10 Foods That Affect Estrogen Levels
Certain foods contain estrogen-like components that may affect your hormones. Women who have low estrogen due to aging might be looking for a boost, while men with high estrogen might be trying to avoid it and minimize estrogen-related issues such as breast enlargement (gynecomastia), infertility and difficulty getting erections.
Foods that are good for some people might be on the "should avoid" list for others, not because the foods aren't healthy but because they can send estrogen levels in one direction or the other. The following 10 foods—well, nine foods and a liquid—all may influence estrogen levels.
Soybeans contain compounds called isoflavones, which are similar in structure to estrogen. These compounds can bind to estrogen receptors and either increase or decrease estrogen activity in your body. Soybeans are packed with high-quality protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. To realize the benefits of soy products but not elevate your estrogen levels, consume these foods in moderation.
Because tofu is made of soybeans, it's no surprise that it's a high-estrogen food. In fact, tofu has one of the highest concentrations of isoflavones of all soy-based foods. Tofu does offer health benefits, so don't be afraid to include some of it in your meal plan from time to time.
Tempeh is made of fermented soybeans, which is why it's high on the list of estrogen-boosting foods. As with tofu and soybeans, tempeh has the potential to increase estrogen levels if you eat a lot of it, so consume it in moderation if you don't need the estrogen boost.
Studies indicate that cow's milk and the foods made from it often contain small amounts of estrogen, which might affect the levels in your body, though the amount you'd need to drink is pretty prohibitive. If you're concerned about lowering your risk of consuming estrogen from cow's milk, opt for organic milk or choose plant-based milk instead.
5. Red meat
Red meat may contain natural or synthetic estrogen. Consuming red meat, according to some studies, can significantly increase blood estrogen concentrations. If you do eat meat, do so in moderation and choose poultry or fish, as red meat also increases your risk of getting certain types of cancer. Processed meats such as bacon, ham and hot dogs are linked with cancer, too, so avoid them whenever possible.
The same researchers who found that red meat increases estrogen determined that consuming eggs may also affect your hormones. Eat eggs in moderation if you're worried about your estrogen levels increasing.
Flaxseeds are natural sources of lignans, which are phytoestrogens similar in structure to the estrogen in your body. Because of this, flaxseeds (and flaxseed oil) have the potential to affect blood estrogen levels. On the other hand, flaxseeds are loaded with fiber and heart-healthy fats, making them a good option for reducing high cholesterol and heart disease risks.
8. Sesame seeds
Like flaxseeds, sesame seeds are also loaded with lignans. While not as high in lignans as flaxseeds, sesame seeds may also contribute to increased estrogen if you overindulge in them.
Cashews are also rich in estrogen-like lignans and, as with other nuts and seeds, loaded with heart-healthy fats, fiber and plant protein. Rather than eliminating nuts and seeds from your diet, limit those that contain high levels of lignans in favor of lower-lignan nuts and seeds.
Research shows that excessive alcohol intake (chronic use or alcohol abuse) negatively affects your liver, which can lead to low testosterone and higher levels of estrogen. In fact, researchers found that excessive alcohol intake is linked with erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. Limit alcohol to two drinks per day (or fewer) for men and one drink daily for women.
Many estrogen-boosting foods have overall health benefits. But if you're not sure whether your estrogen is at a healthy level, talk to your doctor about the range that is healthy for you and how to maintain and monitor it.