Food With High Estrogen

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Estrogen is a hormone that plays a key role in the reproductive system. It’s also involved in bone metabolism, and it regulates tissue growth and maintenance.

But you may be surprised to learn that estrogen can also be found in your diet. Many foods contain phytoestrogens, which are plant-based compounds that have the same structure as human estrogens. These plants produce phytoestrogens so they can survive in their environment—and humans then eat these plants and get the benefits of their protective phytoestrogens!

The good news is that there are many ways you can increase your intake of estrogen-rich foods. To help you out, we’ve compiled this list of some of the best sources:

Food With High Estrogen


11 Foods High in Phytoestrogens

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 growth and development of breasts (1Trusted Source).

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.

Here are 11 significant sources of dietary estrogens.

How do phytoestrogens affect your health?

Phytoestrogens have a similar chemical structure to that of estrogen and may mimic its hormonal actions.

Phytoestrogens attach to estrogen receptors in your cells, potentially affecting the function of estrogen throughout your body (2Trusted Source).

However, not all phytoestrogens function in the same way.

Phytoestrogens have been shown to have both estrogenic and antiestrogenic effects. This means that, while some phytoestrogens have estrogen-like effects and increase estrogen levels in your body, others block its effects and decrease estrogen levels (3Trusted Source).

Because of their complex actions, phytoestrogens are one of the most controversial topics in nutrition and health.

While some researchers have raised concerns that a high intake of phytoestrogens may cause hormonal imbalance, most evidence has linked them to positive health effects.

In fact, multiple studies have associated phytoestrogen intake with decreased cholesterol levels, improved menopausal symptoms, and a lower risk of osteoporosis and certain types of cancer, including breast cancer.

SUMMARY

Phytoestrogens may have either estrogenic or antiestrogenic effects. The majority of research
links phytoestrogens to a variety of health benefits.

1. Flax seeds

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 (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).

Studies have shown that the phytoestrogens found in flax seeds may play an important role in decreasing the risk of breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women.

SUMMARY

Flax seeds are a rich source of lignans, chemical compounds that function as phytoestrogens. Eating flax seeds has been associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer.

2. 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 (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

They are also rich in phytoestrogens known as isoflavones (3Trusted Source).

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 (12Trusted Source).

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 (13Trusted Source).

The effect of soy isoflavones on human estrogen levels is complex. Ultimately, more research is needed before conclusions can be made.

SUMMARY

Soybeans and edamame are rich in isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen. Soy isoflavones may affect blood estrogen levels in your body, although more research is needed.

3. Dried fruits

Dried fruits are nutrient-rich, delicious, and easy to enjoy as a no-fuss snack.

They are also a potent source of various phytoestrogens (14Trusted Source).

Dates, prunes, and dried apricots are a few of the dried food sources highest in phytoestrogens (15Trusted Source).

What’s more, dried fruits are chock full of fiber and other important nutrients, making them a healthy snack.

SUMMARY

Dried fruits are a potent source of phytoestrogens. Dried apricots, dates, and prunes are some of the dried fruits with the highest phytoestrogen content.

4. Sesame seeds

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 (16Trusted Source).

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 (16Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Sesame seeds are a potent source of phytoestrogens. Regularly eating sesame seeds has been shown to increase estrogen activity in postmenopausal women.

5. Garlic

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 (20Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Along with its distinctive taste and health benefits, garlic is rich in phytoestrogens and may help reduce bone loss related to estrogen deficiency. However, more research in humans is needed.

6. Peaches

Peaches are a 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 (21Trusted Source).

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 the body (22Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Peaches are sweet, delicious, and packed with a variety of nutrients. They are rich in lignans, a type of phytoestrogen.

7. Berries

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.

SUMMARY

Some berries are rich in phytoestrogens, especially strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries.

8. Wheat bran

Wheat bran is another concentrated source of phytoestrogens, particularly lignans (25Trusted Source).

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 (29Trusted Source).

Ultimately, more research is needed to fully understand wheat bran’s effect on circulating estrogen levels in humans.

SUMMARY

Wheat bran is rich in phytoestrogens and fiber, which may decrease estrogen levels. However, more research is needed.

9. Tofu

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 (30Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Tofu is made from soy milk condensed into solid white blocks. It’s a rich source of isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen.

10. Cruciferous vegetables

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 (31Trusted Source).

Cauliflower and broccoli are rich in secoisolariciresinol, a type of lignan phytoestrogen (32Trusted Source).

Additionally, Brussels sprouts and cabbage are rich in coumestrol, another type of phytonutrient that has been shown to exhibit estrogenic activity (32Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Cruciferous vegetables are rich in phytoestrogens, including lignans and coumestrol.

11. Tempeh

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 (33).

SUMMARY

Tempeh is a common vegetarian meat replacement made of fermented soybeans. Like other soy products, tempeh is rich in isoflavones.

Are phytoestrogens dangerous?

