As people are becoming more health conscious, many want to learn about foods that change your estrogen levels.
Estrogen is a hormone that plays a significant role in a woman’s reproductive and sexual development. It is naturally found in both women and men and supports heart and vein health. Estrogen also absorbs free radicals in the blood, increases good cholesterol and decreases bad cholesterol.
During menopause, a woman’s estrogen levels drop. This can adversely affect her body’s ability to regulate moods and preserve bone and heart health.
According to Stephanie S. Faubion, MD of the Mayo Clinic, the average age of menopause is 51.
Decreasing hormone levels also have unwanted effects on your skin, causing skin to become thinner and more prone to wrinkling and sagging. Read more about how hormone levels can affect your skin.
How to Increase Estrogen Levels with Food Naturally
Some foods affect the way your body creates estrogen or contain an estrogen-like equivalent. These foods naturally contain chemical substances that affect or mimic hormones. These chemical compounds are called phytoestrogens.
What are Phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens naturally occur in plant foods—in fact, they are actually a plant version of estrogen. Researchers often refer to these phytoestrogens as dietary estrogen.
A phytoestrogen has a chemical structure similar to estrogen; it can attach itself to a cell’s estrogen receptors and affect different body functions.
Some studies show phytoestrogens will enhance your health similar to the way estrogen can. It will also support the estrogen in your body so it can work better for you.
Health benefits from phytoestrogens can include:
- Relief from some menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes
- Maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels
- Lowering the risk of breast cancer in women
- Lowering the risk of prostate cancer in men
- Supporting bone health
- Reducing the risk of osteoporosis
However, phytoestrogens are not as strong as natural human-produced or synthetic estrogen. And not all phytoestrogens work in the same manner. In fact, studies have shown that different phytoestrogens under different conditions can both increase and decrease estrogen effects.
Some studies show phytoestrogens can disrupt the effects of natural estrogen already in your body, while other studies show improved health benefits. For this reason, it is often recommended that you speak with a health professional before attempting to supplement your estrogen levels with food.
Phytoestrogens and Estrogen Levels
You may have heard of these phytoestrogens:
- Isoflavone—offers anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, protects DNA, and may help prevent cancer and heart disease
- Resveratrol—helps protect against many chronic diseases
- Lignans—associated with lower risk of osteoporosis, breast cancer, heart disease and eased menopausal symptoms
- Flavonoids—has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits, and is anti-cancer and anti-viral
Studies have shown that women’s estrogen levels can be raised when they eat foods with phytoestrogens.
Foods Rich in Phytoestrogens
Fruits and Berries
Peaches have a high level of lignans. Some studies show eating two servings of peaches or nectarines a week can reduce a woman’s breast cancer risk.
Blueberries and strawberries have impressive levels of resveratrol and have shown similar test results.
Other fruits and berries rich in phytoestrogens are:
Dried apricots, prunes, and dates all contain phytoestrogens.
Seeds and Nuts
Flaxseeds are rich in lignans and contain almost eight hundred times more lignans than other foods. Enjoy them sprinkled onto yogurt, in smoothies, or baked into cookies.
Sesame seeds, an excellent source of phytoestrogens, may reduce cholesterol, increase estrogen activity in postmenopausal women, and have antioxidant effects.
Other nuts high in phytoestrogens in the form of resveratrol and flavonoids are:
Many breakfast cereals contain grains with high rates of phytoestrogens. These grains are:
- Whole wheat and wheat bran
Legumes are plants that have pods containing edible seeds. Legumes that have substantial levels of phytoestrogens include:
- Pinto beans
- Lima beans
People often eat soy, a legume product, as an alternative to meat. Soy can also be enjoyed as soy milk or as soy yogurt.
Tofu is made from soy milk. It contains lots of phytoestrogens in the form of isoflavones.
Cruciferous vegetables get their name from their four-petaled flowers that resemble a cross. They have varying flavors and nutritional value.
Cruciferous vegetables rich in phytoestrogens and anti-inflammatories include:
- Brussel sprouts
- Collard Greens
Other vegetables with high phytoestrogen levels are:
- Onion and garlic
Are Phytoestrogens Dangerous?
The consensus in today’s medical community is that the benefits from eating foods rich in phytoestrogens outweigh any risks. Most researchers consider phytoestrogen-containing foods to be safe when eaten in moderation.
Some studies have pointed to lower estrogen levels in people who consume lots of phytoestrogens. Other studies have associated consuming phytoestrogens with health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels and a lowered risk of osteoporosis and other diseases.
Studies that show risks associated with phytoestrogen consumption are generally inconclusive. Researchers have conducted most of these studies solely on animals. Some of the studies have mixed findings.
For all these reasons, scientists agree that more research is needed in humans regarding the safe consumption of phytoestrogens.
Animal Estrogen in Food
People also get animal estrogen from eating foods like milk or eggs. These products contain high levels of animal estrogen because they are produced in parts of the animal’s body associated with hormone regulation, including the ovaries.
The level of estrogen is higher in whole milk than in skim milk.
You may also be interested in reading about:
- The best foods to boost collagen production in your body
- The best vital nutrients for your hair, nails, and skin
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