Estrogens (also called Oestrogens) are steroid compounds that are important for development and functioning of females of the species. They are named so because they play an important role in the estrous cycle. Their name comes from estrus/oistros (period of fertility for female mammals) + gen/gonos = to generate.
Excessive estrogenic compounds are equally detrimental to both men and women. For women, it can throw off the estrogen and progesterone balance in the body and create metabolic issues, one of which being the storage of excess abdominal fat. For men, it can cause accumulation of chest fat, can lead to possible cancer and other diseases and also the accumulation of extra abdominal fat that is particularly hard to burn off.
Excessive estrogenic compounds are increasingly common in certain types of foods such as soy products, food additives, pesticides and hormones in factory farm raised animals. They are also prevalent in our environment due to pollution.
Soy has one of the highest concentrations of pesticides of any farmed product. An over-consumption of soy can lead to hormonal imbalances in both men and women. Soy products also contain many different anti-nutrients that can be detrimental in your body. The only types of soy that are ok to eat in moderation are fermented soy products such as miso and tempeh. Tofu, soy protein and most other forms of soy are not fermented so minimise these.
Another highly estrogenic food comes from the hops as in beer. Aside from the empty calories in most beers, this estrogenic effect may be one of the reasons you see so many ‘beer bellies’ in those who drink a lot of beer. However, some darker beers contain beneficial antioxidants and B-vitamins but some better choices may be clear alcohols such as vodka. There may also be benefits to drinking red wine as there is less of an estrogenic effect from wine plus it contains antioxidants. However, we are talking very moderate amounts here, not a whole bottle every evening or every other evening.
Foods that fight excess estrogenic compounds
Compounds called indoles in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts) are known to be good inhibitors of estrogenic compounds. In addition, there appears to be benefits in fighting excess estrogens by eating raw nuts and seeds, avocados, fish oil and grass-fed dairy and meat products. Also, there are many flavones and flavonones in garlic, onions, raw honey, citrus fruits, chamomile and passionflower that fight against estrogenic compounds.
Summary of your ‘good food’ list:
- Plenty of greens
- Nuts and seeds
- Fish and fish oil
- Grass-fed/organic dairy and meat
- Garlic and onions
- Raw honey
- Citrus fruits
- Herbal teas