Oestrogen hormone is crucial for the sexual and reproductive health of a woman. But these levels begin to decline in the perimenopause stage. The result is evident – hot flushes, night sweats, decreased libido, and frequent mood swings. Persistently low levels of oestrogen impair bone health as oestrogen promotes the activity of osteoblasts [bone making cells]. The condition can be managed by boosting the dropping oestrogen levels which is possible through phytoestrogens, compounds in some foods that increase oestrogen levels in females.
What are Phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogen is a Greek word where ‘Phyto’ means plants and ‘estrogen’ is the primary sex hormone that regulates a range of body functions. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived oestrogen. Certain plants are naturally rich in this compound and can therefore mimic the way oestrogen acts in the body.
The effect of phytoestrogens on the body can be of two types – estrogenic and antiestrogenic. While certain foods containing phytoestrogens will confer oestrogen-like effects on some tissues [bone] and at the same time, may have antiestrogenic effects on other tissues such as breast, thereby reducing the risk of cancer.
Power Foods That Increase Oestrogen Levels in Females
A range of fruits and vegetables are naturally high in phytoestrogen compounds. Listed below are commonly available foods that increase oestrogen in women:
Flaxseeds, the small golden-brown coloured seeds, are an excellent source of lignans, a chemical compound functioning as phytoestrogens. Flaxseeds are the richest source of dietary oestrogen with up to 800 times more lignans than any other plant. While flaxseeds do not increase the levels of oestrogen in the body directly, they have anti-estrogenic properties and help support hormonal balance. Research suggests that including flaxseeds in a daily diet can reduce the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
2. Soybeans and Edamame
While soybeans are processed, edamame is the whole (unprocessed), green, unripe bean. Apart from being rich in a range of minerals and vitamins, soybeans and edamame are foods that raise oestrogen in females as they are naturally high in isoflavones, the phytoestrogen compound. Isoflavones mimic hormonal activity and lead to an increase in the natural levels of oestrogen in the body.
3. Peaches, Blueberries, and Strawberries
Like flaxseeds, peaches, blueberries, and strawberries are excellent sources of lignans. These juicy fruits that increase oestrogen levels in females also contain a range of vitamins and minerals which have a positive and nourishing impact on the body. Research suggests that these fruits help decrease the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women significantly. A sumptuous inclusion of these fruits in a daily diet also helps relieve symptoms related to low oestrogen levels.
Garlic is an already established superfood for the heart. It helps reduce cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and prevents clot formation. In addition to these, garlic has a significant impact on managing the oestrogen levels in the body too. Research suggests that including garlic in daily diet confers phytoestrogen properties which help reduce bone loss caused due to dipping oestrogen levels.
5. Red Wine
Red wine is naturally rich in resveratrol, a phytoestrogen compound that helps in regulating cholesterol levels and maintaining the hormonal balance in the body. Research suggests that a moderate inclusion of red wine in the diet can inhibit the growth of cancer cells, especially in postmenopausal women. Women who abstain from drinking alcohol can get resveratrol by eating red and purple grapes.
6. Cruciferous Vegetables
The cruciferous vegetables, namely, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower amongst others are called super-veggies because of their rich nutritional value. Most cruciferous vegetables contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals. The darker green variety is further packed with vitamins A and C along with phytoestrogens.
While cauliflower and broccoli are excellent sources of secoisolariciresinol, a sub-category of lignan phytoestrogen, brussels sprouts and cabbage contain high quantities of coumestrol, a phytonutrient exhibiting estrogenic qualities. Diets that are typically rich in cruciferous vegetables are associated with a lower risk of cancers and cardiac ailments.
7. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are the food that increases oestrogen in females and can be added to the daily diet with much ease. The small seeds available in three varieties – golden brown, white and black, contain high fibre content. They are naturally rich in phytoestrogens and are known to increase oestrogen levels in postmenopausal women. The sesame seeds can be added to various cuisines or simply be consumed as sesame seed powder to experience its wonderful effects.
8. Wheat Bran
Wheat bran, the outer layer of the wheat grain which gets separated from the grain during the refining process, is one of the richest foods that increase oestrogen in women. A concentrated source of phytoestrogens, especially lignans, helps reduce the serum oestrogen levels in women. The high fibre content in wheat bran along with its phytoestrogens properties helps alleviate perimenopausal symptoms.
9. Nuts and Dried Fruits
Dried fruits and nuts are known to have the highest quantities of phytoestrogen. They are rich with fibre content and important nutrients. Just munching on dates, prunes, and dried apricots as a healthy snack or taking a handful of nuts like almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pistachios can confer healthy benefits for your heart along with the all-important phytoestrogens.
Vitamins and Minerals That Increase Oestrogen Levels
In addition to the abovementioned foods that raise oestrogen in females, there are certain vitamins and minerals that create and activate oestrogen levels in the body. So, eating foods that are rich in these vitamins and minerals can also act as phytoestrogens. These are:
1. B Vitamins
The 8 B-Vitamins, together called the B complex vitamins, namely – thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12), are pivotal for creating and activating oestrogen hormone in the body. A deficiency in any of these 8 B-Vitamins can lead to oestrogen deficiency. Eating foods rich in B-Vitamins like poultry, seafood, and legumes can help significantly.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin is crucial for bone development. It also plays an important role in oestrogen synthesis. When it works in association with oestrogen, it helps improve bone and cardiovascular health. Getting adequate sunshine and occasional Vitamin D supplements can help regulate oestrogen.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is naturally present in the body. It can be transformed into oestrogen and testosterone. The process entails the conversion of DHEA into androgens and then into oestrogen. DHEA is found to confer similar benefits as oestrogen. There are no food sources for DHEA. It is naturally produced by the adrenal glands in the body. However, DHEA supplements made from non-food sources are available in the market.
Boron is a trace mineral and is extremely important for the proper functioning of the body. It helps in reducing the risk of various types of cancers and also improves the metabolism of testosterone and estrogen, the primary sex hormones. Research suggests that boron facilitates the use of already available oestrogen by influencing oestrogen receptors. Foods naturally rich in boron are apples, coffee, dried beans, kale, and spinach.
Foods that increase oestrogen levels in females come in handy when the levels of this crucial hormone begin to fall in the perimenopause phase. The key remains to include different foods in your daily diet, not to overdo any, and watch your symptoms closely. Get in touch with a medical expert if the symptoms persist or worsen.