Better Hormone Balance Means Better Skin, Energy, Sleep, Mood, Fertility & Weight Loss
Good fats help to balance your hormones in several ways:
- They slow down your digestion and help you to feel full longer. This is good for your blood sugar and insulin levels. Maintaining a healthy stable blood sugar, and producing minimal insulin is good for hormone balance.
- Healthy fats from fish provide Omega 3 fatty acids. These “good” fats reduce inflammation in your body. Inflammation increases the need for insulin. Insulin, in turn, increases inflammation. There is a nasty snowball effect that perpetuates higher insulin levels and therefore, hormone disruption.
- Healthy fats make healthy skin cells for better skin and nails.
- Did you know that cholesterol is the building block for every hormone in your body? It’s true. Animal fats will supply a little framework for making hormones.
The Four Best Healthy Fat Foods for Hormone Balance
Avocado is a fruit. Unlike most other fruits that mainly contain carbs and sugar (fructose), avocados are loaded with fats. In fact, 77% of the calories in an avocado are from fat. This makes them even higher in fat than most animal foods. The main fat in an avocado is a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) called oleic acid. This is also the main fatty acid in olive oil. It is associated with various health benefits.
Avocados are also an excellent source of potassium. They are higher in potassium than bananas and much lower in sugar. Even though they are high in fat and calories, one study shows that people who eat avocados usually weigh less and have less belly fat than those who don’t.
Almonds are an excellent source of hormone-balancing healthy fats, fiber and protein. Almonds are also a good source of vitamin E, manganese, magnesium and calcium. A study on snacking on almonds over the course of 6 weeks showed that this lowers a blood marker known as HbA1c that reflects blood sugar.
Research shows that Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, improve hormone production in women with the hormonal imbalance known as PCOS. The best way to get Omega 3’s through your diet is by eating fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines two to three times per week. You can also take fish oil supplements.
Be aware that fish live in a polluted environment. Therefore, if you are taking fish oil supplements, ensure that the brand you are taking tests properly for freshness, purity and prepares the oil in a natural triglyceride form for better absorption.
Whole eggs used to be considered unhealthy because their yolks are high in cholesterol and fat. One egg contains 212 mg of cholesterol, which is 71% of your recommended daily intake. Plus, 62% of the calories in whole eggs are from fat. Does that mean that you should toss the yolk and only eat the white? Nope! New studies show that the cholesterol in eggs doesn’t affect your blood cholesterol much.
Whole eggs are extremely nutrient-dense. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals. They even have powerful antioxidants that protect your eyes, and lots of choline, a brain nutrient that many people don’t get enough of. The healthy fats in eggs help with hormone balance.
Eggs are also an excellent food for weight loss. They are very filling because of their high protein and fat content. Research indicates that despite being high in fat, people who replace their grain-based breakfast with eggs eat fewer calories and lose weight.
Lean protein provides the building blocks for your body to make lean muscle tissue. Protein intake helps to regulate the hormones that dictate appetite and fullness. It helps your brain know that you are full, reduces obsessive thoughts about food and late-night snacking.
The Four Best Lean Protein Sources for Hormone Balance
Chicken breast is a very good source of lean protein as well as selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and niacin. Vitamin B6 is a key nutrient for maintaining hormone balance as it supports healthy progesterone production and aids the liver in metabolizing estrogen. Selenium helps your thyroid to work normally. Normal thyroid function helps with energy, weight and keeps everything in your body working at the right pace.
Turkey meat is naturally lean and an excellent source of protein for building lean muscle. It is an excellent source of protein as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and B12. It is also a good source of the minerals selenium, zinc, and phosphorus. Vitamin B6 and selenium have the above mentioned hormone-balancing effects. B12 is also involved in healthy liver metabolism of estrogen.
Fish provides easily-digested and assimilated lean protein and healthy fats. As mentioned above, we have trashed the oceans that our fish live in. As a result, many are overly high in pollutants like PCBs and mercury. Aim to eat smaller fish that have less bioaccumulation of pollutants. Mackerel, herring, and sardines are good choices for healthy fats and protein. As mentioned above, Omega 3’s have hormone-balancing effects. They reduce inflammation, which in turn can reduce insulin and help with hormone balance.
