Let us set a familiar scene: it’s 6:42 p.m. It’s finally time for you to decompress.
Foods That Can Help Balance Your Hormones Naturally (Slideshow)
As you scan the contents of your cabinets, looking for something to snack on as you sink into the sofa, the options feel limitless, but nothing calls to you. Then you see them tucked behind the boxed rice and cereal: the cookies you bought the other day. You stare at the package and begin fantasizing. Soon, you get to the point where you’re practically cat-calling the cookies. Oooh, they look good. That little internal voice is coaxing you to take just a bite. You had a bad day. You had a rough week. You deserve — nay — you earned a cookie, didn’t you? So you do it, you eat the cookie (in fact, you eat four of them), and it’s absolutely blissful. And then it isn’t. Suddenly, the exhaustion and guilt appear, depressing you into eating several more.
It is a vicious, vicious circle, but it isn’t necessarily your “weak will.” A growing body of research says that your hormones could spark these unhealthy habits.
“Hormones are those powerful little naturally occurring chemicals circulating in our systems that signal to our cells when and how to react to various stimuli,” explains Dr. David Greuner, cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon in New York City. “For instance, hormones instruct our cells when to grow, when to die, when to enlarge, and when to shrink. They control our responses to stress, are responsible for how we feel when we are in love, and have a huge impact not only on when we gain and lose weight, but the type of weight we gain or lose. "Hormones control our responses to stress, are responsible for how we feel when we are in love, and have a huge impact not only on when we gain and lose weight, but the type of weight we gain or lose." - Dr. David Greuner
When we think about hormones and hormonal imbalance, our minds immediately flash to images of pregnant women crying or menopausal women raging. These are not entirely incorrect images — just extremely stereotypical. In fact, all humans produce hormones, and those hormones can be easily disrupted. A scarier fact? Hormone disruptors could be in everything from your deodorant to the foods you eat.
“Once these hormone disruptors enter the body, they can be stored for years in your fat cells,” says Dr. Constance Crisp, medical director of BodyLogicMD of Little Rock, a treatment center that specializes in hormone therapy. “This causes further problems when you burn fat during normal metabolic processes, because these chemicals are then recirculated throughout the bloodstream.”
There are two major hormones that affect how we eat, what we crave, and how our bodies utilize food, Dr. Greuner says. They are insulin and cortisol, both of which are linked to levels of sugar in the bloodstream. He defines them here:
“Insulin is the body’s main anabolic hormone. It is the universal signal for your body’s cells to take in fuel, rest, and grow. It is stimulated by a rise in blood sugar, and serves to lower blood sugar by allowing cells to absorb the sugar from blood. Insulin is responsible for the ‘food coma’ that you feel after a heavy meal. People with diabetes either have the inability to produce insulin, or the inability to use it effectively, leaving large amounts of sugar in the blood because the cells cannot use it effectively. Cortisol is the body’s main catabolic hormone, or the hormone that breaks existing cells down in the body for the purpose of raising blood sugar. It is usually released in response to some sort of stress, or low blood sugar levels, and is essentially the opposite of insulin. The easiest cells for the body break down for quick fuel are muscle cells, which are chemically less complex than fat cells. For this reason, cortisol causes mainly muscle breakdown and preserves existing fat. This makes cortisol basically the archenemy of anyone wanting a toned, lean physique. “
Signs of a hormonal imbalance can range from fatigue to memory loss. These symptoms may indicate a number of diseases, like hypothyroidism. Imbalances in insulin and cortisol can also affect your sexual hormones.
"Foods that are in the high-glycemic index, such as refined sugars, bananas, potatoes, and other heavy starches, will disrupt hormonal balances and your body's ability to maintain a whole body health,” says Dr. Nicholas Panagiotis, endocrinologist and internist with Dignity Health Northridge Hospital in Northridge, California. “Processed foods are heavy in starch and preservatives, which will slow down your metabolism, cause fatigue, weight gain, mood swings, skin changes, and other signs relative to hormonal imbalances."
