Hormones are special chemical messengers that are created by our endocrine glands (hypothalamus, thyroid/parathyroid, ovaries, testes, pancreas, adrenal, pituitary and pineal) and control just about every single function of the body. Everything from hunger to reproduction to even emotions and moods are controlled by hormones.
Unfortunately, we live in a time where our delicate hormonal balance is constantly being challenged. Stress, environmental toxins, chronic inflammation, additives and pesticides in our food and how much weight we carry on our bodies are wreaking havoc on us, and being hormonally imbalanced is now a "normal" state for most women. And that's even before we hit menopause when things can really get out of whack!
Our bodies are designed to constantly be working towards keeping things in balance, a state called homeostasis, but our modern world makes achieving this extremely hard. It is important that we take steps every day to help our body do what it needs to do. One of the easiest and most powerful ways to help restore hormonal balance is through the foods we eat every day.
What should you be eating every day to help balance hormones? Here I will share with you my top 5 foods to help reduce symptoms of hormonal imbalance which include:
Broccoli and Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, Brussels spouts...all of these foods are high in a particular type of phytonutrient (chemical compounds found in plants) that help boost the ability of the liver to detoxify harmful, cancer-causing compounds. One of those phytonutrients, Indole-3-carbinol is especially effective at helping break down a harmful and extremely potent estrogen metabolite that is associated with tumor growth in estrogen-sensitive breast cells. Studies show that having just 2 1/2 cups of broccoli each week can significantly reduce your risk of several cancers, especially those of the breast (and prostate for men). All cruciferous vegetables are high in fiber as well which help the body eliminate excess hormones through our "poop" which is one of the ways the body works to maintain balance.
Avocados are rich in antioxidants, monounsaturated fats, as well as heart-friendly vitamin E and potassium. They are also rich in a substance called beta-sitosterol which studies show help to balance cortisol, a stress hormone secreted by our adrenal glands which, at chronically high levels, plays a number of roles within the body, including making us fat around the midsection and throwing off our sleep patterns just to name a couple. I recommend eating at least 1/4 of an avocado daily. Remember...your body needs healthy fats, especially for fat loss, so don't shun avocados based on the misguided information that all fat is bad for you. These green beauties are anything but.
Chia seeds are an ancient grain that are amazingly high in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, just 3 1/2 oz of chia seeds contains the equivalent amount of omega-3's as eating 1 3/4lbs of Atlantic salmon! Chia seeds help stabilize blood sugar, manage the effects of diabetes, improves the insulin sensitivity of our cells and helps lessen the symptoms of metabolic syndrome including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar readings after meals
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest diets in the world, and for good reason. Olives are rich in antioxidant compounds called polyphenols which help reduce inflammation and have anticancer and anticoagulant effects on the body. EVOO is also excellent for promoting hormonal balance because of their high content of healthy monounsaturated fats. EVOO is shown to improve secretion of leptin, our appetite-suppressing hormone, as well as improve the sensitivity of our cells to insulin which has the effect of balancing blood sugar. What does this mean? It means that EVOO helps with weight loss! Not only does it help us get control over insatiable hunger (a result of hormonal imbalance) but it also helps reduce the storage of blood glucose as fat by helping insulin do its job. An added benefit - EVOO also helps break down the fat cells we already have. Who doesn't want that?! I do not recommend cooking with EVOO as it is easily damaged in high heats. It is best consumed fresh out of the bottle. Salad dressings and drizzling it directly onto roasted veggies are two great ways to enjoy it.
Flaxseeds are full of compounds called lignans which have been proven over and over again to help protect us against cancer. For women, flaxseeds help protect against breast cancer and, for men, it helps protect against prostate cancer. Flaxseeds are also high in monounsaturated fats and fiber, both of which are needed for healthy hormones. Adding 2 to 3 tbsp of freshly ground flaxseeds into a smoothie or oatmeal each morning can reduce your risk of estrogen-based cancers. Just be mindful that flaxseeds and their oil are delicate. Be sure to purchase ground flaxseeds in a vacuum sealed package and store them in the freezer once opened. Alternatively, you can grind your own each day as needed.
When they are in proper balance, hormones help the body thrive, but small problems with hormones can cause serious and life-altering symptoms. While there are a number of factors that can be at play to bring hormones out of whack, eating a whole foods, mostly plant-based, diet will go a long way to helping the body do its job to regulate hormonal balance more effectively.
Reducing stress is also key as chronic excess cortisol can throw every other hormone into a state of turmoil. To find out if stress is playing a role in your symptoms, complete my Adrenal Fatigue Questionnaire and get my daily do's and don'ts for reclaiming your energy and feeling like yourself again.
If you would like to explore how working with a holistic nutritionist can help you achieve your best and most vibrant health, please feel free contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 519.404.9919 to schedule your FREE 30 minute discovery session to discuss how I can help you reach your goals
Jill Taylor is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She is the mom of two pretty awesome teenagers, s very dramatic dog, a hedgehog and a snake (yikes!). Jill assists her clients in achieving true wellness through thoughtful and compassionate dietary and lifestyle coaching. Feel free to visit the "Contact" page to get in touch. Jill would love to hear from you!