Foods that May Help Boost Your Estrogen and Testosterone Levels

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
February 9, 2016
Foods that Help Boost Hormones

For years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans; in fact, in 2015 heart disease accounted for one in every four deaths. Although there are several types of heart disease, the most common is coronary artery disease (CAD), an accumulation of cholesterol and other substances along arterial walls. This buildup forms a plaque that over time narrows the arteries and impedes blood flow. Undiagnosed or poorly controlled CAD eventually weakens the heart and raises the risk for a heart attack.

What causes CAD? Of course genes are involved, as well as factors such as tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, a diet high in processed foods and saturated fat, stress, high blood pressure and obesity. However, a risk factor that is sometimes overlooked is the natural waning of reproductive hormones, i.e., estrogen and testosterone.

During a woman’s transition into menopause, a period often referred to as perimenopause, her progesterone, testosterone and estrogen levels begin declining. According to Cleveland Clinic, this raises a woman’s risk for CAD because estrogen increases good cholesterol (HDL), decreases bad cholesterol (LDL), relaxes blood vessels and absorbs free radicals in the blood that can potentially damage blood vessels.

As a man enters his 40’s, he begins experiencing andropause, an age-related decrease in testosterone. According to the Mayo Clinic, a man usually has a one percent drop in testosterone every year after age 40. Research published in Nature linked low testosterone levels with CAD risks such as obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as well as an overall risk for cardiovascular disease.

To help offset the potential health problems associated with low hormone levels, scientists developed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for women and Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) for men. However, various journals have published conflicting articles concerning the risks and benefits associated with HRT and TRT. 

For instance, a study in the British Journal of Medicine suggested that HRT lowers the risk of heart disease; whereas, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association linked HRT with heart disease and breast cancer. As general guidance for the medical community, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends living a heart-healthy lifestyle and using HRT for specific medical conditions.

Additionally, articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and PLOS ONE reported an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes among men who began using TRT. Meanwhile, authors of an article published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics and a review in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that TRT contributed to maintaining heart health. Experts at Harvard Men’s Health Watch explained that evidence supporting the heart-health benefits of TRT is mixed, and the long-term effects are not fully understood yet.

Fortunately, there are tactics you can try to naturally boost your estrogen and testosterone levels. For example: 

  • Controlling stress - When stressed, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that may cause an estrogen imbalance and block the effects of testosterone. View tips to help you manage stress.
  • Strength training – Studies have suggested that intense strength training may help raise testosterone levels. When training, try to regularly increase the amount of weight being lifted, lower the number of repetitions and select exercises that work multiple muscles groups, e.g., squats. Be sure that you consult your MDVIP-affiliate physician before beginning or revamping an exercise program. 
  • Eating foods that can help raise estrogen and testosterone levels.
    • Studies conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University indicated that eating plant-based foods that contain phytoestrogens may help women raise estrogen levels. Examples of such foods include:
      • Seeds: flaxseeds and sesame seeds
      • Fruit: apricots, oranges, strawberries, peaches, many dried fruits
      • Vegetables: yams, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, kale, celery
      • Soy products: tofu, miso soup, soy yogurt
      • Dark rye bread
      • Legumes: lentils, peas, pinto beans
      • Olives and olive oil
      • Chickpeas
      • Culinary herbs: turmeric, thyme, sage
    • Results from research conducted by the University of Texas at Austin suggested that men can help raise their testosterone levels by eating foods high in monounsaturated fat and zinc. Also, a study published in Biological Trace Element Research concluded foods high in magnesium can help maintain testosterone levels. That said, consider including the following foods in your diet.
      • Oils: olive, canola and peanut (monounsaturated fat)
      • Avocados (monounsaturated fat and magnesium)
      • Olives (monounsaturated fat)
      • Nuts: almonds and cashews (monounsaturated fat, zinc and magnesium)
      • Oysters (zinc)
      • Wheat germ (zinc)
      • Shellfish: lobster and crab (zinc)
      • Chickpeas (zinc)
      • Oatmeal (zinc)
      • Kidney beans (zinc)
      • Raisins (magnesium)
      • Dark green leafy vegetables (magnesium)
      • Bananas (magnesium)
      • Low-fat yogurt (magnesium)

​Aside from maintaining appropriate hormone levels, you can also lower your risk of CAD by working with your MDVIP-affiliated physician to make sure you are taking advantage of all the benefits offered in the practice. Your annual wellness services include a comprehensive heart and stroke screening assessment, and if necessary, advanced cardiac tests.

The results of these screenings and tests are used to help create your customized heart-healthy action plan. Additionally, your physician can work with you to help improve your lifestyle habits, e.g., managing weight, exercising, controlling stress and quitting smoking. Don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated physician? MDVIP has a nationwide network of physicians. Find one near you and begin your partnership in health.

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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