The good news is that there are ways to balance your hormones naturally. Of course, it is important to talk to your physician or endocrinologist if you think you are suffering from a hormonal imbalance.
Much depends on what is meant by hormonal imbalance, warns Dr. Antonio Pizarro, board-certified OB-GYN who also specializes in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. “The term must be defined with specificity. For example, conditions such as thyroid disease, pituitary failure, and adrenal insufficiency can be life-threatening forms of hormonal imbalance for which treatment with diet is not clear.”
In conjunction with a doctor’s visit, a good amount of sleep, and light exercise, changing your diet to include some of the following foods, which have been shown in studies to help regulate estrogen levels in particular, may be a great way to correct hormonal imbalance or to help prevent it from occurring in the first place.
These little beans can pack a hugely helpful punch when it comes to regulating hormones. “Mung bean sprouts are perhaps one of the most overlooked foods," explains Dr. Michelle Cook, nutritionist and board-certified natural medicine practitioner, "yet they restore adrenal gland health and help our bodies cope with excess stress by allowing these glands to regulate production of cortisol and adrenalin.”.
We all know that coconut oil offers an unbelievable amount of health benefits, but did you know that it can also balance your hormones? Coconut oil regulates blood sugar and insulin and boosts thyroid functionality, helping to restore balance to a system that could be out of whack.
11 of the Best Foods for Hormone Balance
Hormones: They can affect your mood, appetite, and overall health. When our hormones are off balance, we might feel more fatigued than usual. Even further, we might experience irregular bowel movements, unexplained weight gain or weight loss, and general irritability. Yikes!
Many of us don’t think about turning to food first as a remedy for hormonal issues too often, we tend to steer toward medication. And unfortunately, hormone production isn’t something we can directly control.
However, we can select the foods with which we fuel our bodies. And thankfully, there are certain foods that can help you balance your hormones.
Foods that balance hormones
Apples are one of the healthiest foods you will ever eat. They are an excellent source of fiber and they are loaded with antioxidants.
Studies show that regular consumption of apples lowers the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s, stroke and even cancer.
It’s worth mentioning that most apples have pesticide residue which isn’t good for your hormones, so buy certified organic.
Spinach is a very nutrient dense food and an excellent source of phytoecdysteroids.
Phytoecdysteroids are plant-based steroids, which have been clinically proven to boost resting metabolic rate and lower insulin levels.
Fresh spinach is more nutrient dense and contains fewer toxins than the canned spinach.
3. Wild Caught Salmon
Salmon is an excellent source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Several recent studies show that salmon helps control insulin levels and reduce inflammation. It is also a good source of vitamin D, which is critical for the production of testosterone and reducing estrogen.
4. Olive Oil
Other than balancing your hormones, olive oil will improve your heart health. It has potent antioxidant properties which fight inflammation.
I can’t forget to mention that olive oil contains plant sterols which aid hormonal balance and control cholesterol. If you want to maintain optimal health, cook with olive oil instead of vegetable oil.
Almonds have been shown to regulate blood sugar levels, consequently, lowering risk of type 2 diabetes.
Research also shows that almonds reduce bad cholesterol in adults.
Flaxseed is an excellent source of healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants. Studies show that flaxseed helps lower the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Flaxseeds can keep you full without excess calories since whole flax seeds pass through your body without being digested.
Avocado is one of the healthiest fruits in the world. It is rich in healthy fats and has numerous health benefits.
Avocados contain plant sterols with anti-estrogenic properties. That means they can block estrogen receptors in the cells and reduce estrogen absorption rate. Avocados have actually boost progesterone levels in women and testosterone levels in men.
Eat avocados in moderation since they are high in calories.
8. Green tea
Many studies show that green tea extract boosts metabolism and enhances fat burning. One of the contents of green tea is Theanine, a natural compound that prevents the release of cortisol.
