Best Foods for Balancing Your Hormones
We've all heard about hormones, but what exactly do they do to our bodies after we've hit puberty and why is it so important to keep them balanced? We caught up with hormones expert, nutritionist and founder of Happy Hormones for Life, Nicki Williams to learn more about what hormones do and which foods can help keep them in check.
What have hormones got to do with it?
Hormones are not just about puberty, pregnancy, PMS and menopause. They actually regulate so much of how we look, feel, think and perform every day.
Below are the main hormones that can cause problems, especially as we get older!
- Stress – our main stress hormone is cortisol. When we have too much stress in our lives – not just ‘busyness’, but other stresses like illness, relationships, food sensitivities, chemicals, poor sleep etc – our cortisol can be out of balance. Cortisol is released from our adrenal glands to help us deal with stress or ‘perceived danger’ and is an essential survival mechanism. Its job is to pump sugar into our blood and muscles for extra energy that will help us ‘fight or flight’. But modern life is so full of "stressors" that our cortisol levels can be too high for too long and we don’t give ourselves a chance to rest. This means that all that extra sugar in our blood gets stored as fat, especially around our middle. And the resulting blood sugar dips make us crave more sugar and carbs – a vicious cycle indeed.
- Thyroid – as we get older (especially us girls), our thyroid gland can suffer. Thyroid hormones are needed for every cell of our bodies to produce energy and help them do their job. So when we don’t have enough, our whole system can slow down and make us feel tired, lethargic, foggy, depressed and of course make it very hard for us to burn fat. And too much stress also suppresses our thyroid!
- Insulin – this is the hormone that regulates our blood sugar. It’s also our fat storing hormone, so whenever we eat sugar or carbs that we are not burning off, the extra glucose gets stored as fat. Too much insulin not only increases our risk of obesity, but also diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone – these are our sex hormones that determine our femininity and reproduction, but also help keep our bones, heart and brain healthy. As we get towards our peri-menopausal years and beyond, they can fluctuate and decline, causing all kinds of symptoms, including carb cravings and stubborn weight gain.
Giving your hormones the nutrients they need is the key to your body being in balance. And sometimes that’s difficult to do eating a normal diet, even if it’s pretty healthy.
That’s when some superfoods come in handy. Whilst you may not have them all in your cupboard, a selected few can be very useful to keep up your nutrient intake.
My Top 5 favourite hormones balancing foods:
So what are my top 5 favourite hormone balancing superfoods to eat that can help with nourishing these hormones so that they work for us and not against us?
- Coconut – the humble coconut is not on many superfood lists, but it’s a true food hero for me. Like chocolate, everything tastes good with a bit of coconut in there! Whether it’s in milk, water, oil or butter form, coconut acts as a metabolism booster – giving you extra energy and encouraging your cells to burn fat. Coconut oil can be helpful in stabilising blood sugar too, helping to balance our hormones.
- Cacao – chocolate in its raw form is not only the most delicious food on earth (in my humble opinion!) but is one of the most healthy too (there is a chocolate God). High levels of antioxidants are its main anti-ageing and liver supporting strengths. And the high levels of magnesium help to improve our mood and relieve stress. replace with: Studies have shown that high-flavanol cacao can help reduce stress, support insulin control and increase endorphins, our feel good hormones. Try Aduna Super-Cacao which has 2x the flavanol content of regular cacao powder.
- Flax seeds – a great super seed for hormones. Flaxseeds contain lignans, which have been shown to help regulate oestrogen levels and reduce risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. They are also high in soluble fibre – this is the type that absorbs water to form a gel. Soluble fibre can help slow the release of sugar from foods which helps control insulin levels. The gel helps you feel full, controlling your cravings and keeping blood sugars stable.
- Moringa – known as Africa’s Miracle Tree, the moringa leaf is packed with vital hormone balancing nutrients and is a great source of plant protein. It's also rich in fibre which helps with detoxification and elimination of excess oestrogen. And the high levels of magnesium help to improve our mood and relieve stress. Aduna Moringa Superleaf Powder has a delicious spinachy flavour, perfect for using as a hormone balancing "superfood seasoning" on savoury dishes.
- Maca – has been used for centuries for energy, stamina and hormone balance. It acts as an ‘adaptogen’, which means that it helps increase hormones if they are low, and bring them down if they are high. It’s known as ‘nature’s Viagra’ in Peru!
For more posts and tips on balancing hormones by check out Happy Hormones for Life.