Estrogen is a hormone that promotes sexual and reproductive development. While present in both men and women of all ages, it’s usually found at much higher levels in women of reproductive age. Estrogen carries out a range of functions in the female body, including regulating the menstrual cycle and the growth and development of breasts. However, during menopause women’s estrogen levels decline, which can lead to symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Phytoestrogens, also known as dietary estrogen, are naturally occurring plant compounds that may act in a way similar to that of estrogen produced by the human body.
List of Estrogen-Rich Foods
Flax seeds are small, golden, or brown-colored seeds that have recently gained traction due to their potential health benefits. They’re incredibly rich in lignans, a group of chemical compounds that functions as phytoestrogens. In fact, flax seeds contain up to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods. Studies have shown that the phytoestrogens found in flaxseeds may play an important role in decreasing the risk of breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women.
Soybeans and edamame
Soybeans are processed into many plant-based products, such as tofu and tempeh. They can also be enjoyed whole as edamame. Edamame beans are green, immature soybeans often sold frozen and unshelled in their inedible pods. Both soybeans and edamame have been linked to many health benefits and are rich in protein and many vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in phytoestrogens known as isoflavones. Soy isoflavones can produce estrogen-like activity in the body by mimicking the effects of natural estrogen. They may increase or decrease blood estrogen levels.
One study found that women who took a soy protein supplement for 12 weeks experienced moderate decreases in blood estrogen levels compared with a control group. The researchers proposed that these effects might help protect against certain types of breast cancer. The effect of soy isoflavones on human estrogen levels is complex. Ultimately, more research is needed before conclusions can be made.
Dried fruits are nutrient-rich, delicious, and easy to enjoy as a no-fuss snack. They are also a potent source of various phytoestrogens. Dates, prunes, and dried apricots are a few of the dried food sources highest in phytoestrogens. What’s more, dried fruits are chock full of fiber and other important nutrients, making them a healthy snack.
Sesame seeds are small, fiber-packed seeds that are commonly incorporated into Asian dishes to add a delicate crunch and nutty flavor. They are also quite rich in phytoestrogens, among other important nutrients. Interestingly, one study found that the consumption of sesame seed powder may affect estrogen levels in postmenopausal women. The women in this study consumed 50 grams of sesame seed powder daily for 5 weeks. This not only increased estrogen activity but also improved blood cholesterol.
Garlic is a popular ingredient that adds a pungent flavor and aroma to dishes. It’s not only touted for its culinary attributes but also renowned for its health properties. Although studies on the effects of garlic in humans are limited, multiple animal studies have shown it may influence blood estrogen levels. Additionally, a month-long study involving postmenopausal women demonstrated that garlic oil supplements may offer protective effects against bone loss related to estrogen deficiency, though more research is needed.
Peaches are sweet fruit with yellowish-white flesh and fuzzy skin. They’re not only packed with vitamins and minerals but also rich in phytoestrogens known as lignans. Interestingly, an analysis of studies suggests that lignan-rich diets may decrease the risk of breast cancer by 15% in postmenopausal women. This is possibly related to lignans’ effects on estrogen production and blood levels, as well as their expression in the body.
Berries have long been touted for their numerous impressive health benefits. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and beneficial plant compounds, including phytoestrogens. Strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries are particularly rich sources.
Wheat bran is another concentrated source of phytoestrogens, particularly lignans. Some dated research in humans shows that high-fiber wheat bran reduced serum estrogen levels in women. However, these results were likely due to the high-fiber content of wheat bran and not necessarily its lignan content. Ultimately, more research is needed to fully understand wheat bran’s effect on circulating estrogen levels in humans.
Tofu is made from coagulated soy milk pressed into firm white blocks. It’s a popular source of plant-based protein, especially in vegan and vegetarian diets. It’s also a concentrated source of phytoestrogens, largely isoflavones. Tofu has the highest isoflavone content of all soy products, including soy-based formulas and soy drinks.
Cruciferous vegetables are a large group of plants with diverse flavors, textures, and nutrients. Cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are all cruciferous vegetables rich in phytoestrogens. Cauliflower and broccoli are rich in secoisolariciresinol, a type of lignan phytoestrogen. Additionally, Brussels sprouts and cabbage are rich in coumestrol, another type of phytonutrient that has been shown to exhibit estrogenic activity.
Tempeh is a fermented soy product and popular vegetarian meat replacement. It’s made from soybeans that have been fermented and compacted into a firm, dense cake. Tempeh is not only an excellent source of protein, prebiotics, vitamins, and minerals but also a rich source of phytoestrogens, especially isoflavones.