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Food For Hormonal Health

Food For Hormonal Health

When it comes to women, true health cannot be achieved without carefully taking care of our hormonal balance. This means that when your diet and lifestyle support your hormones, your hormones will thank you and support you back.
There’s a lot of talk around hormonal balance, but what exactly does hormone imbalance mean? An imbalance happens when you have too much or too little of one or more hormones and it can refer to women's main sex hormones like oestrogen and progesterone, but also to insulin, leptin, thyroid, cortisol, testosterone.
Some signs of hormonal imbalance are irregular menstrual cycles, painful and heavy periods, infertility, persistent weight gain, hair loss, acne, night sweats, 

If you’ve googled anything on nutrition for hormonal health by now, you’ve probably already discovered what not to eat - the ultra processed foods that are high in sugar, salt and unfriendly fats. When it comes to what to include in our diets though, there is plenty of conflicting information out there. And I must be honest - there is no right answer for everyone, because one size does not fit all when it comes to nutrition. But there are some foods that our hormones particularly prefer so let’s dig right into.

Food is the backbone of your hormones. But before we talk about the specific foods that can support our hormonal health, let’s see what roles each of the macronutrients play.
 Food For Hormonal Health

Fats are macronutrients that the body needs for energy, cell growth and hormone function.

Healthy fats are particularly important for long-term hormonal health. Thesy improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and support healthy cycles and fertility. Furthermore, fat slows down the spikes in sugar that can lead to many unpleasant symptoms and also help the body absorb certain micronutrients from food, like the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.

Of particular importance are the omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish and certain nuts and seeds. The three main forms of omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA) are essential for women’s health, mainly because they help regulate hormone levels, reduce inflammation and support the baby’s healthy growth and development during pregnancy. 

Fat is also the most calorie dense macronutrient, so it will keep you satiated!
Do not fear integrating healthy fats in your diet on a daily basis. 

Proteins are a key building block for female hormones and, honestly, for pretty much every other function in the body.

The body requires protein to build and maintain the structure and function of its cells, tissues, organs, muscle, bones, cartilage, skin, hair, and nails. Protein is also needed to form antibodies, enzymes, hormones, muscle tissue, collagen, DNA, and much more.

Protein also plays an essential role in regulating our menstrual cycles, helps our liver to detoxify excess hormones and helps balance blood sugar levels.

When it comes to how much protein to consume on a daily basis, most women are below the recommended daily intake. And truth be told, I don’t have a specific number for you because this number will differ based on factors such as age, gender, body composition, activity level, overall health and the foods you eat (it’s different for vegans, for example). For most healthy adults, the recommended daily intake is around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Take into account that your needs increased during pregnancy and postpartum. Also, most experts agree that these numbers are really low, so try to take this estimate as a minimum. 

Carbohydrates are essential to our health, but most women consume too many and they’re not all made equal.

Ancestral foods are not only lower in carbohydrates, but they are also higher in vitamins, minerals, fibre, healthy fat, and protein compared to modern foods. 

It’s important to know though that women are more sensitive to carbohydrate restrictions (such as keto diets) so the idea is not to eliminate them from your diet, but try to consume more of those complex carbohydrates that come with fibre and plenty of essential nutrients. And, as often as possible, try to balance your carbohydrates by consuming them with foods that contain fat and/or protein to mitigate the rise and crash of your blood sugar levels.

Food For Hormonal Health

What foods should you eat?

When it comes to complex carbohydrates, try to aim for variety as much and as often as possible. Doesn’t necessarily mean you have to eat differently every day (this most often leads to food waste), but do try to mix your veggies on a weekly basis. Think root vegetables like beets, carrots, parsnip, sweet potatoes, hard squash and non starchy vegetables like asparagus, bell pepper, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, fennel, green beans, leeks, mushroom, etc.

Make friends with leafy greens and add some to your meals or snacks (hello, smoothie) on a daily basis. Try to integrate pseudo-grains in your meals - such as quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat - and non-gluten whole grains, beans and lentils.

When it comes to protein, animal sources are considered superior, but I don’t like using this word. All whole-foods have benefits and a balanced approach works for optimal hormonal balance. Eat meat and poultry, ideally grass-fed, eggs, plant based protein (legumes, pseudo-grains and nuts and seeds) and fatty fish. Depending on your dietary preferences or restrictions, you’ll need to be more mindful when it comes to making sure you include enough protein in your diet.

Fatty fish is also a great source of healthy fats and I recommend you eat at least 2 servings a week. Other healthy fats to include are olives and extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut in all forms and nuts and seeds.

Balance your meals in order to ensure steady blood sugar levels. This means your meals should include at least a source of protein and / or healthy fats. Carbohydrates should ideally be whole and as little refined as possible.

If you’re far away from eating balanced meals at the moment, try this: start with your first meal of the day. Think all types of egg recipes, avocado, veggies and hummus, chia pudding, plain, grass-fed yoghurt/quark, or a nut/coconut yoghurt with berries and favourite nuts, green smoothies with lots of fat and protein.


Not solely influenced by nutrition...

Hormonal health is not solely influenced by nutrition. The chemicals found in cosmetics, detergents and clean products are endocrine disrupting and I recommend you choose friendlier alternatives and / or reduce their consumption. Coconut oil is not only good for cooking, it can work greatly as a moisturiser, deodorant and it’s great for oil pulling as well. As inspiration, here you can find plenty of DIY skin care recipes.

The quality of your sleep, your stress levels and exercise patterns are the other missing pieces of the puzzle when it comes to hormonal health - they’re all interconnected and highly influence each other.


Food For Hormonal Health

This post was written by Corina, a mother of two living in Zurich and the founder of Womb Nutrition. She is a double certified Integrative Health and Nutrition Consultant specialising in Pregnancy, Postpartum and Baby Nutrition. Corina helps women navigate pregnancy and postpartum and also guides parents and caregivers with introducing solids to their babies and raising adventurous eaters.

Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

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