My 4-Step Guide to Hormone Balance – Step 2
Step 2. Nourish
The next step in my Guide to Hormone Balance is NOURISH. Food is so vitally important; it can make a real difference to how we feel and what’s more, the effects can be immediate.
Yet it is so easy for our diets to go astray! We can get stuck in a rut with our eating, buying the same foods and cooking the same meals each week. We can find ourselves relying on processed foods, sugary treats or caffeine just a little too often. Or perhaps in the busyness of life, we start to skip meals and graze rather than sit down and eat.
The thing is, eating a variety of the right foods to nourish your hormones is crucial for a more balanced, healthier and happier you. And, just to recap, the key hormones we’re talking about are sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone), cortisol (your stress hormone), thyroid (your metabolism regulator) and insulin (your fat storing hormone). So, with this in mind, I’ve put together some ideas on how to nourish so those hormones can flourish!
How to Eat for Happy, Healthy Hormones
1. Balance Your Blood Sugar
Eating too many high sugar foods or processed or refined carbohydrates can cause your blood sugar levels to rocket. In response your body must release lots of insulin to move sugar out of your blood and into your cells, which can often result in a blood sugar crash.
This topsy-turvy sugar roller-coaster is bad news for hormone balance, weight gain and can even lead to insulin resistance in the longer term. It can leave you feeling tired, jittery and irritable. And it’s not just sugar you need to watch out for; caffeine and alcohol will have the same effects, along with the stress or skipping meals. To control those peaks and troughs:
- Reduce your intake of processed or refined sugars (cake, biscuits, chocolate, cereals, white bread and pasta)
- Instead eat healthy proteins and complex carbohydrates (like lean meat, fish, nuts or seeds and wholegrains, oats or quinoa) with each meal, which release their energy more slowly
- Healthy fats will also help to slow down energy release and keep you feeling nice and full – more on this shortly.
2. Boost Your Fibre
Fibre is key for oestrogen detoxification and elimination and it can help avoid a state known as oestrogen dominance. Eliminating old oestrogens can support symptoms of PMS, bloating, headaches, breast tenderness and fibroids. Excellent ways to boost fibre include:
- Increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Aim for 7 a day (yes 7!) and eat a rainbow colour of variety.
- Swap to whole grain carbohydrates like brown or wild rice, quinoa, oats, buckwheat or whole wheat pasta.
- Enjoy nuts and seeds – yummy and so nutrient dense!
- Love your Legumes – beans, lentils, chickpeas – full of fibre and protein too.
3. Embrace the Fat (the healthy kind of course)
Did you know that fat is vital for the production, storage and transport of your hormones? You also depend on fat to absorb certain vitamins (A, D, E and K). So, ignore the low-fat bandwagon and embrace the healthy varieties. Here’s how:
- Eat oily fish twice a week (salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, trout) – it contains essential fats your body can’t make.
- Include olive oil and coconut oil – delicious and nutritious! Coconut oil is especially good for high temperature cooking as it’s so stable.
- Avocado, nuts and seeds are also excellent sources.
4. Cruciferous are Queen!
What on earth are cruciferous I hear you say. Well, they are a type of vegetable that contain something called indol-3 carbinol. This lovely compound affects how we metabolise oestrogen, making sure our body chooses the protective (rather than the harmful) pathways. It may actually reduce our risk of getting breast cancer, which increases as we age. Great sources include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage.
5. Phytoestrogens Rock!
These are clever little compounds found naturally in plant foods. They help balance oestrogen levels, whether it’s too high or too low, by acting on receptor cells to either activate or block their function. Phytoestrogen rich foods include chickpeas, flaxseeds, lentils, kidney beans and whole grains.
6. Get the Right Micronutrients
Healthy hormones depend on a supply of the right micronutrients – that’s vitamins and minerals to you and me! These aren’t just an added bonus; they are an essential part of hormone function. A good diet goes a long way towards providing these, so here’s what to focus on:
- B vitamins – meat, fish, eggs, leafy greens (like spinach, collard and turnip greens and romaine lettuce), milk, beans, lentils and sunflower seeds.
- Vitamin A – liver, eggs and dairy.
- Vitamin C – salad greens, bell peppers, broccoli and fresh fruits.
- Vitamin D – oily fish, shellfish, egg yolk, mushrooms (supplementing too is important, especially in winter).
- Magnesium – cooked swiss chard and spinach, squash, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, nuts and seeds, avocados, whole grains and dark chocolate (hooray!).
- Calcium – cruciferous vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds and dairy.
- Selenium and Zinc – meat, fish, crab, brazil nuts, seeds and wholegrains.
- Iron – lean red meat, dark meat from poultry, oily fish, eggs, beans, pulses, dark green leafy veg and dried fruits.
- Iodine – fish, shellfish, sea vegetables.
7. Improve Hydration
Oestrogen and progesterone affect our fluid balance so staying well hydrated, particularly in the second phase of your cycle, is important. It’s also important if you have a heavy menstrual flow and to support healthy bowel habits for oestrogen elimination.
What Foods Should I Avoid?
Just as there’s delicious nutrients that support hormone balance, there’s also foods that can disrupt it. These include:
- Sugar and refined carbs – these cause insulin to spike, which can increase oestrogen and inflammation.
- Alcohol – it hinders hormone detoxification and depletes absorption of nutrients (and our willpower!).
- Hormone disrupting chemicals and toxins – avoid food additives and preservatives, BPA plastics, phthalates (synthetic fragrances) and pesticides. Eat organic (if your purse permits) and filter your water.
- Dodgy fats – trans- and oxidised fats from processed foods, deep fried foods and foods cooked with vegetable oils. These are unstable fats often not recognised by the body which cause damage to our DNA, hormone balance, inflammation and speed up ageing.
- Foods you are sensitive to – gluten and dairy are the most common ones but eating any food your body reacts to will cause inflammation and disrupt absorption of nutrients.
Nourished hormones are happy hormones! If you’d like more information on how I can help, book a free call with me today.