Green tea also contains antioxidants that are useful in reducing inflammation and the risk of diseases like cancer. Avoid adding sugar to green sugar since it can undo some of these benefits.
9. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil will balance your hormones fast since it reduces inflammation and enhances weight loss. In addition, it has antibacterial properties.
¼ a cup a day of coconut oil is enough to balance hormones. You can either cook with it or add it to breakfast smoothies or coffee.
Chances are your estrogen levels are high if you’re overweight. Broccoli contains phytochemicals called indoles, which play a role in estrogen metabolism.
They convert excess estrogen into a safer form, which significantly reduces the risk of estrogen-linked cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer.
11. Fresh/Powdered Ginger
Inflammation has been linked to almost every chronic disease. Well, ginger can help fight inflammation. It contains antioxidants, which balance blood circulation, boost immune function and reduce inflammation in the body.
12. Maca Root
This is one of the best hormone balancing foods for men and women. Maca is a food high in minerals and fatty acids. It also boosts hormone production and libido.
You can add maca powder to beverages or take it in capsule form.
13. Wild Yams
A study conducted back in 2005 showed that consumption of yams improves the status of sex hormones, lipids, and antioxidants.
14. Citrus Fruits
Fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits will balance your hormones. They help control estrogen levels and are a source of vitamin C, which will help cleanse the liver and get rid of toxins.
Remember citrus fruits contain sugar, so eat them in moderation.
I would imagine you’ve heard that berries are good for weight loss and your health. Blueberries, in particular, have potent anti-inflammatory properties. They also lower insulin and blood sugar levels.
16. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are called a superfood for a good reason. They contain Omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, amino acids, and minerals.
Chia seeds balance hormones by reducing bad cholesterol, improving insulin sensitivity and controlling blood sugar levels.
Adding cinnamon to food or beverages has many weight loss benefits. For one, research shows that cinnamon helps control insulin levels.
Cinnamon also reduces bad cholesterol. Take half a teaspoon per day, for 3-4 weeks if you want to improve insulin sensitivity.
18. Plain Organic Yoghurt
Plain yogurt is loaded with nutrients. It contains protein, probiotics, calcium, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and very few calories.
Yogurt is a great food for relieving stress and suppressing appetite. It also reduces the craving for the sugary stuff.
19. Dark chocolate
Eating dark chocolate in moderation (one square a day) will help balance your hormones.
When buying dark chocolate, choose darker ones since they contain more antioxidants and less sugar. It’s worth noting that dark chocolate helps curb cravings.
20. Grass-fed Beef
Grass-fed beef contains bioactive amino acids. Research shows that these amino acids (L-Leucine, L-Ornithine, L-Valine, and L-Glutamine) increase the production of growth hormones.
Bonus: More foods to balance your hormones
Most people tend to forget that food isn’t just a source of calories. Eating the right foods can balance your hormones and keep you energetic.
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Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
When there is an imbalance of hormone levels, the result can be messy. Other hormonal imbalance causes include thyroid disorders (e.g. hypothyroidism), diabetes, impaired liver function, and intake of xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic the effect of estrogen, and attach to estrogen receptors. In turn, there is interference with normal hormonal signaling to create hormonal imbalance.
Other symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women include
- vaginal dryness
- memory problems,
- low libido
- night sweats
- food cravings
- digestion problems
- painful breasts
- belly fat gain
- muscle mass loss
- weight gain
6 Immune-Strengthening Smoothies and Drinks
Peaches lend this smoothie plenty of natural sweetness, while turmeric and ginger offer anti-inflammatory effects.
In this cool and creamy smoothie recipe, you’ll find camu camu, the food with the highest vitamin C content out there.
Bright in flavor and packed with immune-strengthening ingredients like broccoli sprouts and ginger, this smoothie makes for one colorful breakfast.
Apple cider vinegar, citrus, and honey add medicinal qualities to this electrolyte-replenishing drink.
All the sulforaphane in this broccoli sprout shot helps your body with cell repair and the production of energy, hormones, and a master antioxidant called glutathione.
