While planning your weekly meals, do you ever stop and ask what you really should eat to keep your hormones healthy and balanced?
Hormonal balance has a great impact on your health including mood, mental health, and physical health.
And one important thing to do to keep your hormones in balance is to eat a healthy diet.
The food you choose to eat affects many metabolic processes including hormonal health.
And hormonal health in turn affects many other metabolic functions crucial to overall health.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that circulate throughout the body via the bloodstream and are sent from one endocrine gland with messages to direct functions elsewhere in the body.
Hormones deliver messages that tell other cells what they need to do to carry out certain functions. Take insulin for example.
It is sent from the pancreas to the cells when you eat food telling them there an influx f of glucose in the blood and they need to open up to take it up for energy.
What causes the hormonal imbalance?
Hormones have a domino effect where one hormone affects other hormones and functions.
That also means when one hormone is out of balance it also affects others.
Take for example TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone.
This hormone is made in the pituitary gland, and it affects the production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4.
So when the pituitary gland fails to produce enough or produces too much this has an effect on the production of T3 and T4 and then given that the thyroid is the master gland in charge of metabolism, malfunction leads to extremely many bodily functions going wrong and subsequent illness and health problems.
Causes of hormonal imbalance are many, and include:
- Environmental toxins
What is hormonal imbalance?
Hormonal imbalance means that there is too little or too much of a particular hormone in the bloodstream. All body processes and chemicals are supposed to be in homeostasis( meaning just in the right amounts).
The body calibrates these process finely so that even a small increase or decrease can cause widespread bodily dysfunction.
Hormones are used throughout the body and are the drivers of many functions.
So even small changes can make you suffer from chronic illnesses and discomfort even debility.
Signs of hormonal imbalance.
There are many signs of hormonal imbalance including the following.
- Weight gain
- mood problems including anxiety and depression and anxiety.
- skin problems such as dry skin, acne thinning skin
- heart rate problems
- feeling cols
- brain fog
- gut problems- including constipation
- irregular periods
- painful periods
- and many more
- Some women also experience postpartum depression and blues. Read more about balancing postpartum hormonal imbalance here.
There are many factors that affect hormone health and therefore a holistic approach to hormonal balance is necessary. See more ways to balance your hormones here.
The best foods to eat for hormonal balance
So, let’s look at the best foods to eat for hormonal balance.
There are so many healthy foods you can choose from to make sure you meet the nutritional needs for hormonal balance.
Here are the foods to eat to balance your hormones naturally.
Fats have been bedeviled for years now. But the body requires healthy fats and cholesterol for the production of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and for cell health.
That’s why too much dieting or starvation in conditions like anorexia can lead to the cessation of periods, weak bones, and many health problems.
Keep in mind that hormones like estrogen affect your bone health as well.
So you want to eat plenty of omega 3 fatty acid foods and limit omega 6 fats, trans fats, and saturated fats.
Omega 3s fats are not only anti-inflammatory but are also useful in the production of healthy hormones.
Additionally, foods rich in healthy fats also help in the release of hormones that make one feel satiated and full, studies have found.
You want to feel satiated after a meal otherwise you have the need to keep eating, or snacking, a problem that can lead to weight gain, insulin insensitivity, and metabolic syndrome.
To make sure you are getting enough healthy fats, include foods such as:
1. Wild salmon, and other fatty fish
- Salmon is high in omega3 fatty acids which are important in preventing inflammation. Systemic inflammation causes many health problems including hormonal imbalance.
- Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D, and research finds that Vitamin D may help increase testosterone levels in both men and women.
- Also, salmon and other fatty fish improve and stabilize hunger hormones.
- Eating fatty fish improves satiety and that helps you eat less, feel full longer, and prevents overeating and weight gain.
- Coconut oil is great for energy metabolism. It also contains lauric acid which is beneficial to hormone production. Healthy fats such as MCTs found in coconut oil also reduce insulin resistance studies show.
- MTCs oils are also great for their anti-inflammatory effects
- MCTs can also be found in palm and olive oils.
