Introducing estrogen-rich foods
Are there any natural estrogen-rich foods? Well, research shows that some foods serve as significant sources of dietary estrogens. Estrogen is a well-known hormone. It is indispensable in the promotion of reproductive and sexual development.
Estrogen is present in both gender (men and women). However, it is much higher in women of reproductive age than in men.
Estrogen plays several roles in the female body. These include regulation of growth, breast development, and the menstrual cycle (1).
The level of estrogen in a woman’s body declines when she reaches menopause. These leads to symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes.
Dietary estrogen, known scientifically as phytoestrogens, are compounds which occur naturally in plants. They act in a way similar to that of estrogen produced by the human body.
This article will give a detailed review of estrogen-rich foods for women in menopause.
Effects of phytoestrogens on the health
The chemical structure of phytoestrogens is similar to that of estrogen. It is believed that these compounds may even mimic the hormonal actions of estrogen.
Phytoestrogens have a high affinity for estrogen receptors. This means that when they get into the human body, they can bind to estrogen receptors in the body cells, thus affecting estrogen function in the body (2).
It is important to note though, that not every phytoestrogen works in the same way.
Research has shown that phytoestrogens exhibit both anti-estrogenic and estrogenic effects. This implies that while some phytoestrogens may work and act like estrogens, and even increase their levels in your body, others will antagonize the effects of estrogen and cause a reduction in its levels (3).
Due to their complex roles, the subject of phytoestrogens has been quite controversial in health and nutrition.
While a particular school of thought believes that the intake of phytoestrogens in high amounts may cause hormonal imbalance, most studies have linked them to positive health effects.
Several studies have successfully established a link between intake of phytoestrogen and a reduction in blood cholesterol levels, reduced risk of osteoporosis, improvement in menopausal symptoms, and some types of cancer (such as breast cancer) (3, 4, 5).
Now let us examine some estrogen-rich foods
Flax seeds as estrogen-rich foods
Flax seeds are small in size, with a characteristic brown, or golden-colored seeds. Flax seeds have a myriad of health benefits, and this has increased their popularity of recent.
Soybeans & edamame
Soybeans are versatile foods. They can be processed into many food products, like tempeh and tofu. You can also enjoy soybeans whole as edamame.
Edamame beans are immature, green soybeans. They are often sold unshelled and frozen. Their pods are inedible.
Soybeans & edamame are also rich in isoflavones. Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogens (3).
Isoflavones from soybeans can mimic the effects of natural estrogen. By so doing they are able to produce estrogen-like effects in your body. They can boost or reduce the levels of estrogen in your blood (12).
Particular research showed that women who had a 12-week soy protein supplement therapy experienced a decrease in blood estrogen levels compared with a group that did not take the supplement.
According to the researchers, these effects might be protective against some types of breast cancer (13).
Soy isoflavones have complex effects on the levels of estrogen in humans. It is pertinent to state that there is absolutely need for more research before conclusions can be made on this subject.
Dried fruits as estrogen-rich foods
Dried fruits are estrogen-rich foods. They are loaded with nutrients, are delicious, and can be enjoyed with ease as snacks.
Dried fruits are also rich in phytoestrogens (14).
Dried apricots, prunes, and dates are some good examples of dried fruits that are rich in phytoestrogens (15).
Also, dried fruits are rich in fiber and other nutrients, which makes them healthy as snacks.
Sesame seeds are small-sized and loaded with fiber. They are a common component of Asian dishes, giving them that nutty flavor and a delicate crunch.
Sesame seeds have a high amount of phytoestrogens in them, together with other important nutrients.
It is on record that sesame seeds are estrogen-rich foods. Particular research was able to prove that the intake of sesame seed powder may affect the levels of estrogen in postmenopausal women (16).
Participants in this study ate 50 grams of sesame seed powder for five weeks. This was done on a daily basis. Analysis of the study results showed that sesame seed powder caused an increase in estrogen activity as well as improvements in blood cholesterol (16).
Everyone knows garlic, but many do not know that it is classified as one of the estrogen-rich foods. Yes! Many only know garlic for the aroma that it gives to dishes and its pungent flavor.
Apart from its culinary properties, garlic also has many health benefits.
Also, a one-month study on postmenopausal women showed that garlic oil supplements protect against osteoporosis due to estrogen deficiency. That said, there is a need for more research on this subject (20).
Peaches as estrogen-rich foods
A peach is a sweet fruit with fuzzy skin and yellowish flesh.
They are rich in vitamins & minerals as well as lignans, a type of phytoestrogens (21).
Research has shown that foods that are rich in lignans can cause a 15 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. This may be due to the effects of lignin on the production of estrogen, and blood levels (22).
Berries are healthy, estrogen-rich foods.
They are rich in minerals, vitamins, fiber, and important phytochemicals, such as phytoestrogens.
Wheat bran as estrogen-rich foods
Wheat bran is rich in phytoestrogens, especially lignans (25).
However, it is believed that these results were due to the high fiber present in wheat bran, rather than its lignin content (29).
In fact, there is a need for further research before we can fully grasp the effect of wheat bran on estrogen levels in humans.
Tofu is produced from soy milk. The milk is coagulated and then pressed into white blocks. It is a well-known source of plant-based protein.
Tofu is also rich in phytoestrogens, most especially isoflavones.
Tofu is the richest source of isoflavones compared to other soy products (30).
Cruciferous vegetables as estrogen-rich foods
Cruciferous vegetables are plants with diverse nutrients, textures, and flavors.
Examples of cruciferous vegetables with a high amount of phytoestrogens include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli (31).
Broccoli and cauliflower are loaded with secoisolariciresinol. Secoisolariciresinol is a kind of lignin phytoestrogen (32).
Also, cabbage and Brussel sprouts have a high amount of coumestrol. Coumestrol is a phytonutrient that exhibits estrogenic effects (32).
Tempeh is a very good vegetarian replacement for meat and a well-known fermented soy product.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. After fermentation, it is compacted into a dense, firm cake. Tempeh is rich in prebiotics, protein, minerals, and vitamins, as well as phytoestrogens, mostly isoflavones (33).
Do phytoestrogens have any harmful effect on the body?
As a matter of fact, the health benefits of estrogen-rich foods are greater than the risks. This implies that you can consume them safely. However, you’ll have to moderate your intake.
Research has shown that excessive consumption of estrogen-rich foods may be associated with some risks & complications, thus there is a need for more human studies.
Therefore, one must be skeptical about conclusions on the harmful effects of estrogen-rich foods or phytoestrogens.
Potential fears about phytoestrogens include:
- Breast cancer
- A decrease in thyroid function
While animal studies have established weak evidence linking phytoestrogens to these complications, many human studies have found none.
There are a wide variety of estrogen-rich foods.
To increase your intake of phytoestrogens, ensure that some of the foods reviewed in this article are incorporated into your diet. In most cases, the health benefits of these foods far outweigh any complications or potential health risks.