What Foods Are High in Estrogen?

Reviewed on 3/23/2021

Foods like dairy, nuts and seeds, legumes, and some fruits and vegetables are said to have high phytoestrogen levels.
Foods like dairy, nuts and seeds, legumes, and some fruits and vegetables are said to have high phytoestrogen levels.

The food you eat can impact the way your body produces hormones or even contain hormones. Different vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, animal products, and even herbs have chemicals in them that contain, engage with, or imitate hormones. 

Phytoestrogen is a common compound that imitates estrogen in foods. This is because phytoestrogens are essentially the plant version of estrogen. Human bodies will process them the same way as regular estrogen, but it is weaker than synthetic or natural estrogen.  

Another source of estrogen in foods is animal estrogen. Products like eggs or milk contain high estrogen levels because they are produced in parts of the animal’s body that regulate its hormones.   

Eating high estrogen foods can help people who suffer from various conditions related to low estrogen levels. Conversely, there are some health scenarios in which eating foods high in estrogen can be harmful. Knowing what foods are high in estrogen helps either situation limit or increase your intake of those foods intentionally. 

Foods high in estrogen  

Generally, a plant-based diet is said to have more estrogen than other diets. However, much of the research on foods associated with high estrogen levels is hotly debated. Some scientists even believe that factors like ethnicity and location change the way our bodies receive estrogen. 

While most of the foods listed below are confirmed to contain estrogen or phytoestrogen, remember that there are many opinions out there. There are also different ways your body receives either phytoestrogens, animal estrogen, a synthetic estrogen, or compounds that can trigger your body to produce more estrogen.

There are some cases where eating certain foods can result in a lower estrogen level in your body. Please make sure to consult with your doctor about your specific medical situation to learn about which types of estrogen or food is best for you to eat. 

Foods that are said to increase estrogen in the body are: 

Dairy 

There is a direct correlation between higher estrogen levels in eggs because eggs are produced in the animal's ovaries. Ovaries are glands that process hormones. Similarly, full-fat milk can also contain more or less estrogen in it depending on where the animal is in the lactation cycle.   

Nuts and seeds

It’s almost indisputable to say that nuts and seeds are high in phytoestrogen. Which nuts and seeds are the highest, however, can be disputed. Some proven nuts and seeds with higher levels of phytoestrogen are: 

  • Brazil nuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Roasted salted peanuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame seeds 

Legumes

Legumes are some of the most studied sources of phytoestrogens. They are also debated for the benefits and risks of how these phytoestrogens interact with our bodies. Some legumes that contain high counts of phytoestrogens are:

  • Peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Soybeans 
  • Lima beans
  • Carob
  • Kidney beans
  • Mung beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Lentils

Fruits and vegetables

Generally, berries and cruciferous vegetables are said to have high phytoestrogen levels. Some examples of these are:

  • Sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Garlic 
  • Onion
  • Zucchini
  • Broccoli
  • Celeriac
  • Cauliflower
  • Strawberry
  • Cranberry
  • Blueberry
  • Cherry
  • Dates

Grains

There has been a strong correlation between people who eat cereal and higher rates of phytoestrogens. It has been found that many of the grains typically used in cereals have higher rates of phytoestrogens. Some examples of these grains are:

  • Whole wheat
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Barley

Benefits of eating foods high in estrogen

Estrogen is a hormone that helps develop female sexual and reproductive organs. Estrogen plays an important role in the menstrual cycle, the urinary tract, bones, breasts, blood, and the brain. It can also affect pubic and armpit hair growth. 

While estrogen is produced in the ovaries and is more present in females than in males, men still produce estrogen through their testes and are also deeply affected by it. 

Because estrogen is such a key player in so many bodily functions, having estrogen irregularities can be very harmful. Some reasons why you might want to seek out foods that are high in estrogen are: 

Menopause

Menopause is the medical term for women’s natural decline in estrogen production through age. Because the systems of menopause are caused by a lack of estrogen, eating estrogen rich foods can help to ease the symptoms.

Bone health

As previously mentioned, estrogen helps to regulate bone health. It has been proven that increased levels of phytoestrogen also mean increased levels of minerals in bones. This helps to prevent osteoporosis in both men and women. This is especially true in postmenopausal women. 

Breast and prostate cancer prevention

There is a proven link between eating more estrogen and a lower risk of breast cancer. This is also true with prostate cancer. Again, certain types of foods, phytoestrogens, and estrogens are debated in their benefits in this regard. 


 

Risks and outlook

A lot of the studies that people use to cite estrogen’s benefits or dangers are flawed. They might prove that estrogen or a hormone that acts like estrogen does or does not affect the body in a particular situation. However, these studies rarely prove that every situation with every person and every food item will hormonally affect you in the same way. 

However, please exercise caution when using your diet to supplement or avoid hormones. If you are in a situation where you are at risk, please consult with your doctor. 

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References
SOURCES:

Aging Male: "Is there a role for estrogens in the maintenance of men's health."

Breast Cancer Prevention Partners: "Phytoestrogens."

International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics: "Estrogens in Food: The Almond Mystery."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Estrogen's effects on the female body."

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: "The pros and cons of phytoestrogens."

Phytoestrogens: "A Review of the Clinical, Epidemiological, and Mechanistic Evidence."

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: "Potential Health Benefits of Dietary."

UCLA Center for Human Nutrition: "Vegetables, fruits, and phytoestrogens in the prevention of diseases."

University of Florence: "Phytoestrogens: food or drug?"

University of North Carolina Asheville: "Soy foods: are they useful for optimal bone health?"

University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology: "Estrogen and bone health in men and women."

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