Dietary Approaches to Balancing Your Hormones

By Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld

1. Include Healthy Fats

Fat and cholesterol provide the precursors to our sex hormones. Ensuring you get enough healthy fats in your diet is critical to hormone balance. Healthy fats help to decrease inflammation in the body, help to maintain a healthy body weight and

Healthy Fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, fish, nuts and seeds

How to do it:

  • Include 2tbsp of ground flax seed in your diet each day – you can sprinkle it on top of oatmeal, or in a smoothie. Flax seeds provide a good source of anti-inflammatory fats, aid with digestion and also help to balance estrogen levels in the body.
  • Cook with coconut oil – it has a high melting point and provides a good source of medium chain triglycerides – important for brain health and development as well as weight loss.
  • Drizzle olive oil over roasted vegetables and salads.
  • Try to consume fish 2-3 times per week. Smaller fish will accumulate less mercury, for example: anchovies, butterfish, catfish, clam, crab (domestic), crawfish/crayfish, croaker (Atlantic), flounder, haddock (Atlantic), herring, mackerel, oyster, perch (ocean), salmon (fresh, canned), sardines, scallop, shrimp, sole (Pacific), squid (Calamari), tilapia, trout (freshwater), whitefish
  • Use nuts and seeds as a snack. Chia seeds can be made into a pudding and eaten as a nice breakfast, or snack. Homemade trail mix with a mixture of walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts and cashews are a good mid-day snack to be eaten in moderation.

 

2.  Increase your Veg!

Eat all the colours of the rainbow to ensure you are getting the phytonutrients your body needs. Aim for 1 cup of each colour every day: blue, red, green, yellow/orange and white.

The cruciferous vegetables are especially beneficial for helping with estrogen balance and detoxification. These include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, and chinese cabbage. Arugula, horse radish, radish, wasabi, and watercress are also cruciferous vegetables.

Eating more colourful vegetables also helps to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can increase estrogen dominance in the body, and disrupt hormonal balance. Veggies also pack a hefty punch of dietary fiber, which helps maintain regularity, and also ensures that excess estrogens are being excreted.

How to do it:

  • Make ½ your plate veggies – lightly steaming or cooking your vegetables makes them more digestible.
  • If you enjoy a morning smoothie, fill up your blender with a mixture of vegetables: leafy greens, avocado, celery, beets and more.
  • When you make pasta sauces or stir fries, make the bulk of the sauce from vegetables, with some additional protein and fats.

3. Pack on the Protein

Proteins form the building blocks of our cells, and are important for creating hormones, maintaining a healthy immune system, achieving an ideal body composition and much more. Proteins (especially when combined with healthy fats and fiber) help to balance our blood sugar levels, which can be extremely important for reproductive health and ovulation.

How to do it:

  • Choose organic meat when possible to decrease the amount of exogenous hormones in our food.  Ensure a palm-sized amount of protein at all your meals.
  • Choose smaller fish (listed above), which contain fewer heavy metals and toxins.
  • When selecting red meat, opt for grass fed meat. The cuts from grass fed animals are less inflammatory and contain more healthy fats than traditional grain fed meats. These animals also generally come from more humane farms.
  • Choose free-run organic eggs to ensure you are getting the highest quality eggs from chickens that are not confined to small cages.
  • Vegetarian sources of protein are also a great choice, and high in additional fiber. Lentils, beans, peas and quinoa are some great options. If you find you have difficulty digesting beans or lentils, you can try soaking them overnight before eating to break down some of the hard to digest fibers. Rinsing quinoa thoroughly just before cooking will also help make it more digestible.

Foods to Avoid/Minimize:

1. Dairy

In addition to being a common allergen, dairy foods tend to upset our hormonal balance. Dairy has been associated with increased hormonal acne, more PMS and menstrual cramps and increased inflammation in the body.

2. Added Sugar

Sugar is the most inflammatory substance we can consume. It disrupts our blood sugar balance and contributes to systemic inflammation. This can wreak havoc on your menstrual cycle, mood, energy levels and immune system. Sugars are addictive, unfortunately. The more we have, the more we want. So keep your sweets to a minimum, and enjoy fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet cravings.

3. Caffeine

Caffeine can place an extra burden on the liver’s detoxification process and interfere with Caffeine should be limited to no more than 200mg in pregnancy – this is the equivalent of a “short” drip coffee from Starbucks. Better yet, switch to decaffeinated coffee or green tea, or herbal teas to help with energy levels, mood and hormone balance.

4. Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks can pack on the pounds and disturb your sleep, contributing to hormonal imbalance. Alcohol also places additional stress on the liver, making it work harder to process and break down hormones. Keep alcoholic drinks to 1/day for women, and none during pregnancy.

5. Processed Foods

Processed foods are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, leading to blood sugar imbalances, digestive disturbances and weight gain. Processed foods are often high in sodium, contributing to high blood pressure and water retention.