Guest post by Krista Goncalves
Hot flashes, unrelenting fatigue, thinning hair, joint pain, no libido, dry skin, brittle nails and weight loss resistance? Oooohhh, the resistant weight! Any of that sound like you?
Are you struggling with hormone balance? Foods can aid our bodies in creating better hormone balance. Here is Krista’s top 10 list:
My Top 10 Hormone Balancing Foods
1) Dark chocolate
As I wrote in my blog post: Chocolate: Friend with Benefits, chocolate made from 70% or more natural cacao has been shown to:
- have a blood-thinning effect
- lower blood pressure
- reduce bad cholesterol and inflammation in the body
- boost memory
- be a stress-reliever
Dark chocolate is also a great source of the mineral Magnesium – critical in many of the body’s hormonal processes.
Cocoa butter, the natural source of fat that is extracted from cacao beans is what gives chocolate its silky “mouth feel”. It’s also amazing in DIY skin beauty products!
Why dark and not milk chocolate?
Milk chocolate typically contains only 30% cocoa, or less and the average candy bar only 15%.
A study posted in Nutrition and Metabolism suggests that milk interferes with the absorption of flavonols (the key antioxidant in cacao) and this is especially true if the milk is pasteurized.
As much as your chocolate-obsessed heart desires…is the answer you were seeking. Hmm, better reel that one in a bit. One to two ounces per day of the good stuff = 70% or more cacao content and sugar should not be the first ingredient. Organic, fair trade – even better. Avoid the ones with Soy Lecithin in them!
2) Cruciferous vegetables
Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and oh yes – the all-mighty kale!
Vegetables like broccoli are from the Brassica family of plants – actually related to mustard. Not only do they contain a whack of health-promoting vitamins, minerals and fibre, but they also contain high amounts of two important and notable phyto-nutrients: sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (I3C) — these both increase our liver’s capacity to detoxify harmful compounds, like cancer cells and xenoestrogens.
Sulforaphane increase the liver’s phase II enzyme activity, while I3C helps to breakdown a harmful estrogen metabolite (2-hydroxyestrone) that may otherwise promote tumour growth, especially in estrogen-sensitive breast cells. This is super important to manage estrogen dominance, commonly seen with endometriosis.
You would need to consume about 3-4 cups of cruciferous vegetables weekly to get the benefits.
I would recommend trying them raw in one dish and lightly steamed in another. Be sure to serve your green leafy, crunchy veggies with some good fats to maximize absorption and the benefits!
According to Ayurvedic principles, cinnamon is a “warming” spice that can support a “cold” uterus. Umm, I’ll just trust that it’s good for my important lady parts!
Summarising from Green Med Info, cinnamon has also been shown to:
- normalize blood sugar levels in type II diabetics
- lower cholesterol
- support healthy blood clotting
- fight bacteria & fungi
- boost memory and be neuro-protective
- improve digestion
Add cinnamon to your food and hot drinks (including coffee) as often as possible.
Just ½ teaspoon a day for at least 30 days to see an improvement in your insulin response.
4) Berries, especially blueberries
According to Rodale’s Organic Life:
“Blueberries may help lower blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, as researchers in Canada have found. In a small study, overweight men at risk of heart disease and diabetes drank 1 cup of wild blueberry juice every day for three weeks. Their blood sugar dropped by roughly 10 percent, and their insulin resistance also fell compared with that of the control-group participants who drank a placebo. The benefits may come from the effect of the fruits’ high levels of anthocyanins on the pancreas, which regulates blood sugar by producing insulin.”
Insulin as we all know, is released from the pancreas in response to blood sugar levels. Insulin is also known to be one of our “fat storage” hormones.
Better insulin response = better blood sugar control = better weight management.
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries per serving. It’s suggested to consume a serving of berries several times per week to get maximum berry benefit! Choose organic when possible and rinse your berries well before eating.
According to Rodale’s Organic Life:
“Avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance shown to significantly lower blood cholesterol levels. That same compound also helps to balance the stress hormone cortisol, and it may help restore low DHEA (a hormone produced by the adrenal gland) and decrease the inflammation typically associated with the stress of intense exercise.”
