Your hormones have a pretty important job when it comes to keeping your body and mind running at an optimal level. Think of them as the chemical “messengers” that tell your body what to do. For instance, “your thyroid hormones tell your body how to regulate your metabolism,” explains Dr. Rob Silverman, author of Inside Out Health. “And insulin, a hormone produced in your pancreas, regulates your use of blood sugar.
“Meanwhile, your sex organs produce estrogen (for women) and testosterone (for men). And your adrenal glands produce the stress hormone cortisol.”
With so many important functions, if your hormones are out of balance, you’ll be, too. “If you can’t produce enough insulin, for example, you get diabetes,” says Dr. Silverman. “If you can’t produce enough thyroid hormones, you gain weight and feel very tired and cold all the time. When you make too much cortisol, you feel stressed and anxious and prevent rapid weight loss,” explains Dr. Silverman.
The surefire way to keep your hormones balanced is to eat foods that are filled with nutrients that support healthy hormone production. So our team developed this essential list—for men and women. Incorporate them into your regular diet for peak results.
Flaxseeds contain lignans, which are phytoestrogens that can help regulate estrogen levels in men and women. But another major benefit according to Dr. Silverman? “They help to prevent breast and prostate cancers.”
How much? One to two grams daily. Sprinkle some into oatmeal, a breakfast bowl, bake into bread or blend into a smoothie.
When you’re stressed, your body becomes completely out of whack—especially because it increases the production of the hormone cortisol, which is produced within the adrenal gland. You know the idea of “fight or flight” responses to stressors? Cortisol can dull the body’s immune responses. “Our busy culture keeps our bodies concentrated in cortisol, which can lead to the development of chronic stress and serious complications in the long run,” explains Lisa Mikus, RD, CNSC, CDN. “For example, elevated cortisol levels are associated with elevated blood glucose levels. When glucose levels are elevated for often and for prolonged periods of time, metabolic irregularities can occur like insulin resistance. These hormonal imbalances including elevated levels of cortisol, glucose, and the increased need for insulin, can lead to central abdominal obesity as and metabolic disturbances like diabetes.”
So how do you combat that? By eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day in order to help stay emotionally regulated and decrease the risk of a cortisol spike. “A mixed meal includes whole grains and/or high fiber carbohydrates, lean proteins, and heart-healthy fats,” says Mikus. “Consuming these macronutrients together at meals keeps you satiated for longer and helps lessen the chance of blood sugar spikes.”
3. Pumpkin Seeds
Men shouldn’t hesitate to snack on these tasty seeds as they’re rich in zinc which Lawless says is a mineral that helps boost testosterone production in the body.
4. Healthy Fats
“There are many different hormones doing many different jobs throughout the body. It is an intricate system that operates based on many factors, both internal and external. But one of the things many of these hormones have in common is fat,” says Andrew James Pierce of Sugarchecked. “Dietary fat is used by the body to synthesize hormones, particularly sex hormones. So a nutrition plan that does not include adequate fat intake can interfere with hormonal balance.
“On the flip side,” he continues, “excess fat in the diet, especially the unhealthy kind (think fried foods and trans fat), can also throw hormones out of balance.” So what are the fats you should opt for? Healthy and essential fats, like those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. All of those will promote optional hormonal function.
Approximately 30% of total daily calories should come from healthy sources of fat. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s about 65g of fat.
ACV helps your body to convert the proteins found in foods into usable amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for many different bodily processes, including the creation of your hormones. So, in drinking a shot of apple cider vinegar you’re actually giving your body what it needs to make hormones—addressing any imbalances between estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
The cinnamaldehyde, an organic compound, in cinnamon can help balance hormones in women by lowering the amount of testosterone produced by women, while increasing the amount of progesterone. FYI, just sprinkling cinnamon on your food isn’t going to provide you with all the benefits it offers. You’ll need to take it as a supplement.
How much? 2 to 4 grams per day
7. Cruciferous Vegetables
Vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale all contain a phytonutrient called indole-3-carbinol. Dr. Silverman explains this is very important as indole-3-carbinol blocks the action of an estrogen metabolite that is linked to estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.
How much? Eat two full cups on a daily basis.
8. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks of a group of hormones called eicosanoids, which have short-lived, local effects in the body. “Your body uses eicosanoids to deal with inflammation. If you don’t have enough of these essential fatty acids in your diet, you won’t be able to produce eicosanoids efficiently,” says Dr. Silverman. “Omega-3 fatty acids are found in flaxseeds, dark-green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, walnuts. Supplements are a good way to be sure you’re getting enough.”
How much? Have 250 mg to 1000 mg daily
9. Low- or No-Sugar Foods
Avoid sugary foods and drinks—beware of seemingly healthy foods like smoothies that could actually be loaded down with extra sugar. “Keep sugar found within natural foods, like eating a whole apple, or a piece of watermelon, rather than having it processed in a drink or dessert,” suggests Denzel. “This will keep your blood sugar levels stable, and stable blood sugar means stable hormone levels.”
Choose fruit instead of cakes and ice cream for dessert, and also as a midday snack. Aim for about two servings of fruit per day. And drink tea instead of juice.
10. Cellular Carbs
Lowering your body fat levels is an easy way to regulate your hormones. And a surefire way to do so is by eating whole foods. “Trade your acellular carbohydrates—think flour, pasta, breads— for cellular carbohydrates which include produce like beets, squash, potatoes, beans,” recommends Denzel. “This will automatically drop the caloric density of your food, regulating your digestion and helping you get to a lower weight while feeling well fed.”
How much? Go for two cups of veggies per meal, cooked or raw
11. Natural Whole Proteins
Legumes and other plant-based proteins should be a part of every meal, recommends Denzel. These filling foods “lowers your appetite and promotes healthy hormone levels through ample amino acids and micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc and B vitamins.”
12. Pro and Pre-Biotics
For optimal hormone balance, you need to mind your gut. When your digestion isn’t optimal, hormones cannot get properly metabolized. “Foods that are fermented, such as yogurt, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kvass and kimchi can help restore your gut health by introducing beneficial probiotics,”
“Add foods rich in prebiotics – specific fibers that beneficial bacteria feast on – jicama, leeks, onions, jerusalem artichoke, chicory root. Those foods will serve as a rich diet for the beneficial bacteria and they will colonize your gut easier.” They’ll also help when you wonder how to get rid of bloating.
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