The health benefits of consuming phytoestrogen-rich foods likely outweigh the potential risks, so these foods can be consumed safely in moderation.

However, limited research has suggested that there may be some risks and complications associated with a high intake of phytoestrogens. These findings are mixed and inconclusive, so more research is needed in humans.

Thus, strong conclusions about the dangers of phytoestrogens should be approached with skepticism.

Potential concerns people have raised about phytoestrogens include the following:

  • Infertility. While some research states phytoestrogens may harm reproductive health, the bulk of this research has been conducted on animal models, and strong human studies are lacking.
  • Breast cancer. Limited research links phytoestrogens to an increased risk of breast cancer. Yet, some studies
    have observed the opposite — that high phytoestrogen intake may be linked to a decreased risk (37Trusted Source).
  • Effects on male reproductive hormones. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that phytoestrogen intake has no effect on male sex hormones in humans.
  • Decreased thyroid function. Some research associates intake of soy isoflavones with decreased thyroid hormone production. However, most studies in healthy adults have found no significant effects.

While there is weak evidence from animal studies to suggest phytoestrogens may be linked to these complications, many human studies have not found evidence of this.

Additionally, many studies have associated phytoestrogen intake with potential health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels, improved menopause symptoms, and a decreased risk of osteoporosis and breast cancer.

SUMMARY

Some animal studies have identified potential health risks associated with phytoestrogen intake, but strong human research is lacking. Conversely, many studies have linked phytoestrogen intake to multiple health benefits and protective effects.

The bottom line

Phytoestrogens are found in a wide variety of plant foods.

To boost your phytoestrogen intake, try incorporating some of the nutritious and delicious foods listed in this article into your diet.

In most instances, the benefits of including these phytoestrogen-rich foods in your diet outweigh any potential health risks.

high estrogen foods to avoid

Estrogen and testosterone are hormones that occur naturally in male and female bodies. Some research suggests that certain foods can influence the levels of these hormones.

Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. They play essential roles in libido, mood, health, fertility, and many other functions.

Some people think of estrogen as a “female hormone,” but male and female bodies produce it. High estrogen levels are associated with some health problems in males.

In this article, we look at foods that may raise or lower levels of estrogen in the body and explore the evidence behind these claims.

High estrogen in males

Photograph of a man eating in the kitchen to accompany an article about foods that increase estrogen in males
franckreporter/Getty Images

Estrogen is a main female sex hormone, while testosterone is a main male sex hormone. Males have estrogen too, but in smaller amounts.

Estrogen plays a key role in male sexual health. It helps modulate sex drive, erectile function, and sperm production. It also helps keep the bones healthy.

However, too much estrogen in males may cause problems. Symptoms of high estrogen in males include:

  • breast enlargement, known as gynecomastia
  • difficulty with erections
  • infertility

According to 2016 researchTrusted Source, low testosterone and high estrogen can both increase erectile dysfunction independently of one another. Some research has also linked high estrogen with depression in males.

The balance between estrogen and testosterone is important for a person’s overall health. Too much or little of either hormone can cause health concerns.

Low testosterone levels, or hypogonadism, is a common age-related health concern among males. Its symptoms include a reduced sex drive, erection problems, and a low sperm count.

Some people worry that too much estrogen is the cause of low testosterone, but this is a myth. Estrogen and testosterone do not oppose each other.

Can males reduce their estrogen levels?

Many websites and natural health gurus say that certain diets can lower estrogen levels, but there has been little research into these claims.

Some studies have suggested that specific foods may raise or lower estrogen levels. However, it is unclear whether these foods can address the health effects of high estrogen.

Speak with a doctor before making dietary changes to reduce estrogen. The most healthful diet varies from person to person.

Foods that may lower estrogen

Some research suggests that certain foods may reduce the level of estrogen in the body. However, this research is often low quality or has involved animals rather than humans, and more research is needed.

The following foods may lower levels of estrogen:

Soy products

Products made from soy are uniquely rich in compounds called phytoestrogens. These chemicals have a similar chemical structure to estrogen and may have estrogen-like effects in the body.

Soy products include edamame and some meat substitutes.

Some studies report that soy products can increase estrogen levels in the body, while others suggest they have the opposite effect. Paradoxically, both are true.

Soy contains isoflavones (a type of phytoestrogen), which are consideredTrusted Source selective estrogen receptor modulators. This means that they can cause a variety of effects — they may have a pro-estrogen, anti-estrogen, or neutral effect when they bind to estrogen receptors.

This means that different types of isoflavones may increase or decrease the levels of estrogen in the human body.

These variations can make it difficult to draw broad conclusions about the health impacts of foods that contain phytoestrogens.

While soy has many health benefitsTrusted Source, more research is needed on the effects of soy and phytoestrogens in humans.

For example, researchTrusted Source indicates that phytoestrogens, particularly in soy and legumes, may lower the risk of prostate cancer. Estrogen likely plays a roleTrusted Source in the development of prostate cancer, though more studies are needed.