While they’re not the most protein-dense food going, they do provide a reasonable amount of protein, along with healthy fats and numerous vitamins and minerals like zinc. Zinc helps with insulin-sensitivity and in turn will help lower insulin production, which has hormone-balancing and weight management benefits.
Nuts and Seeds
The Four Best Nuts and Seeds for Hormone Balance
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc. Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. It is required for the normal function of approximately 100 enzymes, and it plays a part in the immune system, protein synthesis, hormone balance, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Zinc plays a primary role in anabolic hormone production, the three most important being testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor-1. Having normal levels of these 3 hormones allow for optimal muscle development. Zinc is involved in the process of egg development in women. Without sufficient zinc levels, the egg won’t mature properly. Additionally, adequate zinc allows women to use estrogen and progesterone efficiency in the body.
A 2009 study on the health benefits of ingesting flax seeds (not oil) found significant reductions in total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Flaxseed also has anti-cancer properties, is anti-inflammatory, helps keep bowels regular and eases menopause symptoms. Freshly grind 1 – 3 tablespoons of flax seeds every day and sprinkle over salads, vegetables or add to a smoothie. Be sure to drink plenty of water with them. The hormone-balancing effects of flax seeds come from their phytoestrogen content. Phytoestrogens are plant estrogen-like compounds. Because their effect is so weak (about a thousand times weaker than human estrogen) they tend to have an estrogen moderating effect. In addition, supplementation with flax seeds appears to reduce systolic blood pressure.
As previously mentioned, almonds are an excellent source of hormone-balancing healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Snacking on them, versus starchy snacks, helps to level blood sugar, reduce insulin and balance your hormones.
As a high-protein, fiber and healthy fat food, walnuts have numerous health benefits. Similar to almonds, they provide a portable, quick and easy snack that keeps your blood sugar from spiking, keeping your insulin levels down.
The Four Best Vegetables for Hormone Balance
Broccoli is a superfood that contains glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin, and glucobrassicin. These are special nutrients in broccoli that support the steps of the detoxification process in your body. This includes the elimination of toxins, excess hormones and hormone-disrupting pollutants. Also, broccoli contains indole-3-carbinol, a powerful antioxidant, and anti-carcinogen that is known to reduce the growth of breast, cervical, and prostate cancer as well as boost healthy liver function.
Cauliﬂower contains carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, and phytonutrients that include kaempferol, ferulic acid, cinnamic acid, and caﬀeic acid. All of these antioxidants protect you from free radical damage and reduce your risk for diseases caused by oxidative stress, like cardiovascular disease.
It also contains glucosinolates and thiocyanates that increase your liver’s ability to neutralize potentially toxic substances. Also, cauliﬂower’s antioxidant nutrients help boost Phase 1 detoxification, and its sulfur-containing nutrients enhance Phase 2 liver detoxification.
Cauliﬂower has no fat, is high in vitamin C, low in carbohydrates and has a noteworthy ﬁber content. Because of its mild ﬂavour and versatility, it makes a fantastic low-carb replacement for higher-carb foods like rice and potatoes.
Along with broccoli and cauliflower, kale is a cruciferous family vegetable. As a result, it comes with the same health-boosting and hormone-balancing effects. Nutrients in kale boost the detoxification of hormone-disrupting xenoestrogens, toxins, and hormones.
Spinach contains a phytoestrogen known as coumestrol. The beneficial effects of coumestrol are well-known in various biological processes including; neuroprotective effects on your nervous system, the function of the female reproductive system, and anti-bacterial properties.
In addition, spinach is a good food source of magnesium, B vitamins, and folic acid, all of which are essential to the healthy function of the endocrine glands and liver.
The Four Best Fruit for Hormone Balance
Most people see blueberries as a generic fruit and because it’s not some exotic fruit from Tahiti. They don’t realize the numerous health benefits of consuming these little blue-purple colored berries. We’re told the darker the fruit the more antioxidants it contains. In the case of blueberries, that’s true as this little fruit is chock-full of phytonutrients. What are phytonutrients? Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals called phytonutrients. Unlike vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients are not essential to the body but they can help prevent diseases and improve overall health.
