Women have special nutritional needs. Our dietary choice significantly impacts our hormonal health. Hormones are biochemical messengers, and they are involved in every physiological process in our body. For example, they are intimately connected and integral to our immune function, metabolism and of course our reproductive health.
Optimal body function depends on hormonal balance. Our dietary habits and choices can either heal, maintain and balance our hormones or completely throw them off the rails. That’s why establishing good healthy eating practices are important to establish early on in life and continue to maintain as we age and transition into menopause – that transitional period where some women are challenged with hormonal imbalances and the array of uncomfortable symptoms that comes with it.
Here are some basic habits I suggest to most adult women in order to keep their hormones balanced!
- Focus on balanced meals and portion size – not calories! If you are eating nutrient dense, whole foods in proper portion sizes – you don’t need to worry about calories.
- Organize your plate into three sections: devote at least half of your plate to vegetables, a quarter to protein (animal or plant-based) and a quarter to some high-quality grain so long as you don’t have any sensitivities such as an inflammatory response.
- Break your fast and wake up your metabolism after sleeping all night and eat breakfast.
- Eat smaller more frequent meals throughout the day to keep your insulin level and to discourage fat being stored instead of being used as energy.
- Avoid severe caloric restriction because this slows down your overall metabolism which can lead to a starvation response that communicates to your body that it needs to store calories – leading to added fat storage.
- Limit processed carbohydrates and high glycemic index foods. Instead choose foods lower on the index that don’t over trigger insulin like green leafy vegetables, legumes and lentils, berries and nuts & seeds.
- Avoid or limit alcohol which disrupts estrogen metabolism and causes immediate hormone imbalance, increasing estrogen in the blood relative to progesterone.
- Eat the rainbow in the form of vegetable and some fruit so you can top yourself up with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. All interact and help the body work effectively. Antioxidants specifically help prevent and slow down cellular damage caused by unstable molecules that the body can produce in response to lifestyle, stress or environmental influences.
- Add high-fiber cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale to your diet. Or organic fruits like blueberries to clear out excess estrogen from the body instead of recirculating it back into your system which typically happens to people suffering from estrogen dominance.
- Promote good bacteria growth in your gut by feeding it fermented and cultured foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha or yogurt which help create protective substances that support our intestinal lining and normalize inflammation levels. There is also research now that tells us that good gut heath plays a powerful role in estrogen balance. In fact, poor gut health is linked to added risks of Endometriosis, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Breast Cancer.
- Avoid low-fat diets and eat healthy fats like plant-based oils, nuts and seeds, avocados and fish and incorporate them into your eating routine because hormones are made of both protein and fat and our sex hormones i.e., estrogen and testosterone are made from cholesterol. Eating a healthy amount of good fats, as well as proteins, helps to balance insulin, and also increase serotonin production – our mood balancing hormone.