They say diamonds are a girl's best friend, but I'll take estrogen any day. Without this mother of all female hormones, you're at risk for a host of unpleasant and/or health-threatening conditions. With your estrogen levels naturally declining as you approach menopause, you'll want to try to increase those levels for optimum well being. Incorporating certain foods, and avoiding others, can help you do just that.
Why does it matter?
In our youth, as it helps our body and mind function smoothly, most of us don't give estrogen a thought. Sometime in our forties, however, declining estrogen levels show us just how much that important hormone was doing for us. In addition to the more familiar symptoms associated with menopause (such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness or loss of libido), low estrogen levels can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis; increased LDL (the "bad" cholesterol) and decreased HDL (the "good" cholesterol); low blood pressure; hair loss; weight gain; sore joints and muscles; fatigue; gastrointestinal disturbances (including indigestion, flatulence, bloating); increase in allergies; depression; anxiety; irritability; insomnia; memory loss and difficulty concentrating.
The good news is that there are a number of foods that contain natural estrogens, including those listed below. These can be incorporated into your diet fairly easily. Some people find juicing a quick, easy solution.
Beans/legumes: black-eyed peas (cow peas), chickpeas, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, red beans, soybeans and soybean sprouts, and split peas.
Fruits: apples, cherries, dates, papaya, plums, and pomegranates.
Grains: barley, hops, oats, brown rice, and wheat.
Herbs and spices: clover, garlic, licorice, parsley, and sage.
Seeds: alfalfa, anise, fennel, flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower.
Vegetables: beets, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, rhubarb, tomatoes, and yams.
Foods that reduce estrogen levels
There are some foods that can actually lower estrogen levels. While this is desirable for those with conditions, such as breast cancer or ovarian cysts, that can be exacerbated by estrogen, you'll want to avoid these foods if you are trying to boost your estrogen levels:
Fruits: berries, citrus, figs, grapes, melons, pears, and pineapple.
Grains: buckwheat, millet, tapioca, white rice, and white flour.
Vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, corn, green beans, onions, and squash.
Many women will require more than dietary modifications to treat conditions brought on by low estrogen levels (medications for high cholesterol or osteoporosis, for example). And some women will find the symptoms of menopause so onerous that they may consider now-controversial hormone replacement therapy. Consulting with your physician should be your first course of action. But in the meantime, eating a few extra apples or carrots can't hurt.