Can your diet affect your hormones? Absolutely. Certain foods can increase or decrease the number of hormones released by the body, impacting your energy level and ability to lose weight. So, what exactly should you be eating? And what should you stay away from? This article discusses how a person’s diet affects their hormones.
What Are Hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that help control the body’s functions. Glands produce them in various body parts, and their release into the bloodstream may trigger a response in other tissues.
Hormones help to control physical development, metabolism, growth, and sexual function in both men and women. They also regulate several processes, including mood, appetite, and sleep patterns.
What Causes Hormonal Imbalance?
Hormone imbalances are common in women as they experience changes in their reproductive organs during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. However, hormone imbalances can also occur in men as they age. This is why you need to be aware of what foods you eat, as they may increase or decrease your hormone levels.
According to Ehormones MD, a nationwide network of hormone therapy physicians, “There is some evidence to suggest that highly processed foods contribute more to weight gain than whole, unprocessed foods. They tend to be more calorie dense and may indeed cause dysfunctions in hunger hormones that lead to weight gain.”
Foods For Healthy Hormone Balance
What you eat can have a significant impact on your hormones. Here are some foods that could help you balance your hormones naturally:
- Olive oil: The Mediterranean diet contains healthy fats that support hormone balance, including olive oil. It’s rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
- Chia seeds: These amazing little seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. They also contain antioxidants and other nutrients that may help reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol levels.
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is an excellent source of magnesium and iron, which support healthy estrogen levels. It also contains antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols, which may help reduce stress-related cortisol release.
- Legumes, beans, and lentils. Legumes are a good source of protein, fiber, and B vitamins, which work together to help balance hormones.
- Whole grains. Whole grains contain fiber that helps maintain normal blood sugar levels, an important component of healthy hormone balance.
- Apples. Apples contain pectin, which helps reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and reduce the risk of heart disease. Pectin is also great for weight loss because it helps keep you fuller longer by slowing digestion and absorption of fat from food into the bloodstream.
Foods To Avoid If You Have Hormonal Problems
If you have a hormone imbalance, certain foods can make your symptoms worse. Here are some of the worst offenders:
- Sugar. Sugar is one of the most common culprits regarding hormones and weight gain. Too much sugar can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels which can cause insulin resistance, which makes it harder for your body to burn fat effectively.
- Soy. Soy is a controversial food, with many experts claiming it is safe and others saying it should be avoided. Soy isoflavones mimic estrogen and have been shown to cause an imbalance in the body’s natural hormone production. This can lead to a higher risk of breast cancer and other hormone-related cancers.
- Dairy products. Dairy products contain hormones called progesterone, which can disrupt normal hormone levels in sensitive women. Many women notice increased breast tenderness and acne when they eat dairy products.
- Alcohol. Drinking alcohol can interrupt sleep cycles, essential for normal hormone production. Alcohol also has empty calories that contribute to weight gain if consumed excessively.
- Processed meat. Processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats contain nitrites which may increase the risk of cancer and diabetes by impairing insulin function and promoting inflammation in our bodies.
How Your Diet Affects Hormones
The relationship between diet and hormones is complex. But there are several ways in which diet can affect hormones:
- Fiber helps balance hormones by reducing inflammation in the gut while increasing serotonin (feel-good brain chemical) production in the brain.
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners raise insulin levels and lower testosterone levels.
- Eating a Mediterranean diet can improve your fertility.
- Gluten has been linked to an increased risk of infertility and miscarriage in women with celiac disease.
How Can You Make Sure Your Diet Is Helping Your Hormones?
You can do a few things to ensure your diet is helping your hormones.
- Eat protein at every meal. The hormone insulin is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels and plays a role in other hormones. Protein helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, which in turn helps to stabilize insulin levels. And when you have balanced insulin levels, it can help with weight loss and control cravings.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. This can help keep the body’s hormone levels stable and may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
- Avoid foods that contain artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin. These sweeteners have been shown to increase appetite and cause weight gain.
- Don’t overeat red meat. Red meat contains saturated fat, which can increase cholesterol levels in the blood. High cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease.
- Hormones control many health functions and influence body shape and muscle development. When you eat an unhealthy diet, the hormones in your body can be thrown out of balance. Not only will this affect the way your body looks, but it can also dramatically affect your metabolism.