4. Avocados: Avocados are a powerhouse of nutrition containing up to 20 vitamins and minerals including potassium, manganese, magnesium vitamin, A, E, C B 6, and folate and lutein.
Avocados also contain monounsaturated fats needed for hormone production.
And all these nutrients also help to maintain hormonal balance.
Additionally, avocados are a good source of fat and fiber, and it has been found that this combination leads to lower post meals insulin levels and an increase in satiety hormones GLP-1, PPY, and ghrelin. That means hunger is controlled leading to less need to eat more.
Healthy fats also help your cells keep their shape by protecting the cell lipid membrane – a good thing because it keeps your skin looking plump-not wrinkly and radiant.
6. Nuts –such as walnuts and almonds provide healthy fats for hormonal balance.
Apart from having healthy fat nuts contain fiber, and protein, which regulate blood sugar.
The good thing is there are so many nuts to choose from such as walnuts-high in omega 3 fatty acids, or almonds and cashews.
Almonds keep blood sugars low and help prevent inflammation and oxidative stress for optimal hormonal health.
Brazil nuts are an especially good source of selenium, an important nutrient and powerful antioxidant crucial in converting T4 to T3 and protecting the thyroid gland.
But please note: You should eat just a few brazil nuts. Too many can be toxic.
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What do I mean by healthy proteins?
I mean it is best to eat lean organic raised beef, free-range poultry, or plant-based proteins for hormonal balance.
If you have to eat meat then it is important to ensure it is antibiotic and growth hormone-free.
Proteins are important for hormonal balance because they keep you full longer, lower the hunger hormone ghrelin, and increases leptin, the fullness hormone.
Eating more protein will keep you from the temptation to snack and hunkering for sugary and processed foods.
Apart from being great sources of protein, these foods contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals necessary for keeping hormones balanced.
Here are some great sources of plant proteins:
Lentils for instance contain vitamin B6, protein, and zinc and help balance estrogen and testosterone.
It is important to be careful with soy though as most of what is on the market is genetically modified soy. This type of soy can lead to estrogen imbalance and health issues including cancer for both men and women.
Now, if you love soy products and I know they are handy when you are a vegetarian or vegan, then use fermented soy products to prevent a hormonal imbalance.
One great way to have more plant-based proteins is to use plant protein powders in smoothies.
I love and recommend Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein + Superfoods Powder. to make delicious smoothies and ensure I am consuming a good amount of healthy protein to meet hormonal, metabolic, and other health needs.
Complex carbs are an important part of hormone health.
They are a great source of fiber and lignans which help to flush out toxins, bind and remove excess estrogen, and maintain estrogen balance. They also regulate blood sugar and cortisol levels and are needed for serotonin production. Both cortisol and serotonin affect mood. Additionally, serotonin is converted to melatonin so we can sleep well at night.
The key is to eat complex carbs in moderation and to avoid simple and processed carbs so as to keep blood sugar in check.
Complex carbs include:
- leafy green vegetables
- root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
- whole grains such as whole-grain rice, quinoa, millet, and more.
- peas, and lentils
Consider adding quinoa as part of your meal plans. Quinoa is a super protein source containing 9 essential amino acids, iron, and fiber.
Quinoa is also a great source of zinc. A 2010 study found that there is a relationship between zinc and thyroid hormone levels in patients with goiter.
Quinoa also balances glucose levels and balances cortisol.
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and are especially nutritious and very helpful in hormonal balance.
They contain a sulfur compound called DII that helps in estrogen metabolism (source).
They help the liver detoxify, metabolize estrogen, and help to flush out old excess estrogen.
It is important to eat these vegetables often to prevent estrogen dominance.
Additionally, cruciferous vegetables also contain vitamins, A, C, E, and K -powerful antioxidants that keep cells healthy and prevent inflammation a key contributing factor in hormonal imbalance.
The best part is that it is easy to prepare cruciferous vegetables. They are so very versatile and easy to include in your weekly meals.
You can steam them, or even roast them.
Cruciferous veggies also make delicious soups and salads.
