms associated with menopause and postmenopause.
Tips for eating more: Peas are typically thought of as a side dish, but can also factor into a casserole. They also taste great in soups and come in a few different forms to keep things interesting, like sugar snap peas and snow peas.
Tempeh is derived from soybeans and doesn’t lose its estrogen content during the process. It can be used to help treat menopausal symptoms if you’ve been told that you are not creating as much estrogen as you used to.
Tempeh is loaded with magnesium and iron, two important minerals that are sometimes hard to get enough of. This makes it a worthwhile food that you can feel good about eating, and that will help you feel satisfied long after the meal is finished.
Tempeh is a good source of protein and as such often stands in for meat in vegetarian and vegan dishes. It has a different texture than tofu, making it a better replacement depending on the meat you’re trying to do without.
Tips for eating more: Tempeh makes a great meat alternative, much the same as tofu only with a different texture and flavor. Sub this in for meat a few times a week and your estrogen level will benefit.
8. Alfalfa Sprouts
Alfalfa sprouts are one often overlooked way of improving your hormone levels because they contain phytonutrients, while being naturally low in calories and carbohydrates, making them an easy choice for an overall healthy diet. One study found that supplementing with alfalfa extract and sage leaf completely eliminated nightsweats and hot flashes in 20 out of 30 women.
One key to eating alfalfa sprouts is that they contain plant estrogens, which don’t have the side effects associated with other forms of estrogen supplementation.
You can help bring down cholesterol levels in your blood by eating alfalfa sprouts, and this is a great vegetable to eat during the spring months when everything is naturally sprouting in the world outside.
Tips for eating more: Alfalfa sprouts taste great as a salad topper, and also on a sandwich. Be sure to rinse off your sprouts in cold running water before eating, and eat them within a few days of purchase.
9. Bran Cereals
Bran is one source of phytoestrogens that comes with other health benefits which makes it worth adding to your diet. Research shows that like flaxseeds, bran contains lignans, which has an estrogen-like effect on the body. One study even found that bran was useful for protecting against breast cancer.
Wheat bran has been documented as being a reliable way to increase the amount of phytoestrogens in the body, which can help balance hormones and reduce the symptoms associated with low estrogen levels.
You may already be familiar with bran as a health food due to the high amounts of fiber it contains. Bran muffins and bran cereals were part of the high fiber kick years ago and are still rather ubiquitous. You can benefit from the fiber they contain at the same time you’ll be upping your phytoestrogen levels.
Tips for eating more: Look for cereals made with bran. These will have bran in the title, like All-Bran, or will have a strong focus on fiber like with Fiber One. You can skip the processed cereals altogether by making your own bran cereal with safer sweeteners, such as raw honey or maple syrup.
10. Soy Milk
Soy milk is derived from soy of course, and therefore gives the same benefits as tofu, tempeh, and soybeans in regards to the phytoestrogen it contains. It just happens to be in an easily consumed form, which makes it a great way to increase your estrogen numbers quickly and easily.
Drinking soy milk can help curb some of the symptoms associated with postmenopause by helping to restore some of the estrogen with the phytoestrogen present.
Soy milk is also a good source of calcium, just like cow’s milk. Manufacturers try to make it as enticing as possible for those looking to switch from cow’s milk to other forms of milk, so they fortify it and make it more nutritious to attract new buyers.
Tips for eating more: Replace cow’s milk with soy milk in cereals or when you drink it directly. You can also use soy milk in place of regular milk in your cooking and baking.
Tofu is also a very good way to help the body balance its estrogen levels because of the isoflavones it contains, and the way these interact with estrogen receptors.
The high protein and iron content of tofu is why it’s been been used as a meat replacement by vegans and vegetarians for decades, and you don’t have to follow these diets in order to borrow from them in an effort to be healthier and get more estrogen.
Many times when you replace meat you’ll end up avoiding fat and cholesterol, so it’s a combination of getting the good things that tofu provides and avoiding some of the bad things that come with some types of meat.
Tips for eating more: Get into the habit of replacing a meat with tofu at least a few times a week. Start by designating one day to be meatless, and when that feels natural add another day and see how that feels. Compared to chicken and beef, tofu provides far more in the way of estrogen.
Curious to see if tofu is bad for you? Read about it here.
It’s not a surprise to see soybeans on our list because many other list makers are derived from soybeans, including tofu, tempeh, and soy milk.
Soybeans are off the charts when it comes to fiber and protein, and even a modest serving of them means you’re getting a chunk of your daily value covered. This means you can add them to a meal to help balance it out, especially if it is low in either protein or fiber.
As far as additional vitamins and minerals go, look to soybeans for a jump in your iron and magnesium levels, as well as higher calcium and potassium levels. There’s a lot going on when it comes to soybeans, and they deserve your consideration.
Tips for eating more: Eat edamame as a raw form of soybean that can be used as a snack or appetizer. Add cooked soybeans to a salad or put them in a soup. They do not have a strong flavor on their own, so they will get lost in the flavors that surround them.
13. Dark Rye Bread
Bread has a bad reputation because it contains gluten, but rye bread tends to be better tolerated than wheat. It also makes our list of foods that can help boost your estrogen levels. Research shows that rye bread has higher levels of dietary fiber as well as soluble non-starchy polysaccharides than wheat bread. It also has a different structure than wheat. For example, the bran is easier to separate from the endosperm, which means that rye bread has a higher extraction than white or wheat breads.
When it comes to helping enhance your estrogen production, rye bread has you covered. It contains lignans, which have been shown to inhibit progesterone so that you can build your estrogen levels up. In fact, rye contains a type of lignin that has phytoestrogenic activity. This means that these lignans act as natural estrogens in the body. And although their effect is not as strong as natural estrogen, it can be use to help build up your estrogen activity.
Research shows that for some women, the lignans in rye are enough to reduce or prevent the symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes. The lignans in rye also act on estrogen receptors to block out more powerful forms of estrogen that are responsible for lowering estrogenic activity and increasing the risk of breast cancer.
Tips for eating more: the next time you head to the grocery store, pick up some 100 percent rye bread in place of wheat. Rye bread makes an excellent sandwich. Just add some lean meat, plenty of veggies, and avocado-based mayonnaise for a delicious lunch. Curious to know more? The best nutritionist in Mumbai can offer advice to boost your estrogen levels.
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