1/4 – 1/3 of a ripe, medium avocado per serving, up to 1 whole daily! (but be mindful of the rest of your good fat intake)
Scrape all of the flesh closest to the skin – it’s the most nutrient-packed!
6) Raw Carrots
“One vegetable has a special place in a diet to balance the hormones, and that is the raw (unpeeled) carrot. It is so nearly indigestible that, when it is well chewed or grated, it helps to stimulate the intestine and reduce the re-absorption of estrogen and the absorption of bacterial toxins.”
~ Dr. Ray Peat, PhD.
The fiber in a raw carrot binds to excess estrogen, helping to safely remove it from the body. The carrot fiber also prevents the re-absorption of estrogen back into the small intestine. Too much estrogen out of balance with progesterone (estrogen dominance) can lead to array of unpleasant hormonal disruptions such as severe PMS, irregular cycles, endometriosis, PCOS, acne and weight gain.
I’ve read that just one medium sized raw, organic carrot a day is all you need to get these “bad estrogen” -lowering benefits.
Get my super easy Raw Carrot Apple Salad recipe.
7) Grass-fed Butter & Ghee
Butter’s back baby – and I’m not talking about that “buttery flavour” fake oil-products either!
Saturated-fat-lover & Bulletproof Coffee founder David Asprey is famous for his butter-infused coffee concoction (which I have to say I am a big fan of), and is also a big proponent of the high-fat diet.
Where grass-fed butter and its cousin ghee are concerned, it’s all about the Vitamin K, CLA and butyrate. The what and the who-now?!
And what the heck is ghee anyway?
It has roots in the ancient tradition of Ayurveda, where it was considered a sacred, medicinal, cleansing, and highly nourishing food.
Ghee is 100% butterfat. Flavourful, nutrient-rich butterfat…mmm.
Butter contains primarily butterfat, but also milk proteins and water. It is also lactose-free, casein-free and stable for high-heat cooking making it a great choice for those who otherwise can’t tolerate dairy.
To make it, butter is simmered to separate the oil from the other components, which are strained off. It is best to use organic, grass-fed butter to make your beautiful golden ghee.
Back to the benefits:
- Supplementation with Conjugated Linolenic Acid (CLA) has been shown to cause fat loss and improved body composition in humans. The CLA found in grass-fed butter & ghee is dramatically higher than that found in “factory cows”. CLA has also been shown to inhibit cancer cells.
- You can take in plenty of calcium but it won’t help strengthen your bones unless it is accompanied by it’s critical co-factor Vitamin K2, also called menaquinone, which helps transport calcium into your bones. As a fat-soluble vitamin (along with Vitamins A, D & E), it requires fatty acids like those found in butter or ghee for absorption. [source: The Vitamin K2 & Calcium Paradox]
- Butter and ghee are also loaded with butyric acid (butyrate) – a short-chain fatty acid that appears to fight inflammation.
One serving = 1 teaspoon.
8) Virgin coconut oil
Now don’t roll your eyes because you’re seeing coconut oil on yet another list of “healthifying foods”! It is worthy of making this list for many reasons, according to FloLiving:
“When you add more coconut oil to your diet, you’re increasing the saturated fats made up primarily of medium-chain fatty acids that aren’t found in many other oils. These medium-chain fatty acids (have been shown to) increase metabolism and promote weight loss. In addition, coconut oil can increase basal body temperatures, which is super important for women with low thyroid function.”
Also, 50 percent of the fat content in coconut oil is composed of a fatty acid rarely found in nature called lauric acid – a natural anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-microbial.
One serving = 1 teaspoon of unrefined virgin coconut oil, but you can work up to 1 tablespoon for supplementary purposes.
9) Turmeric (curcumin)
Curcumin is the main active component in the spice Turmeric, and is a natural and powerful anti-inflammatory agent that has been shown to inhibit all steps of cancer formation: initiation, promotion and progression. Curcumin also supports the liver and can greatly reduce pain and swelling.
Adding curry powder or turmeric directly to your food will certainly spice it up! But the strong flavour isn’t for everyone, so you may want to consider supplementation.
