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20 Foods High In Estrogen (Phytoestrogens)

Estrogen is considered a female sex hormone produced by the ovaries in women. Without adequate levels of estrogen, women may notice that they feel moody, unhealthy, or are unable to maintain healthy female sex characteristics.  Estrogen is an essential hormone for maintenance of feminine sex traits, but also plays an important role in physiological functions such as: promoting sex drive (libido), vaginal health, skin health, triglyceride regulation, and speeding the metabolism.

While there are many synthetic, pharmaceutical drugs devised to increase estrogen levels in women, these interventions aren’t always necessary. There are some natural ways to increase estrogen levels, one of which happens to be eating the right foods foods. This has lead some women with low estrogen to adopt diets with specific foods containing phytoestrogens (plant-based compounds that stimulate the same receptors as estrogen).

Foods High in Estrogen: Think Phytoestrogen

If you are a woman with suboptimal levels of estrogen, you’ll likely notice that the insufficient levels take a toll on your health. Estrogen is essential for regulating your menstrual cycle and is necessary for healthy bones, hair, skin, and heart function. To combat an estrogen deficiency, you may want to adopt a diet rich in foods that will increase your estrogen level.  This means increasing intake of phytoestrogens, while decreasing consumption of foods that increase testosterone.


Phytoestrogens are considered plant-based compounds that elicit similar effects to estrogen. Although phytoestrogens aren’t generated from within the endocrine system, they can be a helpful way to stimulate many of the same functions of estrogen. This is because phytoestrogens sit in the same receptor sites that estrogen would – thus similar effects are produced.

3 Types of Phytoestrogens

Below are three common types of phytoestrogens derived from foods. Certain foods may contain multiple types of phytoestrogens, but one may be dominant.

  • Coumestan: Phytochemicals called “coumestans” contain a compound called “coumestrol.” Coumestrol is known to elicit estrogenic effects and is considered a phytoestrogen. Examples of foods with coumestrol include: alfalfa, legumes, pinto beans, soybeans, chick peas, and clovers.
  • Isoflavones: This is another compound that is related to “isoflavonoids.” They act as phytoestrogens in people and are sometimes considered antioxidants. Examples of isoflavones include: soy products and legumes.
  • Lignans: This is the third type of phytoestrogen derived from foods. Lignans are most commonly found in foods like brans, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

In 2006, researchers in Canada published a study comparing the 9 food groups richest in phytoestrogens for a Western diet. They compared a total of 121 foods in Ontario, Canada and analyzed these foods for isoflavones and coumestan utilizing gas cromatography mass spectrometry. They then compared the foods with the highest amount of phytoestrogens per serving.

The study discovered that on average, the foods with the highest phytoestrogen content were “nuts and oilseeds” followed by “soy products.” This is somewhat misleading though considering the way foods were grouped and the fact that phytoestrogen content varies significantly within a particular food group or genre.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16898863

20 Foods High in Estrogen

Based on the research from the study cited above, the top 20 foods to increase estrogen levels on a per-serving basis are listed below. Clearly the top recommendation would be consumption of flaxseeds and other soy-related products (e.g. soybeans, soy nuts, and tofu). Understand that certain foods may not have been taken into consideration in this study and therefore the list may not be conclusive.

  1. Flaxseed (163,133)
  2. Soybeans (45,724)
  3. Soy nuts (21,306)
  4. Textured veggie protein (8,923)
  5. Tofu (8,688)
  6. Soy milk (7,422)
  7. Soy yogurt (6,576)
  8. Tempeh (6,407)
  9. Flax bread (3,770)
  10. Sesame seed (2,722)
  11. Miso Paste (2,463)
  12. Multigrain bread (2,207)
  13. Miso Soup (1,691)
  14. Soy protein powder (1,591)
  15. Doughnuts (1,568)
  16. Soy protein bar (1,525)
  17. Black bean sauce (1,119)
  18. Hummus (605)
  19. Veggie burger (484)
  20. Soy bacon bits (482)

Phytoestrogen Contents by Food Group

As was mentioned, the study ranked 9 specific food groups for phytoestrogen contents based on micrograms per serving and amount per 100 grams. The rough estimates are listed next to each of the foods within the overarching “group.” Keep in mind that the groupings were created by researchers and were likely used for easier organization rather than creating one giant list.

