What’s the one thing that you can do right away that will affect your hormone balance really quickly? It's choosing the right food. And that’s because what you eat directly affects your biochemistry and your hormone balance – almost immediately.
To truly balance your hormones, you need to start seeing food differently. Not as calories, but as INFORMATION. Food has the power to change how you look, feel, think and perform. It does this by sending messenger signals to your cells and hormones. It can literally tell your body to burn or store fat, to increase or decrease your energy levels, to alter your mood, to change how your brain functions or to switch on genes that cause disease.
So on my programmes we focus on the foods that nourish your hormones – and we don’t count calories!
Because if you give your hormones all the nutrients they need, they can work properly and be in balance. When that happens, your body can relax – nutrients are plentiful, so no need to stress out. And a relaxed body can release excess weight and restore your metabolism – giving you more energy, balancing out your moods and providing energy to your brain, skin, heart, and all your organs.
The most important underlying principle is to choose REAL FOODS. Ditch the processed ‘fake' foods laden with sugar, salt, chemicals and cheap trans fats (anything cooked in vegetable oil), and you're left with foods that your body is actually designed to eat; whole foods in their natural state (as much as possible!).
What are real foods?
- Organic meat and eggs
- Line caught or wild fish (especially oily)
- Full fat organic dairy
- Vegetables of all colours, shapes and sizes
- Some fruit (not too much)
- Whole grains (gluten free if sensitive)
- Nuts & seeds (soaked if sensitive)
- Pulses, legumes, beans (soaked if sensitive)
- Healthy fats and oils (cold pressed coconut oil, virgin olive oil, grass fed butter, lard, goose/duck fat for cooking, then plant and seeds oils for dressing)
If you base your diet around these foods, you will naturally crowd out the foods that don't support your hormones.
Of course we don't live in the Stone age, and we all want convenience (especially me!), so there are some processed foods that actually make sense, like fresh coffee (if you tolerate it), dark chocolate, coconut water, nut milks, already cooked beans, brown rice or quinoa, among others.
Foods for your Feisty 4
Some foods directly help your Feisty 4, the main hormones that affect how you look, feel, think and behave (especially after 40!). If you know you have a particular hormone imbalance, you can choose foods that directly help with those hormones. If you don't know if you have a hormone imbalance, you can check here.
CORTISOL – If you have a cortisol imbalance, of course it's stress that is the likely cause. But stress comes in many forms, and one of them is dietary. So here's what I recommend to reduce your food stressors and support your adrenals;
- Choose low GL (Glycemic Load) foods – foods that release their sugars more slowly will help to balance your blood sugar, therefore reducing cortisol (which gets released when you have low blood sugar) – Google low GL foods and you'll get a long list, but my favourites are whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice), protein, healthy fats, vegetables, berries, nuts and seeds.
- B vitamins – whole grains, oats, meat, dairy, green veg, nuts, seeds – all these are needed for your adrenals to work well and keep you on top form.
- Vitamin C – bell peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli – Vitamin C helps to support adrenal reserve so that are more likely to be balanced.
- Magnesium – nuts, seeds, dark green leafy veg, dark chocolate – magnesium is your ‘relaxation mineral' – it helps to increase relaxation, sleep, energy and mood.
- Avoid food stressors – processed foods, sugar, alcohol, vegetable oils.
- Identify food sensitivities – e.g. gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, nightshades, etc
INSULIN – blood sugar balance is crucial and so should be at the heart of all hormone balancing programmes.
- Eat protein and healthy fat at each meal – not only will you feel fuller for longer, but your blood sugar will be nice and stable.
- Choose low GL (Glycemic Load) carbs – sweet potatoes, brown or wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats, pulses, beans, legumes, low sugar fruits (e.g. berries)
- Avoid refined sugar or carbs (cereal, baked goods, white bread, pastries, etc!)
- Sprinkle cinnamon on everything! – Cinnamon helps to balance blood sugar
- Try a protein smoothie for breakfast – berries, almond milk, plant protein powder, tsp of coconut oil, handful of flaxseeds or chia seeds, tsp of cinnamon – blend and enjoy!
THYROID – thyroid hormones need good nutrient intake to function well. These include;
- Vitamin D – from the sun (you need to supplement Vitamin D3 through the UK winter)
- Vitamin A – liver, grass fed butter, animal products
- Iron – meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes, dried fruits, whole grains
- Selenium – brazil nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds, brown rice, meat, fish, eggs
- Zinc – oysters, lamb, nuts, ginger, whole grains, sardines
- Iodine – fish and shellfish, sea vegetables (nori, dulse, kelp, wakame)
- Tyrosine – chicken, turkey, fish, avocado, seeds, nuts, organic dairy
- Omega 3 fats – oily fish, flaxseeds, walnuts
- MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides) – Coconut oil or liquid MCT oil
- B vitamins – whole grains, oats, meat, dairy, green veg, nuts, seeds.
- Avoid gluten (especially if you have diagnosed hypothyroidism) – there are proven links between auto immune thyroid conditions and Celiac disease (which is a gluten allergy).
- Avoid processed soy (soy milk, soy isolate, soy ‘meat’, soy cheese, soy yoghurt, tofu, etc)
OESTROGEN – certain dietary tweaks can help to regulate your oestrogen levels;
- Flaxseeds, lentils, chick peas – contain phytoestrogens that help to balance your oestrogen levels
- Fibre – fruit, veg, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, oats – help to eliminate excess oestrogen
- Go organic – avoid pesticides that can mess with your hormones
- Avoid mass produced meat and dairy – go organic and buy the best you can
- Eat plenty of oily fish – containing omega 3 fats that help to reduce inflammation
- Avoid alcohol – alcohol can trigger hot flushes, but can also increase oestrogen levels – not good for either high or low levels
- Eat your broccoli and cabbage – cruciferous vegetables help to get rid of excess oestrogen
- Vitamin E – almonds, sunflower seeds, olives, spinach, berries – helps to boost progesterone, reduce PMS & breast tenderness
So there you have it, foods that support each of your Feisty 4 (and your body in general).
I hope that has been useful. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.