Hormones are chemical messengers that help regulate many of the body’s processes, including growth and development, metabolism, sexual function and reproduction. With so many functions, it’s no surprise that hormone level imbalances can cause various issues.
We all know that nutrition is important for our overall health, but did you know that what you eat can also directly impact your hormone levels?
What Is a Hormonal Imbalance?
Hormones are essential for orchestrating almost all the activities in our bodies. They play a role in everything, from mood and energy levels to metabolism, fertility and weight loss. Therefore, an imbalance can seriously impact your health and well-being.
Many different causes hide behind a hormonal imbalance, such as poor nutrition, chronic stress, lack of sleep and environmental toxins. An imbalance can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as:
- Mood swings;
- Weight gain or difficult weight loss;
- Hot flashes;
- Night sweats;
- Decreased libido;
- PMS or menopause symptoms.
Not all symptoms of an imbalance are caused by imbalances in estrogen and progesterone. Many other hormones in the body can be thrown out of balance, such as testosterone, thyroid hormones and insulin.
Can Diet Cause a Hormonal Imbalance?
It’s no secret that what we eat can affect hormones. After all, a healthy diet (such as a mediterranean diet) provides the human body with the nutrients it needs to produce hormones. Certain foods can trigger imbalances, such as processed meats and soy products, which contain compounds that mimic estrogen in the body and increase its levels. In addition, consuming too many refined carbs can cause spikes in insulin levels, leading to imbalances. Fried foods are another known culprit behind imbalances.
On the other hand, eating a healthy diet can help keep hormone levels in check. Foods high in fiber and antioxidants help detoxify the body and remove excess hormones. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and flaxseeds can also help to regulate hormone levels.
Processed Foods and Hormonal Imbalances
One of the main culprits of an imbalance is processed foods. These foods have been stripped of their nutrients and often contain harmful chemicals. Processed foods are everywhere, from the bread aisle to the frozen food section, and while they may be convenient and tasty, they wreak havoc on our hormones.
When you eat processed foods, your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to function properly. Processed foods are often high in artificial sweeteners, unhealthy fats and artificial ingredients, causing weight gain and hormonal imbalances. In addition, processed foods often lack essential vitamins and minerals, leading to deficiencies that can further disrupt hormones.
How to Avoid Processed Foods
The best way to avoid processed foods is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats, and limit your intake of processed foods as much as possible. When you eat processed foods, choose those made with whole, natural ingredients and are free of sugar, unhealthy fats and artificial ingredients.
What Foods Should I Eat to Balance My Hormones?
Certain nutrients are essential for maintaining hormonal balance:
- Protein: Protein helps build and repair tissue. It’s also necessary for creating hormones and enzymes. Foods rich in protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs and legumes.
- Healthy fats: Healthy fats are vital for hormone production and regulation. They can also help reduce inflammation. Outstanding sources of fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds.
- Fiber: Fiber is vital for regulating blood sugar levels and gut health. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants protect cells from damage and help reduce inflammation. Foods rich in antioxidants include berries, dark leafy greens and tomatoes.
Including these nutrients in your diet is a great way to help maintain hormone balance. It’s especially important for those who are dealing with imbalances. Luckily, certain foods can help correct imbalances by providing the body with extra estrogen.
10 of the Best Foods to Eat for Hormone Imbalances
- Fatty fish: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (also found in olive oil), which help balance hormones by reducing inflammation.
- Avocados: Avocados are a great source of essential healthy fats for hormone balance. They also contain vitamin B6, a necessary nutrient for progesterone production.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of protein and healthy fats. They also contain magnesium, a necessary nutrient for testosterone production.
- Eggs: The abundance of protein and choline found in eggs boosts estrogen production.
- Dark leafy greens: Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard are rich in vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and calcium.
- Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, mandatory for testosterone production. They also contain carotenoids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts contain vitamin C, folate and fiber, essential nutrients for maintaining a hormone balance.
- Berries: Berries are a good source of antioxidants known to help reduce inflammation.
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains a type of plant estrogen known as flavonoids, which can help balance hormone levels. Additionally, dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants and can help improve heart health.
Hormones are responsible for many of our body’s processes, so it’s no surprise that what we eat can impact them. In addition to eating healthy, you can do a few other things to help keep your hormones in balance. Exercise is a great way to reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and promote hormone health. Getting enough sleep is also important, as sleep deprivation can lead to imbalances. And lastly, try to avoid processed foods, sugar and alcohol as much as possible!
A Parting Reminder
Taking care of your body is no easy feat, and it just shows that falling into an imbalance can rob you of your well-being. An unhealthy diet, lack of sleep, stress and medical issues can all impact our hormones. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to hormonal imbalance, but certain nutrients are known to help. If you’re struggling with hormonal imbalance, talk to your physician about incorporating healthy foods into your diet.