When estrogen levels are out of balance (e.g., during perimenopause), it can harm health, mood, and sexual desire.
Do you want to know how to increase estrogen naturally or which foods contain estrogen? Then you’ve come to the right place!
What Are Foods That Increase Estrogen?
To understand when foods can help boost estrogen levels, we must examine why proper estrogen levels are essential for health at any age.
There are different estrogens. Phytoestrogens are found in plants, so they are also called dietary estrogens.
On the other hand, true exogenous estrogens can only be used by your doctor if you suffer from severe estrogen deficiency.
Your body produces endogenous estrogens depending on your current life stage (Davidge-Pitts et al. 20221):
- Estrone (E1) predominantly after menopause
- Estradiol (E2) predominantly during reproductive age
- Estriol (E3) during pregnancy
The steroid hormone estrogen is essential for the function of the female reproductive organs and the development of female sexual characteristics.
For this reason, it is also known as the primary female sex hormone. Nevertheless, estrogen is also naturally present in male bodies, where it provides sexual functioning (Pentikäinen et al. 20002).
In the female body, however, the steroid hormone’s roles extend far beyond sexuality (Delgado et al. 20223):
- Breast: Estrogen is responsible for the development of mammary gland tissue. Moreover, it develops the mammary gland ducts during puberty and pregnancy, providing breast milk.
- Uterus: The hormone thickens the uterine lining during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy.
- Sex organs: Estrogen is responsible for the growth of the internal and external female sex organs.
- Brain: Estrogen plays a role in higher cognitive functions and synaptic health far beyond its effects on reproduction (Hara et al. 20154).
- Heart: The steroid hormone helps regulate blood lipid levels, which counteracts the risk of coronary heart disease.
- Bone: During puberty, estrogen supports bone development, and after menopause, it helps prevent osteoporosis.
- Metabolism: Estrogen regulates appetite, body fat distribution, blood glucose, insulin, and other metabolic functions (Mauvais-Jarvis et al. 20135).
In addition, the sex hormone is essential in the breakdown, buildup, and especially fat distribution in all human bodies (Frank et al. 20196).
Why Increase Estrogen Levels Naturally?
Low estrogen levels can negatively impact bone health, mood, libido, sleep, concentration, energy, and body fat, among other things (Davidge-Pitts et al. 20227).
Estrogen vs. Phytoestrogens in Food
Foods cannot directly increase your estrogen levels. Animal foods such as milk or butter contain natural estrogens, but the amounts are so minimal that they are in the nanogram range.
Phytoestrogens from plants can exert an estrogenic effect on the body when estrogen levels are low. These naturally occurring plant compounds can therefore help increase estrogen.
Phytoestrogens have a structure that is very similar to estradiol, the most potent estrogen in the body. Therefore, they can bind to the same receptors as estrogen in the body and thus cause almost the same changes (Desmawati et al. 20198).
Because phytoestrogens can also exert anti-estrogenic effects, many people worry that they may harm health.
In this context, the devil is in the details. Researchers attribute a unique effect to phytoestrogens (Poluzzi et al. 20149):
- At high estrogen levels, they exert an antiestrogenic effect
- At low estrogen levels, they act as a weak estrogen
For this reason, according to research, the health benefits of phytoestrogen-rich foods outweigh the potential risks so that you can consume them safely in manageable amounts.
- Weight loss
- Memory function
- Immune system
- Hormone-dependent tumors
- Flavonoids and isoflavonoids
Let’s take a closer look at foods containing these phytoestrogens (phenols) and how they can help you increase estrogen naturally.
How to Increase Estrogen Naturally
There are several ways you can naturally regulate your estrogen at low levels. While foods or beverages are obvious factors, crucial lifestyle factors are often underestimated.
Foods That Boost Estrogen
Here are the top 10 foods with phytoestrogens that will help you get your estrogen levels going in the right direction when they are low.
Cruciferous vegetables are consistently cited as a healthy food for women, and rightly so, in various situations.
At high estrogen levels, their phytoestrogens compete with endogenous estrogen for receptors. They exert their weak estrogenic effects at low estrogen levels by binding to free receptors (Poluzzi et al. 201414).
Therefore, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli help regulate estrogen levels naturally. They help with high estrogen levels (e.g., reproductive years) and low estrogen levels (e.g., menopause).
This remarkable effect of phytoestrogens is particularly noticeable in broccoli, as it is that vegetable that contains the most lignans (Rodríguez-García et al. 201915).
In addition, researchers suggest that broccoli consumption may positively affect estrogen metabolism after menopause, making it an effective and safe dietary strategy to prevent breast cancer (Fowke et al. 200016).
2. Brussels Sprouts
After broccoli, brussels sprouts are those cruciferous vegetables that contain the most lignans (Rodríguez-García et al. 201917).
Furthermore, you can also find coumestans in them (Poluzzi et al. 201418).