Soybeans may also reduce colorectal cancer risk by lowering estrogen levels, according to a 2015 research reviewTrusted Source.

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables contain a chemical called indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that may have anti-estrogen effects. This means that they could reduce estrogen levels in men.

However, research has not directly shown that eating cruciferous vegetables reduces the levels of estrogen in the human body.

This group of vegetables includes:

  • cauliflower
  • bok choy
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts

StudiesTrusted Source indicate that eating cruciferous vegetables may lower the risk of prostate cancer.

Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms contain compounds that may block aromataseTrusted Source, an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. In doing so, they may reduce estrogen in the body.

Hispolon, a micronutrient found in some medicinal mushrooms, may also blockTrusted Source aromatase. At the same time, it may increase estradiol, a type of estrogen. Further research is needed on mushrooms and estrogen levels.

Curcumin and turmeric

Turmeric contains a chemical called curcumin.

A 2013 studyTrusted Source indicated that curcumin may reduce estrogen levels. However, the researchers noted this result in cells outside the body, so it is unclear whether curcumin has the same effect in people.

A study from 2014Trusted Source found that large doses of curcumin increased levels of testosterone in rats.

More research is needed on the effects of curcumin in humans.

Foods to avoid

According to some research, the following foods may increase people’s estrogen levels:

Dairy and meat

All animal products containTrusted Source traces of estrogen because even male animals produce the hormone. Cow milk may also contain phytoestrogens.

Some researchTrusted Source has linked eating red and processed meat with increased breast cancer risk in females. A possible reason is estrogen buildup from high estrogen levels in meat. There is no research to show similar effects in males.

However, studies are inconclusive about the effect of meat and dairy on estrogen levels and cancer risk. A 2018 reviewTrusted Source suggested that estrogen levels in milk are not high enough to affect human health.

More research is needed on meat, dairy, and estrogen levels.

Alcohol

ResearchTrusted Source suggests that chronic alcohol misuse can lead to low testosterone and increased estrogen. Both of these hormonal states can contribute to erectile dysfunction.

Alcohol may also heighten some effects of low testosterone. For example, alcohol is high in calories, and can lead to weight gain.

Grains

Some grains contain a fungus called zearalenone that may disrupt the balance of estrogen due to its similarity to estrogens that occur naturally in the body.

Researchers in Europe, where the fungus is common, found that 32%Trusted Source of more than 5,000 mixed-cereal samples contained the fungus.

StudiesTrusted Source have mainly focused on the effects of zearalenone in animals and molecular pathways. Some scientists suggest that it could have similar effects in humans, though there is no evidence that the fungus harms human health.

Grains, such as barley, wheat, rice, and maize, are part of a healthful diet.

Legumes

Legumes, such as lentils, peanuts, and chickpeas, have many health benefits. For example, they contain relatively high amounts of protein, making them a popular meat alternative.

Legumes also contain phytoestrogensTrusted Source, particularly in the form of isoflavones.

Research indicates that two isoflavones in yam beans, genistein and daidzein, may increase the production of estrogen in mice.

Notably, some isoflavones, particularly in soy, may lower estrogen levels. The type and amount of isoflavones likely changeTrusted Source their impact on estrogen levels, suggesting the need for further research in this area.

Legumes also may support heart health and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. Rather than removing them from the diet, consider eating small servings a few times a week.

Other ways to reduce estrogen levels

If someone is concerned about their levels of testosterone or estrogen, it is best to discuss this with a doctor before attempting to change these hormone levels at home.

Some people benefit from hormone injections. Testosterone therapy may be helpful, but more research is needed on the risks for older malesTrusted Source.

Some research has looked into natural ways to reduce estrogen. Several studies suggest that exercise may lower estrogen levels in some females.

A study from 2015Trusted Source, for example, found that higher amounts of aerobic exercise reduced levels of estrogen in women with a greater risk of developing breast cancer. However, little research exists in males.

Certain human-made products contain chemical compounds called xenoestrogens, which imitate estrogen in the body.

Some cell research suggests that exposure to these chemicals may increase the risk of cancer and endocrine disorders, though more research is needed in humans.

Many plastics contain xenoestrogens. Anyone wishing to lower their exposure to these chemicals may prefer to avoid plastic products, including bottles and food storage containers, when possible.

Males who are concerned about the effects of high estrogen also may benefit from making healthful lifestyle changes, such as:

  • reducing the number of calories in their diet
  • getting more sleep
  • exercising regularly

Summary

Estrogen is an important hormone in males, but high levels can cause certain health problems.

Some foods can affect a person’s hormone levels, but there is relatively little quality research into the effects of various diets on hormone levels.

If a person is concerned about age-related changes, or suspects a hormone imbalance, a doctor can test for a range of causes. Various treatments are available. A doctor can also provide personalized diet and lifestyle recommendations.

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