A Balanced Diet for Hormone Health
Being in the female body is a beautiful thing. We can carry babies (if we want), go about our normal lives while bleeding, and feel immense amounts of pleasure. There also can be a lot of ups and downs navigating our ever-changing bodies. One of the biggest physiological factors that change our minds and bodies on a regular basis is our hormones.
Hormones are messengers in the endocrine system. They send and transport chemical signals to tissues and organs via the bloodstream. Hormones are vital for all sorts of physiological processes like sexual function, metabolism, sleep, cognition, body temperature, and so many other parts of being alive. They are also one of the first things to get out of whack when something is off-balance in your body.
Hormone imbalances can be from a thyroid disorder, diabetes, stress, and many other ailments and disorders. When your hormones are off-balance you may not feel like yourself. You could have difficulty with conception or period health, have low energy, gain or lose weight rapidly, or have brain fog and difficulties concentrating.
You are what you eat – sort of. While many hormonal issues are a result of an underlying condition, they can also be triggered or worsened by your diet. At the same time, your diet also has the potential to deeply heal hormonal imbalances and other health issues.
There’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to diet. Each individual is different. But there are some general guidelines that you can use when navigating what to eat for your hormone health. We’ve got you covered.
The first thing to keep in mind is to focus on whole foods versus overly processed or packaged foods. This means opting for products that are closest to their natural form, versus a package that has a million ingredients in it. When you opt for whole foods, you automatically cut back a lot on potentially harmful ingredients, and instead prioritize nutrient-dense foods.
This approach means you don’t have to obsess over what you’re eating or how much you’re eating, you just focus on the benefits that certain foods offer. What are some examples of whole foods? Grains, fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, and good quality cuts of meat.
To keep your hormones balanced throughout the day, it’s best to have three solid meals a day each with a balanced amount of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. You can have snacks as needed, but try to include a bit of protein with it to keep you satiated. Fasting and not eating enough can be hard on the female body, especially if you have hormonal issues.
When looking for ingredients, try to go for organic and non-GMO if and when it’s possible. This helps cut down on potentially harmful chemicals that can contribute to hormonal issues.
Plants are all around us and offer nearly unlimited sources of vital nutrients that we need to thrive. They are full of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and more! Plants you should consider including in your diet for hormone health include legumes, fruits, vegetables, grains, and herbs.
Here are some great plants to include in your diet:
- Leafy Greens: Spinach, mustard greens, kale, and chard.
- Fruits and Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, pears, avocados, and apples.
- Grains: Quinoa, whole wheat, and oatmeal.
- Herbs: Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon.
- Vegetables: Bell peppers, broccoli, carrots.
- Legumes: Brazil nuts, lentils, cashews.
When eating plants, try to opt for seasonal foods in your area. Homegrown and farmers’ markets are best, but anything you have access to is great!
Although many people avoid them for ethical reasons, high-quality animal products can be essential for regulating hormones for many people. Here are some of the best sources:
- Eggs: The protein in eggs can help regulate the hormones that affect hunger. When buying them, try to get organic, free-range, pasture-raised eggs.
- Dairy: Some advocates claim that raw dairy products (unpasteurized) have more bioavailable nutrients than their counterparts. While the jury is still out, dairy made from cows treated without hormones can offer many hormone-balancing benefits.
- Wild Caught Fish and Shellfish: Seafood is full of protein, healthy fats, Omega 3 fatty acids, as well as zinc, and other minerals.
- Grass-Fed and Free-Range Meat: Chicken, turkey beef, as well as game animals that you may have available. Local is always better!
What To Watch Out For
It’s not just a matter of what you should be eating, but also knowing what to avoid. Certain foods can contribute to hormonal imbalances. Here’s what to watch out for:
- Processed sugar – fruit is great though!
- Too much caffeine. Opt for tea over coffee if you need a boost or just one cup of joe.
- Fried and processed foods – refer back to the “whole foods” section!
- Get tested for food allergies or sensitivities, and cut those out as needed.
There’s no reason to be hard on yourself if you want some chips or a mixed drink. If some of the foods on this list make you happy, then by all means have at it – in moderation of course. Life is about balance!
The Whole Package
It can be so frustrating to not feel like yourself – we get it. Diet is one of the most important factors when it comes to your hormone health, but it’s not the end all be all of it. Many hormone issues are out of your control and require extra help and support. Your first step is your primary care provider who can do hormone panels and refer you to specialists as needed. You may also want to see a holistic health practitioner like an acupuncturist, naturopathic doctor, or functional medicine doctor.
That being said, there are plenty of other steps you can take on your own to help balance your hormone health along with your diet. Do what you can to manage stress levels through things like rest, yoga, and meditation. Aim to get regular physical activity at least three to four times a week, try to have a regular sleep schedule with at least seven hours a night, and limit your screen time when possible. Every little bit helps when it comes to managing your hormone health.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.