These facts make brussels sprouts one of the most exciting foods that can help increase estrogen.
Finishing off the cruciferous family is the versatile cabbage itself.
Fennel is an essential natural source of flavonoids (Ghazanfarpour et al. 201724).
In a recent animal study, scientists successfully increased estrogen levels through a fennel-enriched diet (Abbas et al. 202025).
In addition, a systematic meta-analysis of studies attributes fennel with the ability to alleviate the following complaints of estrogen deficiency (Khadivzadeh et al. 201826):
- Vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and sweats
- Pain during sexual intercourse and decreased libido
- Vaginal itching and dryness
- Sleep problems
Because of its versatility, garlic should not be missing from any pantry. This fact is as actual for health reasons as it is for culinary ones.
Accordingly, a study of menopausal women found that the equivalent of 2 grams of raw garlic per day can substantially reduce estrogen deficiency (Mozaffari-Khosravi29).
6. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are the richest natural source of lignans (Rodríguez-García et al. 201930).
Accordingly, they could help postmenopausal women significantly increase estrogen levels in as little as five weeks (Wu et al. 200631).
In addition, researchers suggest that the active compounds in sesame seeds may improve bone health (El Wakf et al. 201432).
Like flax seed oil, sesame seed oil is not heat resistant. It would be best if you did not use it for frying.
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7. Flax Seeds
Like sesame, flax seeds are packed with lignans (Rodríguez-García et al. 201933).
Flax seeds can reduce low estrogen and menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness (Franco et al. 201634).
On top of that, the lignans found in flaxseeds may play an essential role in reducing breast cancer risk, especially after menopause (Calado et al. 201835).
Flax seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, they also help improve blood pressure, lipids, inflammation, and insulin resistance (Faintuch et al. 200736; Mandaşescu et al. 200537; Kawakami et al. 201538; Bloedon et al. 200439).
On the other hand, polyunsaturated fatty acids are also why flax seed oil can oxidize even at low temperatures. Please don’t use it for cooking.
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Tip: If you grind flaxseed freshly (e.g., in a pepper mill), the bioavailability of the lignans increases significantly (Kujisten et al. 200540).
Soy is the richest source of isoflavones among foods (Bacciottini et al. 200741).
But this is not the only reason soy should be treated cautiously. The legume contains a variety of anti-nutrients such as lectins or phytic acid, which damage the gut and prevent the absorption of other nutrients (Gibson et al. 201043).
Fortunately, fermentation is a method to reduce health concerns while boosting the benefits.
Among probiotic versions of soy, miso stands out. It is a thick paste of soybeans fermented with salt and a starter culture.
Miso paste is used to make sauces, pickled vegetables, or soups. Miso soup is now a household name in this country as well, as it is a healthy option in Asian restaurants.
Through miso, you can benefit from the estrogenic effects of isoflavones while minimizing the health risks of soy (Morito et al. 201044).
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Tempeh is another food made from fermented soybeans.
It is similar to tofu but uses whole soybean and ferments it. As a result, you ingest fewer harmful substances, higher protein levels, and specific vitamins and minerals.
So you can benefit more healthily from soy isoflavones, which can help especially against hormone-related hot flashes during menopause (Messina 201445).
A recent study showed that tempeh consumption could improve cognition (Handajani et al. 202046).
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The dessert among the best foods that can boost estrogen comes last, befitting its status.
While most people overestimate phytoestrogens in berries, strawberries stand out with 6.2 mg of lignans per 100 g (Rodríguez-García et al. 201947).
They, too, can help you naturally boost estrogen levels. At the same time, with 5.4 g of carbohydrates per 100 g, they are also even more suitable for low-carbohydrate diets than their peers.
Drinks That Increase Estrogen Levels Naturally
While coffee and green tea contain small amounts of phytoestrogens (Kuhnle et al. 200848), traditional alternative medicine knows numerous herbs that can help boost estrogen when used as tea.
Moreover, one of the following estrogen-regulating drinks will amaze you because it contains alcohol.
1. Red Clover Tea
This plant is rich in phytoestrogens. Therefore, its tea can help if estrogen levels are too low (Beck et al. 200549).
For example, red clover could help reduce menopausal hot flashes because of its isoflavones (Lambert et al. 201750).
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2. Fenugreek Tea
If you want to boost estrogen naturally, fenugreek is a no-brainer.
In a study conducted on 80 women, the plant’s extract significantly increased both free estrogen in the body and sexual desire (Rao et al. 201551).
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3. Dong Quai Tea
Dong Quai has been used in China for centuries to reduce hot flashes, as well as relieve other symptoms of PMS and menopause (Kelley et al. 201052).
Studies suggest that the tea exerts estrogen-like effects (Lau et al. 200553).
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4. Valerian Root Tea
This herb is known for its calming effects.
