There has been a lot of talk recently about foods high in estrogen. Depending on your hormone status you may be considering increasing or decreasing your consumption of estrogen rich foods. In order to do so you must be able to first recognize which foods are high in estrogen.
This article will cover what estrogen is, what it does in your food, and of course some of the most common foods with high levels of estrogen. Continue reading to learn all about estrogens in your food and more.
What is Estrogen?
Before uncovering what foods have estrogen you should understand the basics of estrogen and why it is important to the body. Estrogen is a sex hormone that is produced by the ovaries in women. Men also have estrogen, but in much smaller amounts made by the adrenal glands. It also comes in 3 different forms including estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), and estrone (E1).
Estrogen has a large role in the functioning of women, especially when it comes to the reproductive system. Estrogen stimulates the growth of breasts, regulates the menstrual cycle, and promotes the growth of body hair. It also impacts cholesterol levels, bone density, mood, cardiovascular health, the skin, and more. When women go into menopause there is a large decrease in estrogen which is what causes a majority of the unpleasant symptoms related to the areas listed above.
Estrogen in Men
When you think of men, it’s testosterone that probably comes to mind. Even though there is only a small amount of estrogen in the male body, it still plays a role. In particular, it plays a role sexual functioning, sex drive, and the creation of sperm.
If a man has too much estrogen they may grow breasts, have a hard time having an erection, and could even result in infertility. On the other hand, if there is not enough estrogen, men could experience a low libido or an increase in fat in the abdomen.
So, even though the amount of estrogen in men is incredibly low compared to women, if the balance is not quite right, it could have serious consequences.
What is Phytoestrogen?
Phytoestrogens are similar to the estrogens found in the human body, but are instead found in plants and commonly in various foods. Phytoestrogens are not exactly the same as human estrogen, but they are structurally similar. This similarity causes the body to react similarly to phytoestrogens found in plants as they do to human made estrogens. That being said, phytoestrogens can play an impact on cardiovascular health, bone health, and menopausal symptoms.
While phytoestrogens have been shown to have health benefits there is also further research that needs to be done regarding the other impacts of phytoestrogens on the body. The concern is that because the phytoestrogen is so close in structure to regular estrogen that it could interrupt the body’s natural processes.
Foods High in Estrogen
Soybeans are the number one food with the highest levels of phytoestrogen. In 1999 the FDA said that soy improved cardiovascular health, so since then there has been a rocketting amount of products made with soy available in the United States.
Soy can be eaten in a number of ways including tofu, edamame soybeans, soy milk, soy sauce, soy protein powder, soy baby formula, and tempeh. Of these foods edamame soy beans are the version highest in phytoestrogens. This is most likely because edamame is simply the soy bean itself instead of being processed or mixed with other ingredients to create a product.
If you are looking for a food with high estrogens, soybeans are the biggest bang for your buck for sure.
Butter is another food high in estrogen and actually has the highest level of estrogens out of all of the dairy products.
Butter is an easy food to be incorporated into your diet because it can be used as a cooking oil or as an actual ingredient in foods. You can use butter as a cooking medium when making things in a pan such as eggs, vegetables, or even to add on top of corn. Butter can also be put into recipes, especially in baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and bread.
While butter is high in estrogen, it should be eaten in moderation because it is high in saturated fat and calories.
Dairy products in general have a higher amount of estrogens than other foods. Yogurt is no exception, but it does have lower levels than cream, butter, and certain types of cheeses such as gouda cheese. Although, it does have more estrogen than plain milk.
Yogurt can be eaten as a healthy snack to get healthy fats, calcium, vitamin b-12, probiotics, potassium, and magnesium. You can even make yogurt healthier by adding additional fruits and seeds like berries and chia seeds for additional vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Yogurt can also be added into protein shakes or smoothies for an easy way to get the dairy and estrogens in your diet.
The grains in cereal contain naturally produced phytoestrogens. Therefore, cereal is a great source of estrogens in your diet. They contain the third highest amount of phytoestrogens behind nuts and seeds and soybeans.
Cereals are easy to incorporate into your diet as a breakfast or an easy snack. It is portable, has a lot of varieties to choose from, and is inexpensive. When choosing a cereal look for ones with low sugar, high fiber, and protein. You could even put cereal in yogurt or milk for an added dose of estrogen as well.
The same grains that are in cereal are also included in bread products as well making them a good source for phytoestrogens. High-estrogen bread products are commonly used in the diets of North Americans as grains like wheat are some of the most grown crops.
Bread can be used to make sandwiches, croutons, toast, in soups, breadcrumbs, and even as a dessert. Having too much bread can be excessive because of the high amount of carbohydrates, so you will want to eat it in moderation. Choosing breads with whole grains, nuts, and seeds is the best option when it comes to breads.
Nuts are very high in phytoestrogen, especially peanuts, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios. Including nuts into your diet can be easy by using them alone as a snack, in yogurt, in baked goods, and even in a salad. They are also great because there is such a wide variety, so you can decide which type of nut you are in the mood for at any given moment.
Nuts are also high in protein and healthy fats which are helpful to your overall nutrition. It is also worth mentioning that nut allergies are some of the most common allergies, so be careful if you or someone you know is allergic to nuts.
Seeds and nuts are often grouped together because they have similar properties. Being high in phytoestrogens is just another one of those similarities. Seeds also have a great benefit of being high in fiber and keeping your bowel movements regular.
Some common seeds include sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds. All of these seeds are great on their own or can be used to top off other dishes like salads, yogurts, grain bowls, and more.
You do not have to eat to get phytoestrogens, you can also drink these compounds from things like red wine. Red wine has a type of phytoestrogen called resveratrol that originates from the skin of the grape. This is great news for wine drinkers who are always looking for another positive for drinking red wine.
Because red wine contains alcohol it should only be consumed by those who are of drinking age, are not pregnant, and have been advised by their doctor that consuming alcohol in moderation is okay.
Knowing some of the foods with the highest estrogen and phytoestrogen contents should be very helpful in choosing foods that are right for you. It should also be noted that consuming small amounts of these foods will not drastically increase your estrogen levels, so even if you have high estrogen it should be okay to eat these foods unless otherwise directed by your healthcare provider.
On the other hand, if you are looking to adjust your estrogen levels, reducing or increasing the consumption of estrogen rich foods may help promote a healthy hormone balance.
If you are worried that you may have an estrogen imbalance it is important that you consult with your endocrinologist or primary care provider to investigate further.