1. Nuts & oil seeds

As you can see within the nuts and oil seeds group, there are a few foods that are chock-full of phytoestrogens per serving – including flaxseeds and sesame seeds. Numeric values on a per serving basis indicate that flaxseeds contain the most overall phytoestrogens. There is significant variation within this grouping though as walnuts contain a minuscule amount compared to the flaxseeds.

  • Flaxseeds (163,133)
  • Sesame seed (2,722)
  • Pistachios (126)
  • Sunflower seed (71)
  • Chestnuts (67)
  • Walnuts (36)

2. Soy products

When averaged out in the study, soy products come in “second” to the nuts and oil seeds grouping. This is due to the fact that the flax skews the average. If your goal is to get the most phytoestrogens per serving from a variety of sources – consider soy products. Both soybeans and soy nuts contain the highest amount of isoflavones to increase estrogen.

  • Soy beans (45,724)
  • Soy nuts (21,306)
  • Textured veggie protein (8,923)
  • Tofu (8,688)
  • Soy milk (7,422)
  • Soy yogurt (6,576)
  • Tempeh (6,407)
  • Miso Paste (2,463)
  • Miso Soup (1,691)
  • Soy protein powder (1,591)
  • Veggie burger (484)
  • Bacon Bits (482)
  • Soybean sprouts (173)

3. Cereals and Breads

Following soy products, the “cereals and breads” category placed third for average phytoestrogen content per serving. Not many cereals scored high in total phytoestrogen content, therefore this category should really just be called “breads.” As you can see, the flax-based bread appeared to be the top source, followed by multigrain bread, and oddly enough, doughnuts.

  • Flax bread (3,770)
  • Multigrain bread (2,207)
  • Doughnuts (1,568)
  • Rye bread (84)
  • Sesame bread (32)

4. Processed foods

This category in the study was called “meats and processed foods” but should really only be called processed foods. The meats scored extremely low for phytoestrogen content. The highest foods in this category for phytoestrogen on a per serving basis included: protein bars, black licorice, and pizza.

  • Protein bar (1,525)
  • Black licorice (258)
  • Pizza (35)

5. Legumes

Legumes are considered plants from the Fabaceae family, also known as Leguminosae. Most legumes are known for the fact that they tend to have nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Common examples of legumes include: peas, beans, lentils, and alfalfa. In the rankings of phytoestrogens per serving, black bean sauce was ranked as the highest, followed by hummus. Lentils had a relatively low amount per serving by comparison.

  • Black bean sauce (1,119)
  • Hummus (605)
  • Mung bean sprouts (94)
  • Mung beans (22)
  • Lentils (13)

6. Alcohols

Researchers noticed that the group of alcoholic beverages ranked higher than fruits based on average. That said, they only compared three total types of alcohols: red wine, white wine, and beer. Of the three, red wine yielded the greatest phytoestrogen density.

  • Red wine (94)
  • White wine (22)
  • Beer (9)

7. Fruits

When considering fruits, the highest in phytoestrogens per serving include: dried apricots and peaches. Dried apricots are the top choice if you want to consume fruits that give you the most content per serving. Dried dates and prunes also contain a considerable amount of phytoestrogens per serving.

  • Dried apricots (164)
  • Peaches (106)
  • Dried dates (102)
  • Dried prunes (69)
  • Oranges (63)

8. Beverages

Non-alcoholic beverages were assessed to include things like V8 juice, green tea, orange juice, and black tea. None of these drinks really contained much phytoestrogen. The non-alcoholic drink that tends to have the most phytoestrogens is that of V8 juice, followed by green tea. Keep in mind that the contents in these drinks is insignificant when compared to something like flaxseed.