The phytonutrients contained in blueberries include anthocyanins, malvidins, delphinidins, pelargonidins, cyanidins, peonidins, caffeic acids, ferulic acids, coumaric acids, gallic acids, procatchuic acids, kaempferol, quercetin, myricetin, pterostilbene, and resveratrol. What does that mean to you? It means that blueberries are full of plant-based nutrients that prevent disease, reduce abdominal fat, reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, prevent hypertension, reduce signs of aging, protect your brain from environmental toxins, reduce the frequency and severity of allergies, are anti-inflammatory and increase the production of the mood-lifting neurotransmitter dopamine.
Fun fact: Did you know that strawberries are the only fruit with its seeds on the outside? Similar to blueberries, strawberries may be undervalued as a superfood for hormone-balancing. But a 6-week dietary intervention with 333 mg of polyphenols from strawberries and cranberries improved insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese non-diabetic, insulin-resistant human subjects. Improving insulin sensitivity means lower insulin and less hormone imbalance.
People are often surprised to learn that an avocado is a fruit. It’s true! It is the only fruit with appreciable fat content. The high levels of fat, insoluble and soluble fiber in avocados help your digestive system run smoothly and slow the breakdown of carbohydrates. Slowing the breakdown of carbs keeps you feeling fuller longer and prevents spikes in blood sugar and insulin. Avocados also contain oleic acid, a fat that activates the part of the brain that makes you feel full.
Blackberries and Raspberries
Ok, this is technically 2 fruit, but similar to the other berries, these berries contain powerhouse polyphenols and bioflavonoids that reduce inflammation, thereby reducing insulin and balancing hormones.
The Four Best Legumes for Hormone Balance
I’m often asked if soy products are safe for women’s health-related conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and fibroids. My sense is that there is a minimal reason for concern regarding soy and these health problems. Soy contains substances called isoflavones that have extremely weak phytoestrogen or plant estrogen activity. They are in the order of about 1000 times weaker than our own internally-produced estrogen. If your own estrogen is excessive, then having much weaker estrogen competing for estrogen binding sites is helpful to lower estrogen activity.
I wouldn’t encourage much soy consumption in men or boys. There is research suggesting that it can cause hypogonadism (decreased size of reproductive organs) in males.
A 2007 study found that dietary isoflavones, as in soy, may reduce the risk of endometriosis among Japanese women. A 2017 review of meta-analyzes and recent clinical trials, provided evidence of the effectiveness of isoflavones in reducing hot flashes, improving the quality of life after menopause, lowering the cardiovascular risk by optimizing lipid profile, and improving bone mineral density.
Of much greater concern for any of these hormone-related conditions are the consumption of a high glycemic index diet and the consumption of dairy products that contain actual hormones, not plant estrogens.
Revered in Japanese cooking, adzuki beans, also called azuki beans, are russet-colored beans with a strong, nutty, yet sweet flavor. Adzuki beans are high in protein and dietary fiber but their true Superfood label comes from their high antioxidant rating – they have a higher antioxidant value than cranberries or blueberries! These beans are also lower in calories than other beans such as black beans, garbanzos, kidney beans, pinto beans, and white beans.
Adzuki beans lower “bad” cholesterol levels, boost digestion, improve heart health, support your immune system through their B vitamin content, and support your reproductive system with their very high folate content.
Adzuki beans are excellent hormone-balancers because of their high protein and fiber content.
Chickpeas contain similar isoflavones to soy, with equivalent health benefits for balancing your hormones. They are high in fiber, protein, and minerals and help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Their polyphenols prevent and/or help manage obesity and diabetes.
Similar to the other legumes, cowpeas are high in fiber, minerals, and protein. Their ability to stabilize blood sugar, reduce insulin means that they help to balance hormones. They also prevent diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension.
There you have it, the 20 best foods to balance your hormones naturally through diet.
Dr. Pamela has been in practice as a naturopathic doctor in Toronto since 1999. She has been the recipient of numerous “Best Naturopath in Toronto” awards. She is registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.
Dr. Pamela Frank uses a natural treatment approach that may include acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, diet, vitamins, supplements, and other natural remedies to restore balance and provide long-term resolution of almost any health problem.