A close up of various foods on a table

Eat to Support Hormone Balance

Ladies: Here’s what to eat and what to do to maintain healthy hormones.

Women + Fluctuating Hormones
Keeping hormones balanced has a lot to do with obtaining and maintaining that overall feeling of well-being.

Balanced hormones is four-fold:

  1. First, hormone levels need to be adequate (not too much or too little)
  2. Next, hormones need to be transported through the body properly
  3. Cells are sensitive to hormones, so they can do their jobs effectively
  4. Finally, hormones are detoxed (again, so there is the right amount in the body, but not too much of an accumulation which will cause issues)

Diet matters positively and negatively through all four of those hormone issues.

Creating Hormones
Making a continuous stream of hormones is actually quite simple if you’re eating whole foods. We create our hormones from food. Fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables; healthy fats and proteins from olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds; and good quality lean proteins and wild caught fatty fish, respectively. Proteins must be good quality and both plant and animal-sourced are helpful.

Transporting Hormones
Hormones are made in the endocrine glands (including hypothalamus, pineal gland, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid glands, thymus, adrenal glands, and pancreas.) This also includes the testes in males and the ovaries in females. Hormones are moved around the body by the bloodstream. Again, eating a whole foods diet is key here, and good hydration is super important. An adult body is 60% water, and water contributes to hormone movement.

Hormone Sensitivity
Most hormones have particular receptors on their target cells. Allowing the hormone to the cell requires the receptors to allow the hormone onto/into the cells. If they are ‘hard of hearing’ or non-responsive, the hormone does not get to do its work. Eating the whole food complex diet will ensure target sensitivity and good sensitivity.

Hormone Detox
Liver-support foods are great for liver health, which includes good metabolism and excretion of hormones. Coffee and tea both have powerful liver-loving antioxidants. Drink both (not to jittery excess). Berries and beets also have similar antioxidant effects. The cruciferous vegetable family all have compounds that support the detoxification process: broccoli, brussels, kale, cauliflower, cabbage. Healthy fats (olive oil, fatty fish, nuts) all have vitamins, antioxidants and other compounds that support the liver.

Detail on different hormones and how food impacts their workings:

  • The making of sex hormones estrogen, progesterone + testosteroneall need B vitamins, healthy fats, zinc among others. Eating whole food grains includes the B’s, while eating grains that have been stripped of the germ (think brown rice vs. white rice) allows your body to gain the B’s they need to make hormones. Eating olive oil ensures you have the necessary fatty acids to create sex hormones.
  • Thethyroidcommunicates with every cell in the body. So, thyroid imbalances commonly lead to other hormone imbalances.Low levels ofiodine, selenium, zinc, and iron make it nearly impossible for the thyroid to work properly. Brazil nuts are a powerful source of selenium. Meat, fish and seafood are all very good sources of zinc. Meat and fish and beans and legumes and dark leafy greens are all good sources of iron.
  • Cortisolgoes up with too much refined carbs. Proteins and colorful veggies give you nourishment for adrenal health, including cortisol replenishment.
  • Insulinsensitivity goes up with more fruits and veggies on the plate. A Mediterranean diet is great.Fiberrules the roost here. Eating complex carbohydrates like whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa), vegetables (broccoli, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots etc.) is great. Healthy fats and proteins help to digest carbohydrates slower, resulting in a slower steadier rise in blood sugar. That’s good.
  • Leptin, which is known as the appetite hormone/depressing hunger, becomes more sensitive with a whole foods anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet. Leptin becomes LESS sensitive with increased amounts of saturated fats and more of a western diet. Eating refined carbs naturally leads to more hunger, more overeating and less leptin sensitivity.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower and dark leafy greens like spinach and kale can support the body withdetox, which is important for maintaining hormonal balance through proper elimination of hormones.
  • Vitamins from real food upscell sensitivity to hormone signals,meaning how strongly the cell responds to the signals and messages.

In general, if you adhere MOST of the time to a Mediterranean diet of whole grains, veggies and fruits with lots of fiber, healthy fats and proteins, you can hit your body with all of the important nutrients to create enough hormones, have them work properly and and get rid of them efficiently. That’s the goal and that’s what your food can do.

Hormone Health: The Heavy Hitters Food List

Avocados: Rich in healthy monounsaturated fats that support hormone production and balance insulin and blood sugar levels, avocados are also high in fiber which supports healthy estrogen detoxification in the gut.

Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, brussels, kale, cauliflower, cabbage contain specific compounds that help the body detoxify estrogen. This is particularly beneficial for women dealing with higher estrogen levels or conditions like estrogen dominance.

Berries: Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients. These antioxidants combat oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which can disrupt hormonal balance.

Fish: Fatty fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help to lower inflammation and promote optimal blood sugar balance. Fish is also a rich source of selenium and vitamin D which supports thyroid hormone production.

Nuts and seeds: These simple snacks are rich sources of essential minerals, like magnesium, zinc and selenium. These minerals are crucial for production of thyroid hormones, insulin sensitivity and healthy testosterone levels.

Eat a Mediterranean-Style Diet – It’s Easy!

  • Make chia seed pudding
  • Add ground flaxseed to your oatmeal
  • Use a variety of nuts in homemade granola
  • Enjoy apple slices with nut butter
  • Top stir fry with cashews
  • Add hemp seeds to your smoothie for extra plant-based protein
  • Add smoked salmon to your snack rotation
  • Eat fish once a week
  • Add beans to your sautéed greens
  • Heavily dress your lunch salad with olive-oil-based dressing

The more whole and ingredient-based you can be, the better your hormones will work. Enjoy!