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Foods with estrogen

Updated on October 8, 2014

It is important to understand the uses and properties of estrogen before checking the list of major foods high in estrogen.

Estrogen refers to a category of natural steroid hormones essential for development and growth of female sexual features. Estrogen is produced in both men and women, but is considerably more in women, especially in women in top reproductive age.

Secondary sexual features such as broadening of the pelvis, formation of breasts and large quantities of fat in the hip and thigh region are partly determined by estrogen. The hormone also plays a major role towards the presence of softer skin and minimal facial hair in women as opposed to men.

Effects of estrogen

Estrogen is essential to regulation of the functioning of a woman’s reproductive organs. Hence, women on the verge of menopause may undergo increased variation in their estrogen levels. Excessive estrogen can result in insomnia or cramping, while decreased estrogen levels can cause fatigue, depression, and/or osteoporosis.Therefore, doctors may sometimes prescribe non-steroids to remedy and maintain the estrogen levels. Such medications can however cause varied side effects. Drugs given to increase low estrogen levels can increase the risk to developing ovarian cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, cataracts, gall bladder cancer, joint degeneration, and urinary incontinence. It is therefore preferable to get estrogen naturally via intake of foods high in estrogen.

Contrarily, excessive estrogen levels are believed to cause prostate and breast cancer, obesity, a drop in sperm count, sexual dysfunction, mood disorders, depression and other hormone-related disorders. It is therefore vital to maintain the optimal levels of estrogen, which differ in men and women. One of the ways to prevent elevated estrogen levels is by avoiding foods high in estrogen.

Production and sources of estrogen

Estrogens comprise of a whole class of hormones that are secreted by the ovarian follicles at the time of menstruation as well as by the placenta at the time of pregnancy.

The breasts, liver and adrenal glands also produce estrogen, albeit in lesser amounts. Estrogen levels produced in the body are mainly dependent on 2 hormones, i.e., the follicle stimulating hormone or FSH, and the interstitial cell stimulating hormone or LH, which are secreted by the hypothalamus. Mental stress can therefore cause or worsen any underlying case of hormonal imbalance.

Synthetic estrogens can get passed on from varied products such as petroleum based items, plastics such as BPA, detergents, furniture,cosmetics, thermal receipts,and carpeting; as well as from food via agricultural chemicals like herbicides,pesticides, and fungicides.

Natural estrogens known as phytoestrogens occur in foods that we eat. They are not as detrimental as the synthetic version, but moderate intake of foods high in estrogen is recommended for men who want to avoid feminine characteristics and for women with increased risk to breast cancer, severe PMS, water retention and fibrocystic disease.

What are the foods high in estrogen?

Benefits of phytoestrogens include reduced risk to developing breast cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease and menopausal symptoms. Contrarily, phytoestrogens can also act as endocrine disruptors; they may disrupt sex specific behavior, puberty timing, andlactation as well as influence hormones and weaken fertility. It is therefore best to limit the intake of foods high in estrogen so as to maintain the optimum levels of estrogen in the body.

Isoflavones are the richest source of phytoestrogens. Coumestans, lignans and stilbenes are other good food sources of phytoestrogens. Provided below is a list of foods high in estrogen:

  • Tofu: Also known as bean curd, tofu is made from soymilk and is rich in isoflavones. It can either be firm or soft; it is used in some main courses and in soups.
  • Soy yogurt: Also called bean curd yogurt, soy yogurt is produced from soy milk. It is a good source of isoflavones.
  • Flax seeds: Commonly known as linseed, flaxseeds are rich in lignans. They are typically used in ground form in cereals, breads and salads to improve the rate of absorption. Flaxseed is one of the richest sources of estrogen.
  • Sesame seeds: They contain lignans and are used to make different kinds of dishes. They may also be used to garnish some appetizers. Helianthus seeds and sunflower seeds have comparatively lesser amounts of phytoestrogens.
  • Soybeans: It is the most abundant source of natural estrogen. Intake of soybeans can alleviate the adverse symptoms of menstruation. Soybean pods or edamamecan act as a nutritious and healthy snack.
  • Soymilk: It is manufactured from soy beans and is full of flavones.
  • Multi-grain bread: Whole grains such as barley, oats, wheat and rye contain lignans. The percentage of estrogen in whole grain breads is dependent on the density of whole grains present in the bread.
  • Garlic: Garlic is one of the primary ingredients used to flavor varied global cuisines. It contains isoflavones.
  • Hummus: It is a kind of phytoestrogens-rich food made from boiled and mashed chickpeas. Hummus can be used as a spread or as a dip.
  • Dried dates, apricots, and prunes: Dried dates contain isoflavoids. As compared to natural apricots, dried apricots have a greater quantity of phytoestrogens. Dried prune is also a food high in estrogen.
  • Others: Isoflavone phytoestrogen can be found in varied legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, peas and peanuts and in other foods like barley, wheat bran, broccoli, red cabbage, red clover herb and green and black tea.
    • Coumestrol is a type of coumestan that can attach to estrogen receptors. It can be found in soybean sprouts and clover, as well as spinach and Brussels sprouts in low quantities.
    • Lignan phytoestrogen can be found in Brussels sprouts, blueberries, curly kale, cranberries, cabbage, carrots, strawberries, zucchini, broccoli and dark rye bread.
    • Resveratrol is a type of phytoestrogen with possible anti-cancer qualities. Research is however currently on with regards to its effect as a natural source of estrogen. It can be found in wines, grapes, peanuts, red grape juice, cranberries, blueberries and bilberries.
    • Other foods high in estrogen content include beetroot, cucumbers, apples, potatoes, plums, peppers, tomatoes, pomegranate, pumpkin, yams, squash, eggplant, papaya, split peas, red beans, cherries, rhubarb; herbs like jumps, fennel, parsley, and anise; and soy foods like soy warm canines, soy dairy cheese, soy noodles and soy wheat flour.


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