Along with your reproductive health, hormones affect your mood, stress levels, appetite and overall health and wellness. If your hormones are imbalanced, you may experience severe PMS symptoms, irregular periods, fatigue, heightened stress, irritability and more distressing symptoms. You may not realize it, but your diet is intricately linked to hormonal health. There are certain foods that can help balance and regulate our hormones as well as fuel our bodies. Take a look at the 9 best foods that balance female hormones.
Female Hormones 101
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by endocrine glands, which include the ovaries, thyroid gland, hypothalamus and pituitary gland. They travel through the bloodstream and circulate in the body to impact processes like menstruation, ovulation and pregnancy. The ovaries produce and release two groups of sex hormones – estrogen and progesterone.
When estrogen and progesterone are balanced, they work together to regulate menstruation, balance your mood, and keep you healthy overall. When these hormones are imbalanced, it can lead to symptoms such as irregular or painful periods, migraines and sudden weight fluctuations, among others.
Other female hormones include testosterone, an androgen that contributes to processes like sex drive, fat distribution, muscle strength and bone mass; insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar; cortisol, responsible for helping you regulate your metabolism and blood sugar; and thyroid hormones, which influences weight management and energy levels.
The Importance of Nutrition and Hormonal Health
Good nutrition is key to hormonal health. What we eat affects the production of hormones and their signalling pathways. Our hormones favour healthy fats, like avocado, nuts, seeds and salmon, as well as fibre, which you can get from fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes. High quality protein foods like eggs, fish and meat are also great for your hormones.
13 Signs Your Hormones Are Unbalanced
1. Acne on your face, chest and/or upper back
2. Hair loss
3. Heavy or painful periods
4. Hot flashes
6. Irregular periods
7. Low libido
8. Mood swings
9. Poor quality sleep
11. Weak bones
12. Vaginal dryness
13. Constipation or diarrhea
9 Foods That Balance Female Hormones
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, arugula, kale and Brussels sprouts are amazing at helping our livers metabolize estrogen efficiently. They help detox and balance your hormonal system and are also helpful for severe PMS symptoms. You should be consuming cruciferous vegetables everyday.
Salmon is a fatty fish that’s amazing for your hormones, helping to improve overall hormonal communication. Fat and cholesterol are the building blocks of hormones, and the goal is to eat fats high in omega-3s. Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3s, along with albacore tuna, avocados, chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseed. Salmon also helps stabilize your hunger hormones and is high in vitamin D, which helps regulate female testosterone levels.
Another great source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, avocados are a hormone-loving food that’s easy to incorporate into breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’re also loaded with beta-sitosterol, which can positively affect blood cholesterol levels and help balance cortisol. The plant sterols in avocados influence estrogen and progesterone, and the combination of fat and fibre in avocados increases hormones that promote satiety.
Eggs are one of the best foods for balancing your hormones as they have a positive impact on insulin and ghrelin hormones in the body. Insulin controls blood sugar, while ghrelin controls appetite, and both are extremely important. Compared to a carb-heavy meal, your insulin and ghrelin levels are lower after you eat eggs for breakfast. They’re a high protein food that keep you feeling full for longer and help keep your energy levels high.
5. (Organic) Fruits and Vegetables
The “dirty dozen” is a list of fruits and vegetables that are highest in pesticides and include strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, bell and hot peppers, cherries, peaches, pears, celery and tomatoes. Eating high-pesticide fruit and vegetables can negatively impact fertility, and many pesticides act as hormone disruptors. By eating organic, you minimize your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, so try to eat organic as much as possible. However, if you can’t afford to always eat organic, all fruits and veggies are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are very beneficial to your health.
6. Chicken Breast
Chicken breast is a high-protein lean meat that’s also low in fat. High protein diets promote the production of hormones like leptin, which provides feelings of satiety. Chicken also has positive effects on anabolic hormones, like estrogen and insulin, as it helps build muscles after you workout.
Quinoa is a rich source of iron, fibre, protein and all nine amino acids. It’s a gluten-free complex carbohydrate that can help regulate blood sugar levels and also balance your hormones. It helps keep your testosterone levels even and is also a good source of phosphorus and magnesium, which can alleviate PMS symptoms and promote sleep. Also, the zinc in quinoa assists with normal thyroid hormone synthesis.
8. Prebiotics and Probiotics
Gut health is crucial for balanced hormones and eating prebiotic- and probiotic-rich foods is one of the best things you can do for gut health. Probiotics are the good bacteria in the gut and prebiotics are fibrous foods those bacteria eat to grow. The gut is the largest endocrine organ in the body, synthesizing and producing numerous hormones that affect appetite, satiety and metabolism. Prebiotic foods include raw garlic, asparagus, dandelion, almonds and apples, and probiotic foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
Flaxseeds are rich in plant-based estrogens, particularly lignans, which promote hormone balance and provide menstrual support. They’re also rich in omega-3s, fibre and antioxidants. The insoluble fibre in flaxseeds encourages bowel movements and helps rid your body of excess hormones. Toss some flaxseeds into a smoothie, salad or bowl of yogurt.
If you’re experiencing hormone imbalance, try switching up your diet to include these hormone-loving foods!