  • V8 juice (42)
  • Green tea (31)
  • Orange juice (22)
  • Black tea (21)
  • Cranberry cocktail (18)
  • Coffee (18)

9. Vegetables

Of the 9 total groupings, vegetables came in last place when averaged per serving. The vegetable that was highest in phytoestrogen was that of garlic followed by alfalfa sprouts. Some would argue that legumes should be considered vegetables, but this isn’t the way the researchers grouped the items. Below are the rankings based on average phytoestrogen amount per serving.

  • Garlic (102)
  • Alfalfa sprouts (44)
  • Winter squash (39)
  • Green beans (28)
  • Olive oil (23)
  • Collards (19)
  • Olives (15)

Note: The numbers next to each of the food items is listed based on amount of “micrograms” per serving. For the more precise numbers as well as quantities per 100 grams of each item, read the study.

Do you need to eat foods high in phytoestrogens?

It is up to you to determine whether eating foods specifically with the intent of increasing estrogen is a healthy strategy. Before you skew your diet to incorporate foods that contain a significant number of phytoestrogens, it is recommended to ask your doctor to test your hormone levels. It doesn’t make sense to ramp up the estrogen-increasing foods if your estrogen levels are within the normal range.

Those with abnormally low estrogen levels may need to determine whether synthetic estrogen (e.g. pharmaceuticals) would be better than simply making dietary tweaks. It really isn’t known how effective eating a diet high in phytoestrogens will impact your overall health. If your estrogen levels are slightly low, and you haven’t been eating foods like flaxseed that are known to elicit estrogenic effects, it may be worth altering your diet and testing whether phytoestrogen-rich foods can get your estrogen to a healthy level.

Estrogen insufficiency is linked to a variety of problems, but too much estrogen can also be problematic. Therefore you’ll probably want to talk with a medical professional about what the best option is for your situation. If you’re taking synthetic estrogen and eating estrogen rich foods, it may lead to an overproduction of estrogenic effects which can cause: cysts, menstrual abnormalities, and possibly breast cancer.

Some people have had success in increasing their estrogen levels simply by making dietary alterations. However, it is important to not go too overboard with these foods. If you’re shoveling down flaxseed, eating flax bread, and soybeans all day – it’s may lead to too much estrogen production. Make sure you’re doing what’s necessary to increase estrogen if your levels are low – but don’t get carried away; it’s a delicate balance.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/

Are all of the foods listed above healthy?

It is up to you to determine whether the foods listed above are considered “healthy.” Some dietary practitioners would consider them perfectly healthy, while others would have a problem with increasing intake of these foods. If you start noticing that you aren’t feeling well (in terms of mental or physical health) when adopting a phytoestrogen-rich diet, you may want to decrease intake.

It makes sense to get your estrogen level checked prior to consciously attempting to alter it with a dietary or pharmacological intervention. As was mentioned, too much estrogen can cause health problems – especially in women with a history or susceptibility to breast cancer. If you have any questions about your diet, work with a dietitian for best results.

Have you tried increasing estrogen by eating certain foods?

If you’ve experimented with eating certain goods to increase estrogen levels, feel free to share your experience in the comments section below. To help others get a better idea of your situation, be sure to mention what your estrogen levels were prior to dietary changes and how long it took before you noticed a significant increase in estrogen from eating a different diet. Even if you haven’t had your estrogen levels checked, do you find that eating foods high in phytoestrogens makes you feel better or worse?

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Melanie Rowan April 11, 2015, 11:58 am

    Great article! I have been consuming phytoestrogen rich foods for almost four years now. Shortly after being diagnosed menopausal I was also diagnosed with high cholesterol. I tried an HRT patch but feared them so much that after 3 months I stopped because of an adverse reaction. I determined that I would just try to manage menopause symptoms by distressing, watching my diet, and eating organic. To manage my high cholesterol I decided I’d try natural alternatives, so I turned to Oats.

