Foods high in estrogen are usually not recommended as they can create a hormonal imbalance in the body and affect its well-being. Nevertheless, puberty and menopause cause already great hormonal changes in women and they can come to suffer from the deficiency of this hormone. In these cases, increasing the intake of these foods can help restore the lost balance.
Foods high in estrogen
Most foods high in estrogen and that remain healthy for consumption are in fact not rich in this hormone but rather in phytoestrogens, plant-based hormones that mimic estrogen.
Studies to date have yet to confirm if increasing the intake of these foods can produce noteworthy results. Most researches were either inconclusive, funded by manufacturers of these foods or too small in scope to be reliable.
Nevertheless, those focusing on the dangers of eating phytoestrogens when the individual doesn’t have a hormonal deficiency have confirmed the mimicking effect of these hormones and their interference with the regular body balance of estrogen.
Seeds: flaxseeds and sesame seeds
Flaxseeds are the richest source of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen, with sesame seeds also ranking close to the top. They both also have a high content of antioxidants, fiber and high-quality protein. Flaxseeds have also been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Fruit: apricots, oranges, strawberries, peaches, dried fruits
It can be surprising to find such regular and everyday fruits among the foods high in estrogen. They are well-known for their nutritional content and for all the goods and benefits they can bring to the body, but they also have a high content of phytoestrogens.
In a 2014 study, peaches and strawberries were the most effective among the tested fruits and vegetables in lowering the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Although it is not clear if the phytoestrogens affected the natural levels of estrogens, it is an indication that they might work to complement and balance them.
Soy is often in the center of many debates about the hormonal balance due to its high content of isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogens. Although it is widely studied, many studies present conflicting results because of the many types of soy used and the quantities variation. Likewise, most positive findings came from those funded by soy products manufacturers.
Despite being amongst the foods with high estrogen levels, you should be cautious of adding too much of it to your diet until further conclusions.
For instance, one of the reasons for so much debate is that there are strong indications that soy isoflavones can attenuate the symptoms of hot flashes in menopausal women, but some studies have also found that it may work as an anti-estrogen, blocking the effect of this hormone and increasing the risk of breast cancer.
Legumes: peas, beans
According to a 2003 study, the phytoestrogens present in peas can mimic estrogens in a positive manner and help to bridge the gap in case of deficiency.
Beans are also remarkable in their fiber content and they can produce many benefits for the body. According to a 2018 study, one of these benefits is lowering the risk of breast cancer precisely due to their content in phytoestrogens.
As before, there are no indications that eating these foods may help raise the natural levels of estrogen, but it seems that their mimic ability can overcome the unbalance.
What causes estrogen deficiency?
In women, estrogen is primarily produced by the ovaries, so any condition affecting them will likely affect the levels of this hormone too.
Estrogen deficiency is most common in women going through the perimenopause, when the ovaries decrease its production and during the menopause when these organs cease to produce it. This also applies for women going through early menopause.
Other diseases and even some treatments can also affect the working of the ovaries and, consequently, the levels of estrogen. Eating disorders, any disease that triggers premature ovary failure, too much exercise and problems with the pituitary gland are the most common causes of this deficiency in young women.