Your hormones have a profound effect on your body—everything from mental, physical, and emotional health. This means that these messengers can change your mood, appetite, and even your weight. Any imbalance will consequences—usually a negative one. Fortunately, hormones can be influenced by the foods you consume, so by taking control of your nutrition and making healthier choices, you can eat for hormonal balance.
Eat Healthy Fats
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fats that are taken in by the liver and used immediately as energy. MCTs can reduce insulin resistance and can even trigger the release of hormones that help with satiety, including GLP-1, PYY, and CCK.
Even saturated fat and cholesterol are necessary for hormones, since those are used to make them. Ideally, you want to steer clear of omega-6 fatty acids from safflower, soybean, cottonseed and like oils, because they can cause inflammation in the body. The only omega-6 you want is gamma-linoleic acid (GMA) from hemp seeds and evening primrose oil, because it can support healthy progesterone levels.
Check out these hormone-balancing fats:
- Coconut oil – contains lauric acid, which aids in hormone production
- Avocados – contain vitamin E, Folic acid, and B-vitamins for hormonal balance
- Egg yolks – contain choline and iodine which are needed for thyroid hormones
Eat High-Quality Protein
Consuming quality is important. That means fast food protein isn’t as nutritious as wild caught or organic sources.
The reason you want quality protein is for the amino acids and nutritional value. Furthermore, protein influences the release of a hormone called ghrelin, the hunger hormone. When your body produces enough ghrelin, you feel fuller for longer. For optimal health, you want to consume about 20-30 grams of protein per meal, or eat small, protein-packed snacks throughout the day.
Here are some examples of clean protein to add to your diet:
- Sprouted nuts, seeds, and legumes
- Organic, grass-fed chicken, beef, bison, elk, and eggs
- Wild caught fish
- Organic, non-GMO soybeans
- Nonfat, plain yogurt (Unsweetened)
- Nut butter
Avoid Simple Sugars
When you consume simple sugars, like fructose and glucose, the body will release insulin to balance with your blood glucose level. When this happens in excess, the body becomes resistant to insulin, and this causes diabetes. Insulin is closely related with hormones and can cause imbalances in cortisol, progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. To keep your insulin regulated, avoid simple sugars from junk food and fast food. Instead, focus on complex carbohydrates like brown rice, sprouted grain bread, quinoa, bran, whole wheat, and fibrous fruits and vegetables.
Avoid Under and Overeating
Yes, your diet or cheat day could be hurting your hormone balance. Cutting your calorie intake too much results in elevated cortisol, which will cause weight gain. One study found that restricting your calories to 1200 a day lead to heightened cortisol levels and less weight loss during the period. An older study from 1996 even suggested that extremely calorie restricted diets could even trigger insulin resistance, which is often seen in people with metabolic syndrome.
Conversely, overeating spikes insulin levels and leads to reduced insulin insensitivity for those who are already struggling with weight. For example, if you are overweight and eat 1200-1300 calories in a single meal, your insulin will spike twice as much as someone who is lean has a healthy metabolism.
Hormonal imbalances affect millions of people around the world, in common disorders like menstrual irregularities, infertility, estrogen or testosterone dominance, diabetes, thyroid issues, and more. By tackling the imbalances with nutrition, you can start to get your hormones back under control and start living a healthier life. Remember that nutrition is but one factor in your hormone production, so be sure to look at how well you are sleeping, physical activity, and your medical history too!