Your body contains trillions of cells that carry out the processes necessary to our survival every day. Hormones help carry information across your body between groups of cells, acting as chemical messengers that flow through your blood.
Hormones like estrogen, cortisol and insulin all play roles in maintaining your health. These hormones are produced by your endocrine glands, such as the thyroid, which secretes and makes hormones. Many organs also produce hormones, including the skin, heart, intestines and stomach.
These intrinsic parts work together to maintain vital bodily functions for survival in a process known as homeostasis. When your hormones don’t balance, your health faces a risk of falling apart. As a result, you might end up dealing with any number of adverse conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, hypothyroidism or diabetes. When you don’t get enough exercise, quality sleep and nutrition, your risk of hormone imbalance and resulting disease increases.
Diet is one of the most important things you can manage to keep your hormones balanced. If you eat a plant-based diet, you may feel the effects of hormone imbalance if you don’t pay extra attention to meeting your nutritional needs. You need between 0.75 to 1.0 grams of protein for every pound of lean body mass. But you don’t have to rely on meat to keep your hormones balanced! Here are ten other foods you can eat.
1. Probiotic Foods
Your gut health matters for your whole health since hormones are processed, metabolized and excreted through your gut. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics and add good bacteria into your gut to assist in this balance. Try consuming more kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut in your diet.
Prebiotic foods also help provide the good bacteria. You can eat more leeks and artichokes, for example, to help the good bacteria get established. Get your fill of probiotic and prebiotic foods.
2. Adaptogenic Proteins
Adaptogens are natural substances that help normalize bodily processes and have a major role in balancing hormones. Focus on consuming adaptogenic proteins to get twice the benefit — stability and protein.
Pea protein is a complete protein and gives you every amino acid your body needs and is the least allergenic. You’re less likely to develop intolerance like you would with a dairy or gluten source of protein. Try a powder form of the protein you can mix right into your morning smoothie. Nuts and seeds are great alternative adaptogenic protein sources, as well as legumes and hemp protein.
Only half of Americans get the appropriate fiber their body needs, and when you don’t, it affects your insulin and hormones. Fiber lowers your blood sugar and balances it by normalizing insulin action — in turn, that balances cortisol levels.
When your cortisol levels stay elevated, you gain excess weight and stress, creating estrogen dominance. Getting proper fiber eliminates excess estrogens, reducing progesterone levels. Eat more green vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts to get more fiber. Cooked beans and brown rice are two popular sources of fiber. Almond flour is also an excellent source of daily fiber, so try substituting it in next time you’re cooking or baking.
4. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil benefits healthy thyroid function and balances out insulin levels. The essential fatty acids in coconut oil help provide these benefits. In one study, citizens living in the Southwest Pacific Islands were observed and found to have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Additionally, animals given unprocessed coconut oil had six times less cholesterol in their livers than the animals in a separate study.
Include a tablespoon of coconut oil in your recipes. Add it to your morning smoothie and start your day off right by taking advantage of the insulin-balancing benefits.
The licorice plant is used in herbalism and many products you consume every day, but in its natural form, the plant benefits the adrenal gland, which is responsible for the production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline regulates how your body responds to stress.
Licorice root extract stimulates your adrenal gland to promote healthy cortisol levels and provides relief from overproduction. It also soothes gastrointestinal issues and cleans your respiratory system. Licorice helps to repair your stomach lining and produce healthy phlegm.
Ashwagandha is an extremely healthy medicinal herb. It is also classified as an adaptogen, but it can provide all kinds of other benefits for your body as well, such as better brain function and relief from anxiety and depression symptoms.
It is an ancient herb that is most frequently added into the American diet by taking it as a supplement, but you can also look into ways to use the shoots, seeds and fruit in various recipes, as many people in other parts of the world do.
Maca, a Peruvian root veggie, is rich in B1, B12, protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc, which boosts testosterone levels. Maca benefits your fertility and libido while easing menstrual cramps. You’ll find it in health food stores in powder form.
Making a smoothie in the morning? Add maca powder for extra benefits!
Naturopathic medicine has incorporated seaweed in healing practice for centuries. Seaweed is highly rich in iodine which normalizes your thyroid, but don’t overpower your thyroid with supplements that contain too much iodine. Kelp is also rich in vitamins B1, B2 and B12, potassium, calcium and iron.
Your hormone function relies on healthy fats, and many people are deficient in omega-three fatty acids. Your hormones need both omega-three and omega-six fatty acids, but your body requires a balance of both.
Avocado gives you a relatively inexpensive source of omega-three fatty acids and micro-nutrients that regulate hormones like folic acid, potassium, magnesium and vitamin E, along with certain B-vitamins. Avocados promote progesterone production, a hormone responsible for pregnancy and regulating the menstrual cycle.
Astragalus is another herb that not only helps keep your hormones balanced, but can also provide many other health benefits, such as relief from symptoms of the common cold, allergies, anemia and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is commonly taken as a supplement and is said to stimulate the immune system.
Hormones are intrinsic chemical messengers secreted from various organs and glands to keep your body running. Your hormones get adversely affected by lack of sleep, poor gut health and stress.
If you notice hair loss, mood swings, sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures or a fluctuating menstrual cycle, for example, get your hormone levels checked. Hormone imbalances affect your overall health and can lead to more complications down the road.
Stress can stem from not getting enough sleep or not eating the right amount of calories. A busy life may affect your ability to get out and exercise as much as you’d like. It’s difficult to control every hormone your body produces naturally, but you can give your body the fuel it needs with nutrient-rich foods that benefit your hormones. Even while sticking to a plant-based diet, you can consume all the nutrients you need to help keep your body balanced and healthy.