    More specifically a granola cereal that contained pumpkin seed and flax. Everyday I ate 1/3 cup of this granola. What I discovered was life changing! The ingredients in this granola cereal helped more with my menopause symptoms (and they were quite severe) than it did my cholesterol. For two and a half years this was my daily estrogen therapy. Last year I decided I needed to cut out sugar as much as possible as my cholesterol was still an issue and the doctor wanted to increase my statin from 20mg to 40mg.

    I was already not thrilled at the idea of taking a statin in the first place, so I told my doctor I would try to get it down by cutting out processed sugar. This is when I decided to create my own menopause support food. I did a great deal of research on each of the foods listed on the box of granola and determined that every single one of those ingredients, with the exception of cane sugar, were top of the chain phytoestrogen rich foods and they encompassed all three classes.

    Long story short, I have since launched a small micro business, OMH, LLC, in Louisville, KY and I am helping other women manage their symptoms as well. Those who commit to it daily respond very well. On the other hand there are women, maybe one in ten, who don’t benefit. How it works: my product, a cookie essentially, introduces a very small amount of phytoestrogen rich food sources, 31-32 grams in total per cookie, into the daily diet. It takes two to three weeks to notice benefits (a decrease in symptoms) but after a month of daily cookie therapy, hot flashes and night sweats are mostly under control.

    Once established symptoms are fully under control or completely absent. When one skips more than two days of “treatment” they will experience a gradual return of symptoms. In the nearly four years of consistent use, I have never experienced any negative consequences from consuming these small amounts of estrogen rich food sources. In fact I feel really great. I feel like I have accidentally stumbled upon the discovery of a life time.

    I have filed a provisional patent on this product and hope to eventually raise awareness that menopause is not a medical issue, but rather a nutritional issue. My mission is to reach one million women and help decrease the incidence of chemical hormone related cancers. Changing the way women perceive menopause and how they mange it is proving challenging, but it’s not impossible, women are listening and my business is growing.

    • Brett December 28, 2015, 8:50 pm

      Dear Melanie, Do you have a website for your cookies?

      • Melanie Rowan June 17, 2016, 12:11 am

        Brett, I’m just seeing your question. I was surfing the net for articles on Plant estrogen rich foods and came upon this one…again. Found my earlier post and saw your question. Long story short, no I no longer have a website for my cookies. After a year in business and trying to find a co-packer for my product that was willing to do small batches…and soy. I put it on hold.

        I don’t think the world is ready for me yet and I’m not sure I want to embark on such a huge endeavor at this point in my life. I am currently making cookies for personal friends and awaiting word on my patent. I submitted them for a patent about 9 months ago. My hope is to license the formula out to someone who can really make a difference and take them farther than I could.

        I discovered the benefits of 5 ingredients for the natural management of menopause, I’m afraid it’s going to have to be up to someone else to take it to the masses. All the best!

  • jonbon September 14, 2015, 3:20 pm

    Hi, I find this interesting as I’m getting bigger in my chest area and have found this to be linked to said body parts. I was wondering if these are a good intake of foods to get even bigger. I am male and looking to enhance this part of my body but only naturally. I have pecks but find they are soft and firm, they don’t sag or droop. I like the texture and feel of them and am working hard on getting them to be engorged…

    While I know this may cause issues I am optimistic on only pushing things as far as they need be to maintain a health body as well. I don’t want to rupture anything or something like that. So with that said… I’m hoping these top foods in each section labeled off will help these two grow into some really beautiful parts of my body.

    I suppose being hydrated will help and making sure to have enough salt in relation to that will help this greatly. As I have noticed it can. To me I was born male (as far as I am aware of :S) but I have many female like features as I have said the most prominent of female features other than actual breasts, which is why I am here trying to see what I can accomplish… hoping to anyway.