A note about cruciferous veggies and leafy greens: they contain goitrogens which interfere with iodine, and iodine is needed for thyroid hormone production.
This is important especially if you have hypothyroidism or an iodine deficiency.
If on the other hand, you eat enough iodine, then you should be okay.
Probiotic foods should be a priority when you think of hormonal balance. Why?
Because a healthy gut is very important in keeping your Hormones healthy.
When the gut gets leaky the inflammation that follows affects the whole body including hormonal balance.
And further imbalance, in turn, affects the gut health and so you have this vicious cycle of imbalance and inflammation like a runaway freight train.
Just start nourishing your gut for better hormonal balance.
Some of the best probiotic-rich foods include:
- Yogurt–you want the fatty kind( stay away from the no-sugar variety as they have additives that can mess gut health. Greek yogurt without the fruit on the bottom is best).
These types of foods contain plenty of gut health probiotics.
You should also eat prebiotic foods such as bananas, mushrooms, asparagus, and vegetables. All these enhance a strong healthy gut and better health. Many health problems including hormonal imbalances start in the gut. You may have heard as Hypocrites said: “All diseases begin in the gut. ”
Green leafy vegetables
By now we know that leafy greens are superfoods that are great for overall health. And they are super nutritious for hormonal balance too.
But please note that when it comes to your hormone balance it is important to eat organic. Non-organic vegetables may have pesticides. And pesticides contain chemicals that imitate estrogen and are hormonal disrupters.
Leafy greens contain many antioxidants like vitamins A, B, C, and K and minerals like magnesium.
These vitamins and especially vitamin C are potent protectors of hormone-producing organs.
Vitamin C is also vital for the proper function of adrenals. It is especially important because when adrenal glands are excessively taxed due to stress, dysfunction can follow. And we all know modern-day life is stressful so we tend to demand too much of our adrenals which can lead to adrenal fatigue.
Studies find that adrenal glands and adrenal cortex contain the biggest levels of vitamin C, indicating how important vitamin C is in the function of the adrenals.
Per the research, it is because ascorbic acid is used as a cofactor in the production of catecholamines-( flight or fight hormones), and in steroidogenesis or( production of steroids).
So eat your spinach and reap these benefits to your hormone health.
Red bell peppers though not leafy greens are a great source of vitamin C.
Additionally, leafy greens are important sources of fiber which help in hormonal balance as noted especially detoxing of extra estrogen in the gut. According to studies, women who consume more fiber have less circulating serum estrogen.
And all leafy greens and especially spinach are good sources of iron. Iron plays an important role in the production of thyroid hormones and of course, it is necessary for healthy hemoglobin, oxygen circulation, and energy.
Good thing is, you can eat your vegetables in so many ways in every meal including smoothies for breakfast or any time. You can saute them or steam them or just make soup. Check out these recipes for soup ideas. These are delicious soups great for the cold season.
Root vegetables contain complex carbohydrates essential for energy production and keeping blood sugar levels even.
And they also are good sources of vitamins and minerals, powerful antioxidants that also help in hormone production.
Great choices include sweet potatoes – a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin A, C, fiber, protein- nutrients that contribute to hormone health.
B6 is crucial for liver detoxification and a necessary process for getting rid of old estrogen.
Other root vegetables include potatoes- great sources of magnesium and vitamin B6, and carrots which ar contain vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant.
Fruits contain many nutrients including vitamins, especially vitamin C, fiber, and glucose for energy.
When eating fruits and vegetables it is recommended to use organic to avoid chemicals and pesticide overload as many of these chemicals are estrogen imitators and endocrine disrupters.
Also, avoid going overboard on fruit due to excess sugar
Eat a variety of fruits to reap all the benefits of phytonutrients that they contain. Some to consider include:
They are a good source of vitamin C, a compound essential in steroid hormone synthesis from which progesterone and testosterone are made. Progesterone is especially important as it supports mood and a healthy reproductive system. When progesterone is diminished you feel edgy, even angry and irritable. And it is vital in supporting a healthy pregnancy.
Strawberries: They contain high levels of vitamin C and are a good source of phytoestrogens.