Dr. Natasha Turner, ND & Author of The Super-charged Hormone Diet recommends:
“Dosages of curcumin supplements range from 500-2000 mg daily, taken on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before a meal or two hours after one. If you experience heartburn simply take it with food.”
Take your turmeric &/or curcumin with some black pepper (peperine) to increase its potency, along with some good fats to increase absorption and therefore overall effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory.
Ginger and other aromatic spices are also great additions to your hormone-balancing, inflammation-squashing cooking routine.
10) Green tea
A well-known 1999 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that green tea extract could significantly increase metabolism and fat burning. Hence all of the green tea extract supplements now on the market 😉
While the small amount of caffeine in green tea (35-70 mg as compared to 150-200 mg in coffee) does provide an energizing boost, the tea also contains L-theanine, a natural compound with calming effects that blocks the release of cortisol, which is great for conquering belly fat.
The high amount of beneficial polyphenols (natural antioxidant plant compounds) found in green tea in the form of catechins – mostly epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG, make up the bulk of green tea extract supplements.
SF Gate Healthy Eating advises:
“To maximize the health benefits of green tea safely, the University of Maryland Medical Centre recommends drinking 2 to 3 cups daily, giving you 240 to 320 milligrams of polyphenols. If you take green tea extract supplements, 100 to 750 milligrams per day is recommended.
Opt for caffeine-free products when possible. Because few studies have been done on green tea’s effects on children, it is safest not to give it to them.”
My personal fave for a morning pick-me-up is matcha green tea due to its exceptionally rich antioxidant & chlorophyll content. I even include matcha powder in my Green Goddess Smoothie!
Dehydration increases the release of hormones like ghrelin, which stimulates our appetite. Get it? Grrrr, ghrelin? It’s the hormone of hunger. Sufficient water is crucial for preventing joint stiffness, headaches, decreased athletic performance, poor recovery after exercise and weight gain. ‘Nuff said.
The standard 8 glasses per day, which could include green & herbal teas. You could also go by the rough calculation of half your body weight in ounces. For example, a moderately active 150 lb woman would need approx. 75 ounces of water daily.
What’s the trend you see on this list?
Well, 4 out of 10 were some type of FATS…good ones! And I could have listed many more like salmon & extra virgin olive oil. That’s because hormone synthesis and optimal functioning relies heavily on the inclusion of the right kinds of fat in your daily diet.
According to Dr. Josh Axe:
“Eating a variety of foods high in short, medium and long-chain fatty acids is key to keeping your hormones in check. Your body needs various types of fats to create hormones, including saturated fat and cholesterol. Not only are these essential fats fundamental building blocks for hormone production, but they keep inflammation levels low, boost your metabolism and promote weight loss.”
Short-chain fatty acid sources = grassfed butter & ghee.
Medium-chain fatty acid sources = coconut oil, coconut products & MCT oil.
Long-chain fatty acid sources = macadamia nut oil, marine fish & shellfish.
Healthy Omega-3 sources = wild-caught salmon, walnuts, chia & flax seeds.
Healthy Omega-9 sources = avocados, almonds & extra virgin olive oil.
Healthy Omega-6 & Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) source = hemp seeds + evening primrose & borage oil supplements.
*Steer clear of other Omega-6 sources = oils made from safflower, sunflower, corn, peanut, soybean, cottonseed, canola and pretty much any other chemically altered fat. “Heart healthy” margarine, I’m looking at you!
To sum up:
Eat more “good fat” and plenty of it! Did you just do a happy dance too?
And FYI, fat doesn’t make you fat – SUGAR does! But that’s another blog post…
What DON’T you see on the hormone balancing foods list?
Wheat/gluten, dairy, alcohol & sugar.
But I’ll save the Mom-tritionist lecture on these bad boys for another day 😉
Now go shopping and get rocking (those hormones) again!!
Thank you Krista for this post!
You can find out more about Krista through her website:
Krista Goncalves is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist (CHN), Registered Nutritional Counsellor (RNC) & Women’s Health Expert. She runs women’s health programs online and in her hometown of Kelowna, BC.
She also blogs daily about current topics in Women’s Nutrition Health & Hormones at MakingLemonade.ca – empow(her) your health!