In Southeast Asia, jamu is a cure-all, pick-me-up kind of drink. It’s packed with healing ingredients, including turmeric, ginger, citrus, and honey.
Not only can we vegans get some good fat and protein from peanuts, but we also can help ourselves stay upright a little longer. Peanuts get a bad rap, but they are full of health benefits. Regardless, they make everything taste so much better!
Another crowd-pleasing balance-enhancer to finish the list: Nearly as sought after as the blueberry, its prowess in the superfood market rivals anything, but that says nothing for its worldwide appeal. A shouldn’t-be-so-guilt-laden favorite of every child, woman, and man. Dim the lights. Let’s get it dark in here:
5. Portobello Mushrooms
Did you know that portobello mushrooms are one of the only plant foods containing a significant amount of vitamin D? They are, and for this reason, it’s a good idea to include them in your diet if you’re suffering from PMS. Vitamin D along with calcium has been found to play an important role in reducing PMS symptoms because of their involvement in optimal hormonal processes in our bodies. Aside from stimulating the production of serotonin which plays a role in keeping our hormones balanced, consuming vitamin D is also protective against osteoporosis and certain forms of cancers.
Ready to say goodbye to PMS by enjoying the deliciousness of portobello mushrooms? We suggest trying these Cheese and Tempeh Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, these Portobello Mushroom Steaks, this Pineapple Teriyaki Portobello Burger, and this Mushroom Stroganoff. You also have to check out 20 of Our Meatiest, Beefiest, and Most Savory Mushroom Recipes. You won’t regret it!
How to Increase Progesterone Naturally
Though no foods contain progesterone, the following micro-nutrients can provide the environment needed to support your body to boost progesterone levels:
Good sources: Camu camu (Peruvian berry), sweet potato, kiwi, strawberries, oranges, papaya and pumpkin. Many other veggies also boost vitamin C too, including broccoli, mustard greens, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and lemons.
Try this: Add ½ teaspoon of camu camu to any of these hormone balancing smoothie recipes.
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This important mineral is not just a must-have for your immunity and skin. Zinc also helps the pituitary gland to release follicle-stimulating hormones. These encourage ovulation and they also tell your ovaries to produce more progesterone, just in case you become pregnant each month.
Good sources: Oysters, shrimp (prawns), beef, lamb, liver, shellfish, red meat, pumpkin and cashew nuts.
Try this brand: Wellena
This important mineral not only helps to preserve progesterone levels through keeping you calmer, it also assists the breakdown of the antagonistic estrogen metabolites, reducing estrogen dominance.
Other good sources: Cashews, leafy greens such as kale and Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, black beans, lentils and other legumes, cacao, mackerel fish and whole grain brown rice.
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Research shows that vitamin E can help to improve luteal bloodflow and raise progesterone levels in some women.
Sources: Sunflower seeds, almonds, and hazelnuts. In smaller amounts: avocado, sunflower seeds, red peppers, collard greens, pumpkin, asparagus, butternut squash, broccoli and mango.
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The B vitamins help combat stress and also help your liver break down estrogen byproducts, reducing estrogen dominance.
Taking vitamin supplements of B6, can also help reduce levels of estrogen while boosting progesterone production.
Good sources: Russet potatoes, salmon, tuna, bananas, spinach, walnuts, beef, chicken, sweet potato, beans and prunes.
Try this brand: Wellena
To learn more about how to balance your hormones with supplements (and which to take), you can download our FREE Supplement Guide here.
Cholesterol is needed in your body to make pregnenolone, which as I’ve said, is the “mother hormone.” Pregnenolone then goes on to help make progesterone, which is a precursor for other hormones, like testosterone and estrogen.
Good sources: Coconut oil, coconut butter, turkey and red meat, eggs and yogurt (if you can tolerate them), olives and olive oil.
