Menopause

Estrogen-Rich Foods to Eat During Menopause

Tassia Agatowski
Tassia Agatowskilast month10 min read

Is there any truth to the idea that eating estrogen-rich foods for menopause can impact your symptoms? Here’s what to know about phytoestrogens.

Estrogen-Rich Foods to Eat During Menopause

Many of the symptoms of perimenopause are connected to the fact that your body makes less of the hormone estrogen as you get older.

So if you could eat something that replaced that missing estrogen, it would make your menopause symptoms easier to deal with, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple, and the science of estrogen-rich foods for menopause is still up in the air.

But since most of the potential food sources of estrogen are so nutritious in their own right, you may just want to add them to your shopping cart anyway.

In this article: 📝

  • How can I increase estrogen in menopause?
  • What is estrogen?
  • What happens when estrogen levels are low?
  • What happens when estrogen levels are high?
  • What foods increase estrogen during menopause?
  • Foods rich in estrogen for menopause: the bottom line

How can I increase estrogen in menopause?

The only guaranteed way to increase your estrogen levels during menopause is with menopausal hormone therapy (aka hormone replacement therapy, or HRT).

But, because of its risks and side effects, HRT isn’t a road that everyone can — or wants to — go down.

So it’s worth exploring whether the food you put in your body can influence your hormone levels too.

Enter phytoestrogens — compounds that exist naturally in plants in different concentrations.

The theory is that when your gut breaks down phytoestrogens, they attach to the same receptors in your cells as the estrogen produced by your body.

Some experts hope phytoestrogens might operate in a similar way to the hormones produced in your body.

Eating them regularly would mean that your body would be better able to regulate your temperature, keep your hair and skin healthy, stabilize your mood and sleeping patterns, and even keep your bones strong.

But the story is complicated.

Phytoestrogens are both estrogen receptor agonists and antagonists.

Basically, this means that they can increase estrogen action in your body — or they can block it.

And while that may sound like bad news, it may not be.

There has been some concern that a diet high in soy might be linked to certain cancers because of the bean’s high phytoestrogen content.

(Estrogen and breast cancer, for example, have a significant link.)

But it’s complicated.

In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, consuming soy may actually decrease your risk of breast and endometrial cancer.

And that’s because phytoestrogens have anti-estrogen properties too.











So, yep, it’s confusing.

And there’s still a lot we don’t know about this subject.

As the research continues, we’ll hopefully be able to harness the power of these promising compounds.

For now, we’ll take you through the options that make the phytoestrogen-rich list.

What is estrogen?

Estrogen (AKA the female sex hormone) plays a key role in your reproductive health.

When you go through puberty, estrogen helps kick your period into gear and project-manages the growth of hair in some interesting new places.

It then continues to support your reproductive system for years to come.

But its job doesn’t stop there.

Estrogen also helps in other areas, such as cholesterol control and bone health.

When your estrogen levels are too high or too low, your health and wellbeing can be affected.

Does vitamin D increase estrogen?

Not necessarily.

There does seem to be a link between vitamin D and estrogen, as suggested by this 2019 study, which seems to show that vitamin D and estrogen can work together to maintain healthy fat levels, blood pressure, and glucose levels.

So making sure you’re getting your recommended amount of vitamin D in addition to increasing your estrogen-rich foods could be a good idea for menopausal women.

What happens when estrogen levels are low?

There are several reasons your estrogen levels can take a dip.

Health conditions that impact your thyroid, ovaries, or pituitary gland can all be responsible for low levels of estrogen.

But the most common reason for decreasing levels?

Simply getting older.

During perimenopause—the time around when your period takes its final bow—your estrogen levels fluctuate, ultimately dropping very low.

This change can affect your body in various ways, often causing a range of symptoms—the most notorious of which is the ‘hot flash’.

Low levels can also impact your mood, sleep, and sex drive.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, getting those estrogen levels up can feel like a serious priority.

That’s why Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is appropriate for some people.

What happens when estrogen levels are high?

There are also some cases where your estrogen levels may be too high.

This can cause symptoms like irregular periods, constipation, and depression.

High estrogen levels are linked to several health concerns, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine and breast cancer, and heart disease.

So that brings us to the question of the moment.

Can you either increase or decrease your estrogen levels by eating foods that are high in estrogen?

Well, the truth is, it’s complicated.

What foods increase estrogen during menopause?

Some foods contain a compound called phytoestrogen (basically plant estrogen).

These foods have the capacity to mimic the estrogen produced by your body.

Seems like an interesting option if you’re looking to impact your estrogen supplies.

The first thing to know is that phytoestrogen can have both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects on your body.

That means that there are foods that could increase estrogen and foods that could decrease it.

The problem is, there is a lot of contradictory evidence on how much of an impact phytoestrogen actually has on your estrogen levels.

This study, for example, showed that phytoestrogen may help with hot flashes, while this study cast some serious shade on using them as “natural” alternatives to HRT.

Claims made that phytoestrogen can help out with bone health by balancing your estrogen levels are also not conclusive.