    • John November 5, 2015, 1:03 pm

      Hi I’d just like to hear if you have seen any progress in the idea you set out above. I have the exact same idea and was wondering if I can hear from you. Regards, John

  • steve January 8, 2016, 1:03 am

    I’m experimenting with phytoestrogens to see if it can actually feminize me, or men in general. I have gained some mass in chest area (small breasts), getting more curves and softer skin. I will keep experimenting with Flaxseeds and soy nuts.

  • Ankita March 11, 2016, 6:11 am

    Hi, I have PCOS and very very irregular menses. I go for months together without my menses. I was prescribed OCPs by my doctor which affected my health terribly. I ditched them and took to consuming nuts (walnuts and pistachios) on a daily basis on the suggestion of my mother. My periods are much more regular now and I’m glad to be rid of the side effects of the OCPs. I didn’t know the reason for this change until I stumbled across your article. Changing diet definitely helps in many ways.

    • Brandy September 25, 2016, 2:52 pm

      I am interested in your comments! I also have painful ovarian cysts and have been on birth control for a year and a half. The cysts are much smaller but there are now many more of them. I am afraid to go off the pill… As I did a year ago and the cyst ballooned to the size of an apple. I thought this might be from having to much estrogen?? So I am curious at your efforts to increase estrogen. I look forward to your comments.

  • Peter-Denise March 13, 2016, 4:59 am

    I am a crossdressing transvestite and have read John and Steve’s comments with interest, as I am trying to promote my breast development. I am considering giving a granola cereal a try. If John and Steve would like to contact me I would appreciate it.

  • Lea April 7, 2016, 10:59 pm

    I’ve been eating soy paste, nuts, black bean sauce, sesame oil, and seeds regularly and really messed up my body. Too many phytoestrogens! Now my period is going overtime, two weeks going on three. I feel like I am on the first day of my period every day, the bloating, weight gain, engorged breasts, cramps, night sweats, just horrible!

    • Emma May 28, 2016, 2:41 am

      I have a normal estrogen level, but noticed mood change, frequent headaches, tummy pains and infrequent menstrual cycles after I started drinking soy milk. I didn’t know anything about the phytoestrogens and after a miserable year and a half of going from one doctor to another and listing to them saying they don’t know what is wrong with me I came across this and similar articles.

      I have now eliminated almost all sources of phytoestrogens from my diet, mainly soy, and am happy to say have my life back. I cannot understand why there are no public information about this, especially that soy is now in almost every food and for some people, like myself, consuming soy causes health issues. Not every women is having a menopause, so why on earth we are being force fed this stuff?

  • Susi June 28, 2016, 8:05 am

    I am 67, have ulcerative colitis, had a late menopause and have D2, which I control completely through Low-Carb-High-Fat, so the product would not help me one bit, it will only push my blood glucose to dangerous levels – I eat no grains, ever… I incorporate a lot of milled flax into my diet – I make ‘bread’ with it – because I need the fibre for my bowel and it’s difficult to find a replacement.

    I am very allergic to psyllium husk, it causes terrible angina pains… I have zero calcification and my triglycerides average 0.4… As you can see I am remarkably healthy! One drawback… I suddenly started to suffer anterior prolapse of the bladder, in spite of good muscular control of the pelvis…

    When I was operated on for a repair of the bladder the surgeon had to perform a hysterectomy because she discovered the cause of the prolapse was a uterus full of fibroids – strange at my age that they had not withered and disappeared… I have researched and discovered it is the flax which contains high doses of naturally occurring oestrogen… my breasts grew and, to be frank, I felt pregnant!!

    Just a heads up chaps… I need to find a substitute… I eat chia seed, which is a wonderful thing, but I cannot make ‘bread’ from it really… no bread then I suppose. :)

    • Susie September 26, 2016, 10:39 pm

      Just found out my breast cancer has high marker for estrogen, this means NO phytoestrogen foods. I am now on Tamoxifen to reduce estrogen effects for the next five years.

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