On the other hand, few people know that valerian root has been able to reduce hot flashes in studies of the highest quality.
Researchers suggest that healthcare providers consider valerian root an effective remedy for menopausal women suffering from hot flashes (Jenabi et al. 201854).
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5. Chasteberry Tea
Chasteberry contains apigenin. According to scientists, this phytoestrogen can exert a positive estrogenic effect (Rani et al. 201355).
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6. Ginko Biloba Tea
According to studies, ginkgo biloba could be an alternative to hormone replacement therapies for postmenopausal women due to estrogenic activities (Oh et al. 200458).
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7. Red Wine
Is an alcoholic beverage that is healthy and helps with low estrogen levels possible?
Yes, as long as you don’t overdo it. According to studies, 90 ml a day for women and 180 ml a day of red wine for men is the health ideal because of the alcohol content (Corrao et al. 200059).
Resveratrol, found in red wine, is a phytoestrogen that can exert estrogenic effects (Qasem 202060).
It is the essential stilbene (Sirtori et al. 200561)
Since it originates from the grape skin, it is found only in red wine. In white wine, the skin is removed before fermentation.
As a phytoestrogen, resveratrol can protect the cardiovascular system and has anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
In addition, resveratrol is known to increase life expectancy (Biagi et al. 201562).
I recommend a dry, low-carb wine from Pinot Noir or Sangiovese grapes, like in the remarkably delicate Chianti below.
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Other Ways to Increase Estrogen Naturally
Eating more proper foods is not the only way to increase estrogen levels naturally. In today’s consumer society, we often forget that less can often be more or healthier.
The following lifestyle factors are crucial for sustainable well-being. The first step is to avoid foods that upset your hormone balance.
Sugar reduction is why keto is the best diet for low estrogen.
Not only for low-carb diets but also for estrogen deficiency, PMS, and menopausal symptoms, sugar is precisely what no one should eat.
- Fructose, since the liver metabolizes it into harmful fat
- Glucose, since it increases insulin levels and excess, is likewise converted to fat
This way, the following symptoms are favored, especially in menopausal women (Weinberg et al. 200667):
- Increased abdominal fat
- Poor blood lipid levels
- Increased blood pressure
- Abnormal glucose metabolism
The resulting glucose intake promotes inflammation in the body (Buyken et al. 201469).
On the other hand, ketogenic foods increase insulin sensitivity, resulting in better blood glucose and lipid levels (Boden et al. 200570).
In addition, the release of satiety hormones increases proportionally to the fatty acids ingested (Pironi et al. 199371).
For example, fatty fish offers bioavailable protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which increase muscle protein synthesis and basal metabolic rate (Hulbert et al. 199972).
Tip: Cruciferous vegetables are ideal sides for ketogenic meals, when you dress them up with grass-fed butter.
Both too much and too little exercise can lower estrogen levels.
Few people realize that too much or too intense exercise can throw a woman’s hormone balance.
On the one hand, this can cause too many stress hormones and, on the other hand, too few fertility hormones, negatively affecting estrogen production (Meczekalski et al. 201476).
This doesn’t mean you have to give up exercise. Significantly when estrogen levels drop due to menopause, appropriate activity can counteract belly fat (Kossman et al. 201177).
However, 2-3 very intense weekly sessions are a healthy upper limit.
Among other health markers, smoking lowers estrogen levels in men and women (Windham et al. 200578).
Because normal estrogen levels are instrumental in bone health, female smokers have low bone density and a higher likelihood of fractures, especially after menopause (Denison et al. 200879).
For example, women over 60 could reduce body fat through intermittent fasting without losing muscle (Domaszewski et al. 202082).
In a study of uncontrolled eating behaviors, intermittent fasting reduced cravings and depression after only two months (Hoddy et al. 201583).
Women whose hormones are out of balance experience sleep problems. As indicated by a study conducted on 14 women, intermittent fasting can help improve sleep quality drastically (Michalsen et al. 200386).
This improvement in sleep hygiene may help reduce symptoms of estrogen deficiency, such as sleep disturbances, mood swings, hot flashes, and night sweats.
Proper Foods Help Boost Estrogen Naturally
A variety of foods contain phytoestrogens. Plants do not hold actual estrogen. However, these active compounds can have an effect similar to estrogen.
To increase your phytoestrogen intake, reach for the foods in this article the next time you shop or order one of the delicious teas listed above now!
Foods to Increase Estrogen Naturally FAQ
How can I improve my estrogen levels?
You can naturally boost estrogen by eating foods that contain phytoestrogens, such as broccoli, flaxseed, or cabbage sprouts.
What foods raise estrogen levels?
Cruciferous vegetables, flaxseeds, and specific herbal teas supply you with phytoestrogens – dietary estrogen.
How do you fix low estrogen?
The first and most effective thing to fix low estrogen is quitting sugar.
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Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.
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