Hormone balance is a hot topic for women of all ages, and all life stages. Unbalanced hormones can leave you feeling sluggish, moody, stressed out, and just not yourself. Let’s explore why balancing your hormones is so important, and how you can do it with the help of food, starting today.
Why should you care about hormone balance?
Our hormones make up our endocrine system, which is responsible for regulating just about every other system in the body. Cortisol is the hormone that regulates stress, serotonin regulates mood, insulin regulates blood sugar, ghrelin regulates hunger, leptin regulates satiety, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone regulate fertility and menstrual cycles—the list goes on and on!
Our hormones even interact to regulate each other via a feedback system. For example, if we aren’t managing stress, we’re potentially affecting our fertility, menstrual cycle, blood sugar levels, appetite, and weight management. This is because chronically high cortisol levels, which are often the result of chronic stress, begin to impact levels of estrogen, insulin, ghrelin, and leptin, too. It’s all interconnected!
Assuming you’d benefit from increased energy levels, stress management, weight management, improved fertility, or an elevated mood, you should strive to keep your hormones balanced. One way to do this is to incorporate hormone-balancing foods into your diet.
Foods to Incorporate for Balanced Hormones
Magnesium plays many crucial roles in our bodies. It regulates progesterone and helps excrete estrogen, which affects fertility. It also regulates levels of these hormones throughout a woman’s cycle. The relationship between magnesium and sex hormones continues into menopause as well. It also fuels mitochondria, which is the powerhouse of our cells and where steroid hormones/sex hormones are produced. Magnesium also converts tryptophan to serotonin, playing a role in our mood. It aids in digestion and excretion of waste, too.
Magnesium sources include:
- dark leafy greens
You may also want to consider taking a magnesium supplement. There are many forms of magnesium and each has different uses. Determine which works best for your goals and use it consistently for best results.
When fiber reaches the gut, it helps slow the digestion of carbohydrates (sugars), helping to keep blood glucose levels stable and avoiding big spikes and crashes. This helps improve insulin sensitivity, our hormone that regulates blood sugar and that interacts with ghrelin and leptin, the hormones responsible for regulating hunger and satiety.
Fiber-rich carb sources include:
- fruits and veggies
- starchy veggies like potatoes, carrots, and squash
- plant-based starchy foods like quinoa, whole grains, and legumes
Prioritize these carb sources over quick-digesting refined carbs and sugars, such as products made with white flour, and products made with added sugars and sweeteners. Of course these indulgences can (and should) be consciously enjoyed on occasion!
Sufficient High-Quality Protein
The majority of hormones are made from protein and fats, so these key nutrients are necessary for all hormone production. Protein also helps keep us full, fuels our muscles, and repairs cells and DNA.
While protein needs vary from person to person and depend on lifestyle, general guidelines suggest that 0.4-0.8g of protein per pound of body weight satisfies minimal needs. For optimal health, however, you should strive for closer to 1g of protein per pound of ideal body weight, per day. And, of course, choose high-quality protein sources whenever possible.
High-quality protein sources include:
- organic grass-fed meat
- pasture-raised chicken and eggs
- wild-caught fish
- organic, whole food sources of plant protein like quinoa, hemp, tempeh, and lentils
Since fats and protein are the main components necessary for hormone production, healthy fats are necessary for optimizing hormone levels. In addition, healthy fats increase leptin, the hormone that tells us we are satisfied and no longer hungry.
Healthy fat sources include:
- avocado and avocado oil
- hemp seeds
- olive oil
Foods Rich in Omega-3s
As Americans, our average intake of omega-6 fatty acids (found in fried and packaged foods and industrial nut and seed oils like canola, soybean, and sunflower oil) to omega-3s (found in the sources listed below) is approximately 20:1. A high omega 6:3 ratio has been linked to inflammation and endocrine disruption, affecting how our body regulates our hormones.
The ideal ratio is closer to 4:1, or, even better, 1:1. In order to achieve this, we need to decrease consumption of foods high in omega 6s, and increase foods high in omega-3s. Keep in mind, omega-6 fatty acids can also be found in dressings, sauces, and condiments, so be sure to watch out for them, and focus on adding more sources of omega-3s to your diet.
Foods high in beneficial omega-3s include:
- wild-caught salmon and cod
- anchovies and sardines
- chia seeds
- flax seeds
- Brussels sprouts
Enriching your diet with fiber-rich carbs, high-quality proteins, healthy fats, and foods packed with magnesium and omega-3s can have a profound effect on balancing your hormones. If you’re unable to eat these foods or are having trouble working them into your daily routine, consider working with a Nutrition Coach or Registered Dietitian to devise a plan. They can also help you decide if supplementation may be right for you.
If you’d like to take it a step further and learn more about improving your life—and the lives of others!—through food and lifestyle, why not become a Nutrition Coach yourself? Learn more about our exclusive certification program here.
holistic health coach and co-founder of BareNutrition health coaching and the BareBlog
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