From mood, to sleep, to sex drive and digestion, hormones rule our body! When our hormones are not functioning optimally, many normal functions can suffer because of this.
How Does Food Affect Your Hormones?
The better question may be “in how many ways does food affect your hormones?” The answer: hundreds! We are what we absorb! And if we are absorbing inflammatory foods, one of the first things it affects is our hormone functioning. Specifically, healthy fats and minerals can be extremely supportive to hormone health. Your body needs certain fatty acids and minerals in order to make hormones optimally. Sugar, processed soy and artificial sweeteners on the other hand, can be quite the foe when it comes to your hormones.
4 Hormone Imbalancing Foods to Drop From Your Diet
Although dried fruit does have nutritional benefits, dried fruit can be extremely high in sugar. In fact, most dried fruits can contain double, and sometimes even triple, the sugar content in comparison to fresh fruit!
This abundance of sugar can wreak havoc on hormone functioning. The type of sugar in dried fruit is known as fructose and unfortunately, fructose doesn't signal to your brain when you're full. So eating a bag of dried fruit can lead you to consume up to almost 40 grams of sugar in one sitting.
Thus, this so-called “healthy” snack can put your blood sugar on a rollercoaster which causes the adrenals to spew stress hormones! The abundance of stress hormones can potentially cause an imbalance for all of your other hormones as your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. So next time you reach for some candied dried mango maybe think about getting a fresh mango instead to avoid a sugar overload.
Soy products contain a high concentration of isoflavones, which is a type of plant estrogen (phytoestrogen). Because soy can have estrogenic properties, it can affect the current level of hormones in the body, especially testosterone. In fact, one study looked at 35 men and found that drinking soy protein isolate for 54 days resulted in decreased testosterone levels.
Decreased testosterone not only greatly affects men but it also affects women as well. A woman with low testosterone may have trouble producing new blood cells, maintaining a solid sex drive, or boosting levels of other reproductive hormones. Thus, soy products can wreak havoc on hormonal balance by potentially decreasing testosterone. Many would argue that soy is an “ancestral food” but, soy was first used as a food during the late Chou dynasty (1134-246 BC), only after the Chinese learned to ferment soybeans to make foods like tempeh, natto and tamari.
In Modern Day
Most soy foods are not fermented to neutralize toxins and phytoestrogens and are processed in a way that denatures proteins and increases levels of carcinogens and phytoestrogens.
Non-fat or Low-fat Milk
Which is healthier: full-fat dairy or low-fat dairy? According to new findings, low-fat dairy might not be the healthiest choice especially in terms of hormonal health. First and foremost, low and nonfat milk are a lot more processed than whole or grass-fed raw milk. The more processed a food is, the less nutrient-dense and more inflammatory it tends to be for your hormones.
Your body has a harder time recognizing a food when it is not in its most natural state. A recent study indicated that low-fat dairy contributed to infertility (when issues are based on ovulatory infertility or lack of ovulation) and full-fat dairy decreased the risk of infertility. The processing and lack of fat may be to blame for this, as fat is a precursor to sex hormones.
When whole milk is processed what is left behind is a watery liquid that contains fortified vitamins and oxidized cholesterol. This particular blend doesn’t seem to be conducive to fertility as it possibly throws off the body’s natural hormone balance.
Americans were long informed that artificial sweeteners were the next best thing since baked bread. It was presented like you are “secretly” eating non-caloric sugar and tricking your body, while still getting a sweet taste. Well, the joke was on us because our bodies are a lot smarter than we may have thought!
Our bodies do not recognize artificial seeteners and they actually impair the balance of hunger hormones. Impairing your hunger hormones not only will make you eat more, but it affects your sleep, and sex hormones!
Furthermore, artificial sweeteners heavily affect gut bacteria and the microbiome plays a big role in estrogen regulation. The bacteria in the gut affects estrogen levels, which in turn can impact weight, libido and mood! One study even indicated that the ingestion of saccharin (Sweet N’ Low) by animals and humans showed alterations in metabolic pathways and was linked to gut dysbiosis in humans and gut dysbiosis equals hormonal imbalance.
So next time you grab a packet of artificial sweetener, maybe swap it for something your body will be able to recognize like organic raw honey or coconut sugar in order to support overall gut and hormonal health.
4 Fantastic Foods to Support Hormonal Balance
It is evident that many artificial and processed foods can disrupt hormonal balance. But, on the other hand, there are many foods that can help support hormonal balance! Below are four superfoods that can help feed your hormones so that they can function optimally.
Ghee is clarified butter. Our ancestors have eaten this superfood for thousands of years! India is the source of using Ghee for Ayurvedic medicine for it's healing properties. It’s truly an “ancient” health food and is definitely not a fad.
One of things that ghee does best is support our sex hormones. The fat that is present in ghee is a pre-cursor to all of our sex hormones. Consuming sources of cholesterol-rich saturated fats like ghee provide the building blocks for testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. Thus, without the right building blocks, our sex hormones will not be able to function properly.
If you are worried about consuming saturated fat, think again! A study on a rural population in India showed a significantly lower prevalence of coronary heart disease in men who consumed higher amounts of ghee. So slap some ghee or grass-fed butter on whatever you’d like to help feed your hormones!
Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries can all be hormone balancing because they are all extremely nutrient-dense! Berries are a rich source of vitamin C, which can help regulate progesterone levels. This can be especially helpful if you experience PMS symptoms. In addition, berries are full of polyphenols, which is an antioxidant that helps decrease inflammation and manage the stress hormone cortisol. Research indicated that our salivary cortisol levels decreased and caused all of our other hormones are able to come into blanace much easier after eating polyphenol-rich dark chocolate.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Organic extra virgin olive oil may be one of the best foods to help support hormonal balance. For centuries, preventing disease and treating ailments where thanks to this potent anti-inflammatory oil. The omega-3 fatty acids found in olive oil are extremely anti-inflammatory and the star of the show when it comes to hormonal balance. How? Omega 3’s can reduce resistance to the hormone insulin and insulin resistance and hormonal imbalance go hand in hand. Studies have even suggested that insulin resistance is one of the root physiological imbalances in most, if not all, cases of PCOS!
Just like olive oil, wild-caught fish such as salmon, halibut or tuna contain many essential fatty acids (omega 3’s) that are essential in hormonal balance. Wild-caught fish also boast a wide variety of minerals.
Mineral deficiencies can dramatically affect hormonal balance as minerals are essential in producing hormones. Iodine and selenium for example are essential for balanced thyroid hormones. But, when choosing to eat fish, be sure to eat wild-caught fish specifically as farm raised fish can contain 10 times more carcinogenic toxins (PCBs) than wild salmon, according to a study published in the journal Science. PCBs are powerful hormone-disrupting chemicals that have been linked to obesity, cancer and reproductive problems. Exposure to feminizing endoctrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) can happen to Atlantic farm-raised salmon when farmed.
Make sure to eat your fish wild caught and not farm-raised because you may be doing more harm.
Are you still curious about your hormones and the why's and how's about how they work? Our nutritionists here at Vessel are right here to help guide you and give you personalized lifestyle recommendations suited to your goals. If you want to learn more, Sign up today!
Kaylee Noland See all the author’s articles