This month, we’re discussing all things estrogen: symptoms of low estrogen, estrogen dominance, and how estrogen plays a huge role in our whole body health. By the end of this article, you’ll understand what foods are high in estrogen and which foods to munch on and which foods to pass on.
Why Balanced Estrogen is Important
Estrogen is a group of hormones in our bodies that impacts sexual and reproductive health, energy levels, skin complexion, mood, and more. When estrogen levels are chronically out of balance, say too high or too low, we can experience symptoms like increased PMS, infertility, acne, low libido, and mood swings. During menopause, women’s estrogen levels decline and often result in symptoms of night sweats and hot flashes.
Having a hormone imbalance, especially that of estrogen, is super common these days all thanks to our modern industrialized world. For example, you may know that conventional cosmetics and inorganic foods contain synthetic chemicals called xenoestrogens that mimic estrogen in the body leading to estrogen dominance. Xenoestrogens are what we should stay away from.
Today, we’re going to focus on phytoestrogens, also known as dietary estrogen, which are naturally occurring plant compounds that can act in a way similar to that of estrogen produced by the human body. So, are phytoestrogens good or bad?
Research has shown phytoestrogens to have estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects, meaning that they can increase estrogen levels or block its effects and decrease estrogen levels. Some researchers have raised concern about overconsumption of foods with high phytoestrogen levels because they contribute to estrogen dominance or high estrogen levels. But for the most part, research has linked phytoestrogens to positive health effects including improved menopausal symptoms, lower risk of breast cancer, and a decrease in cholesterol levels (1, 2).
So yes, there are pros and cons of foods high in estrogen, but in this article you’ll learn exactly which ones to favor and which ones to avoid for healthy estrogen levels.
8 Foods High in Estrogen
1 – Flaxseeds
Flax is one of the top estrogen rich food. Flaxseeds are high in phytoestrogen called lignans, and contain the highest amount of lignans compared to any other food. Research shows that lignans are high in antioxidants and can have anti-cancer effects on breast cancer.
What’s interesting to note here is that estrogen dominance has been associated with breast cancer. So how is it that flax, a food with a high amount of phytoestrogens, is good for breast cancer?
Because flax is so high in fiber, it can actually help bind to excess estrogen in the body and flush it out. In fact, flax is one of the best foods for balanced hormones and estrogen!
Make sure you always ground your own flax and put it in the fridge to avoid spoiling. Pre-ground flax tends to go rancid and rancid oils are horrible for hormone balance.
2 – Dried Fruit
Dried fruit like apricots, dates, and prunes are high in phytoestrogens with potent health benefits. Like flax, dried fruit is also high in fiber which helps to remove excess estrogen and balance natural estrogen in the body. Opt for dried fruit as a healthy snack and combine with nuts to balance blood sugar.
3 – Garlic
Garlic is another food with high phytoestrogen content. The beauty of garlic is that you can add it to almost any dish, and I highly recommend you do! Animal studies have shown that garlic may influence blood estrogen levels.
A month long study involving postmenopausal women showed that garlic oil supplements offered protective effects against bone loss related to estrogen deficiency! (3)
While more research is needed, these studies show the positive effects of phytoestrogens in garlic.
4 – Soybeans
Soybeans contain isoflavones which can produce estrogen-like effects in the body, either increasing or decreasing blood estrogen levels in the body (4). Oftentimes, soybeans are processed into foods like tofu and tempeh, and while these are often considered health foods it’s important to remember this: soybeans are one of the most genetically modified foods on the planet. Thus the effects of soybeans on human estrogen levels is very complex, and I suggest the last food you should enjoy to balance estrogen levels. If not for your body, then at least for planetary health (which, I might add, is intrinsically connected).
5 – Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are one of the types of seeds recommended for seed cycling to help regulate your menses. This is all thanks to sesame seeds’ high phytoestrogen content and ability to boost estrogen activity! (You can learn more about seed cycling in my interview with Dr. Shannon Curtis here.)
One study found that eating sesame seed powder may increase estrogen levels in postmenopausal women. If you want to boost estrogen levels or if you are interested in seed cycling, try a tahini drizzle on a salad, a homemade hummus recipe, or a delicious Asian dish with sesame seeds.
6 – Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower all are cruciferous veggies high in phytonutrients like lignans, coumestrol, and secoisolariciresinol. Consuming cruciferous vegetables is a great idea especially if you have estrogen deficiency.
Beyond being rich in phytoestrogens, these veggies are also incredible sources of fiber which we know is fabulous for hormone balance. You can learn more about how to use fiber to balance hormones in this short and sweet podcast episode.
7 – Berries
Strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries are rich sources of phytoestrogens. They are also packed with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and minerals. Try topping coconut yogurt with berries and almond butter for a delicious, hormone-balancing and gut-loving breakfast.
8 – Peaches
This delicious stone fruit is packed with lignans and is a great source of phytoestrogens and skin-loving nutrients. I love to combine frozen peaches with our vanilla-honey Beauty Collagen Complex for a hormone-balancing and beauty-boosting smoothie.
I hope this article has helped you with your grocery list this week! Let me know in the comments below what 2 estrogen-rich foods you are going to incorporate into your meals this week.
For more information on eating for hormone health, download our free Happy Hormones Guide.