Cruciferous vegetables are a great way to reduce Estrogen Dominance. They are rich in glucosinolates, which activate phase 2 detoxification in the liver, helping to filter estrogen metabolites from your body. This is good news for your hormone balance because it prevents estrogen byproducts circulating for too long, which can raise estrogen levels and cause hormonal havoc.
Other good sources: Broccoli, collard greens, kale, Swiss chard, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
Try this brand: Wellena
Fiber is essential in good hormonal balance it helps with bowel movement and the evacuation of metabolized hormones, including the harmful estrogens which antagonize progesterone from doing its work.
Good sources: Flaxseed, quinoa, millet, amaranth, teff, gluten-free oats.
Try this brand: Wellena
This amino acid is found in high-protein foods and it helps your body make nitric oxide. In turn the nitric oxide, relaxes your blood vessels so that circulation increases. This then ensures that your corpus luteum and other organs such as your ovaries enjoy improved blood flow to help them produce more progesterone.
Other good sources: Lentils and chickpeas, fish, such as salmon, tuna and trout, turkey, chicken, pork, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and dairy foods (if well tolerated).
Try this brand: Designs for Health
Food As Medicine
Food as medicine is not a new concept, but it’s finally gaining some mainstream respect. Medical schools are including more nutrition classes in the preparatory training of physicians, and the need for nutrition professionals is expected to grow significantly in coming years. As scientific research zeroes in on the action of individual nutrients at the most microscopic levels, the average person can also take charge of the foods they include in their diet. With the right information and resources, it is possible to make dietary changes that yield major dividends for your health.
Best Adrenal Hormone Balancing Foods
These sweet peppers give us a boost of Vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin that is essential to the function of the adrenal glands. We store a load of Vitamin C in our adrenals and when we are stressed, we use up a lot of it. Vitamin C-rich foods like bell peppers offer us replenishment, along with a spate of B vitamins that will offer us energy and help us reduce stress levels.
Dark leafy greens such as kale provide a wide spectrum of nutrients, in particular the antioxidant Vitamins K, A and C. Similar to bell peppers, kale’s Vitamin C will help shore up our adrenals and its B vitamins will nourish our nervous systems. These antioxidants also help to combat the damage caused by stress.
Blood sugar imbalances can disrupt our adrenal hormones. Sugary foods in particular will affect our blood sugar levels. Avocados are a rich source of healthy fats that will help keep our blood sugar levels even, and will support our nervous system function. They also contain Vitamin B5, otherwise known as pantothenic acid, a stress-fighting B vitamin that helps us handle stress.
These are another nutritious fat that will help to balance blood sugar levels , aid the nervous system and combat inflammation.
Pumpkin seeds are a source of magnesium. When we are stressed, we can deplete our magnesium levels. Magnesium is our anti-stress mineral that works alongside Vitamin C and Vitamin B5 to support the adrenal glands and lower stress levels. In short, magnesium-rich foods like pumpkin seeds can help us relax!
Reach for eggs to grab a dose of choline, a vitamin that helps us produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is essential to the nervous system, brain health, memory and development. They also contain omega 3 fatty acids, the anti-inflammatory fats that support the brain. When our minds and nervous systems are healthy, we are better able to cope with stress. Aim to buy organic, pasture-raised eggs instead of conventional.
Millet is a gluten-free whole grain that contains a wide spectrum of B vitamins that will support our nerves and brains in times of stress. It also contains magnesium and fibre, which contributes to balanced blood sugar.
Aldosterone, one of our adrenal hormones, is responsible for fluid balance and blood pressure. If our adrenals aren’t functioning well and aldosterone levels fall, we can secrete more sodium, leading to salt cravings. A good dash of sea salt to your food or even a glass of water will help to replenish sodium levels and offer trace minerals. You can also try seaweeds or miso for their salt content.
Our hormones are a complicated business and it’s important to work with a qualified health practitioner to ensure you are able to properly correct any imbalances. Once you know which hormones are out of whack, you can use hormone-balancing foods to bring your health into harmony.