With all that contention in mind, let’s take a look at what we know about foods that contain phytoestrogen—as well as what kind of impact they might have.

So let’s explore these estrogen-rich foods and how they could help your menopausal symptoms.

Which foods increase estrogen the most?

First, what are the highest estrogen-rich foods you can eat to deal with menopause symptoms?

Do soy products increase estrogen?

When it comes to linking diet and menopause symptoms, a lot of research focuses on soy.

There are some promising results too.

Eating soy as part of a low-fat, plant-based diet seems to reduce night sweats and hot flashes, which puts foods like soybeans, edamame, tofu, and miso firmly in the top 10 estrogen-rich foods for menopause.

A protein staple for many on a vegetarian or vegan diet, soy products contain compounds called isoflavone.

These may act as phytoestrogen and could have both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects.

But this topic is not without its controversy.

Some claim that soy helps with menopause symptoms, while others say it may be linked to breast cancer, thyroid problems, and dementia.

This Harvard review explains that it’s likely that soy may have different effects on your body depending on how much estrogen is already present, meaning it could have an anti-estrogenic effect in perimenopausal women and estrogenic effect in postmenopausal women.

According to the American Cancer Society, it’s safe to consume.

If you’re a fan of soy products, you can safely ‘add to cart’.

Do eggs increase estrogen?

But what about protein to round out your menopause meals?

Eggs and milk contain iron, calcium, vitamin D, and protein, which are especially helpful during menopause when many women start to lose some bone density.

They can also be high in estrogen and progesterone simply because of where they’re made in a hen’s body.

But when it comes to the phytoestrogens that seem to keep some hormonal symptoms under control, there’s no competition between eggs and the other foods on this list.

The level of phytoestrogens in a free-range egg is 11 micrograms per 100g, compared to 6028 micrograms in the same weight of soy milk.

Does flaxseed increase estrogen?

Flaxseed contains what is known as lignans.

By possibly “acting like” estrogen when eaten, lignans may decrease breast cancer risk, particularly in postmenopausal women.

Flax seeds have sky-scraping levels of antioxidants, fatty acids, and protein.

They also have one of the highest phytoestrogen counts of any food.

So adding a spoon to your cereal or smoothie can be a great addition to your menopause breakfast routine.

The recommendation from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is that flaxseed should be eaten as part of your diet rather than as a supplement, and no more than three tablespoons a day.

Are almonds high estrogen?

We’re not actually sure.

According to this study in 1978, while testing various nuts, grains, fruits, and vegetables for high levels of estrogen, the first sample of almonds had a significantly higher “estrogenic activity” than the other foods.

However, later studies showed barely any estrogen in almonds.

But almonds have many other nutritional benefits, even if they’re not an estrogen-rich food ‒ they’re great for maintaining a healthy heart, could possibly reduce UVB-induced skin aging, and have been explored as prevention or managing of Alzheimer’s.

Does cinnamon increase estrogen?

Maybe.

This study on rats seemed to show a correlation between eating cinnamon and increased estrogen levels.

But there aren’t many other studies on the effect of cinnamon on estrogen levels, so we can’t say for sure.

Does red clover raise estrogen levels?

This legume is sold as a natural supplement for menopause symptoms.

The jury is out on how effective it is at this job.

Some reports claim it can influence estrogen levels and help with hot flashes.

Others, like this one, say that the effect appears to be weak.

This study reported that it had no effect on postmenopausal women. More research is needed here for us to know for sure.

What vegetables are best to increase estrogen levels?

Building an estrogen-rich diet has to include veggies, but which have the highest levels of estrogen?

Green veggies

Broccoli and brussels sprouts are a brilliant place to begin.

And, if you’re into winter vegetables, the levels of phytoestrogens in cabbage are also comparatively high.

Orange veggies

Sweet potato, pumpkin, and carrots are the big hitters here.

Sprouts

If you’re into soups and salads, a sprinkle of beansprouts or broccoli shoots can boost the phytoestrogen content of an already healthy plate of food.

Which fruit is rich in estrogen?

Not all fruits are high in phytoestrogens, but the ones that are can really pack a punch:

  • Apples
  • Pomegranates
  • Blackberries
  • Blackcurrants
  • Kiwi
  • Watermelon

What foods contain phytoestrogen?

U.S. Pharmacist also includes these in their list of foods containing phytoestrogen:

  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Dried beans
  • Lentils
  • Rice
  • Alfalfa
  • Wheat germ
  • Ricebran
  • Dried fruits, like apricots, prunes, dates, and figs

Foods rich in estrogen for menopause: the bottom line

While it’s fantastic news that such a wide range of common ingredients might help to make menopause easier to navigate, the science really isn’t conclusive.

Some studies suggest that phytoestrogens can reduce hot flashes and act like estrogen in your body, but others have shown very little effect.

That being said, the foods on this list are healthy, versatile, and delicious.

So they can still be a great foundation for healthy eating during perimenopause and beyond.

While phytoestrogen may help with hormonal balance, more research is needed for us to know for sure.

If you’re struggling with menopause symptoms, know that you’re not alone.

We’re having the conversation on Peanut. Join us.

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