Blueberries: Blueberries are a good source of many antioxidants including vitamin C, and B6 necessary for adrenal function and production of stress hormones cortisol.
Papaya: A great source of vitamin C, A, folate, complex carbs, and fiber, and supports a healthy gut.
As mentioned. fruits also help to maintain a healthy gut. All fruits and especially bananas are good sources of prebiotics and keep your good gut microbes happy. This prevents leaky gut and systemic inflammation and hormonal imbalance. Keep in mind some hormones are also produced by the enteroendocrine cells in the lining of the gut. These include hormones such as CCK, PPY, GLP1, GIP, and 5HT which regulate insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism, appetite, and fat storage.
So inflammation in the gut can lead to problems such as insulin sensitivity, stress hormone depletion, and estrogen dominance.
Green tea is a powerful antioxidant and as we have seen antioxidants are important in battling inflammation.
Inflammation is bad for hormone health and every other bodily function except when it is acute inflammation for healing injuries such as stubbed toe.
Green tea contains the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG which improves insulin sensitivity. Research studies including this one and this research showed improved glucose control and insulin sensitivity with consumption of green tea. But hold the sugar!
Seeds like flax, chia, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds contain lignans and phytoestrogens or healthy plant estrogens.
Lignans are compounds that help with estrogen balance by helping to produce more estrogen if you are deficient and take out the excess when there is excess.
Sunflower seeds are especially high in vitamin E a potent antioxidant helpful in estrogens production. Research studies show that vitamin E can alter or inhibit the growth of cancer cells and decrease breast cancer risk.
Pumpin seeds, flax sees, sunflower seeds are great sources of magnesium as well. Magnesium is also an anti-inflammatory mineral.
And magnesium is an important mineral in the prevention of metabolic syndrome, a condition that is both hormonal and metabolic in nature. And metabolic syndrome leads to excessive cortisol production and insulin insensitivity.
And large amounts of magnesium are needed when stress is high.
Unfortunately in the western world magnesium deficiency is common and this deficiency leads to stress reactions and organ damage. And according to the study, stress activates the hypothalamic, pituitary-adrenal axis pathway, and the sympathetic nervous system. It is this process that ultimately causes metabolic syndrome and of course more stress.
Stress also leads to insulin resistance by activating the renins -angiotensin-aldosterone system due to increased oxidative stress.
This magnesium deficiency-induced inflammatory response is elaborate, fascinating, and complex-read about it here.
Essentially, magnesium deficiency affects stress response, leads to insulin resistance, inflammation, and weight gain common in metabolic syndrome and PCOS.
So eating foods high in magnesium such as seeds can keep this stress, oxidative stress, insulin dominance, and metabolic syndrome in check.
Eggs contain healthy proteins, important in metabolism, as well as great benefits in nutrients like B vitamins.
And if you eat eggs for breakfast you know you stay full longer. Eggs improve satiety for up to 24 hours!
Research finds that eating eggs helps control the hunger hormones ghrelin and insulin levels.
Plus eggs have many benefits for overall health.
They contain many vitamins including iron, vitamin D, B, E, A, calcium, potassium, choline, and even Iodine. Choline and iodine are important in thyroid hormone production.
Eggs also contain cholesterol, and while too much cholesterol may not be good, cholesterol is one of the building blocks of hormones such as the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
As you can see there are many foods to eat to keep your hormones in balance. Eating a variety of healthy foods is the best way to balance your hormones naturally. That, combined with other lifestyle changes like making sure to sleep enough, keep stress low, avoid chemicals in plastics and personal care items, and exercise will help with hormonal balance and overall health.
Changes are not easy to make especailly if you have eaten particular foods all your life. And in some cases other health issues may cause hormonal imbalance. Sometimes you try and still cant meet nutrient requirements.
In such cases supplementing is good.
And if you wonder what supplements or vitamins you should take to balance your hormones, here is a list of the best supplements for hormonal balance.
Do you think or know if you have a hormonal imbalance? Which of these foods do you think you will eat more of?
And as always, if you found this article helpful, please share it on your social media.