They say you are what you eat, which is easy to understand when it comes to body composition. But, did you know your hormones are also hugely influenced by what you eat?
This is especially true for women. Food—and even the timing of when you consume food—can make or break your hormonal health. What you eat and when tells your hormones what to do — and these factors influence whether your hormones should focus on reproduction, energy, or if they should shut down and focus on conserving your important internal organs (think: your heart, your brain, etc.).
If you want to feel vibrant, achieve optimal health, get the most out of your workouts, and have energy left to get a day’s worth of work in, then you need balanced hormones. Fortunately, adjusting what and when we eat to achieve hormonal harmony is simple with these 3 tricks:
Eating a well-rounded combination of fat, fibre, protein, and carbohydrates at least three times a day keeps energy levels stable throughout the day. Unstable energy levels, caused by skipping meals or eating too many refined carbohydrates causes a stress response on the body. Every time this stress response occurs, cortisol becomes elevated, and so do glucose and insulin. These fluctuations are so detrimental to hormonal health that they can impair ovulation, lengthen the menstrual cycle, cause painful menstrual cycle, plus… cause a serious case of hanger (hey – we’ve all been there!).
If you think your meals aren’t balanced, start by mindfully portioning fat, fibre, protein, and carbohydrates on your plate. Consider this: fill half your plate with vegetables (like zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, etc.) then fill a quarter of your plate with a starchy carb (think sweet potato, quinoa, rice, or squash), fill the last quarter of your plate with a source of protein (like eggs, salmon, or chicken), and then lastly drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on it.
Supplementation with vitamins and minerals are also essential in regulating this glucose response. When it comes to blood sugar regulation, hormones, and energy, B vitamins are essential. By regulating this response, you will have stable energy throughout the day, and in turn, healthier hormones overall, especially when implemented consistently!
Besides being a rich source of fiber which helps remove excess estrogen through the bowels, fruits and vegetables are filled with antioxidants and minerals. Because of this, fruits & veggies balance our blood sugar and feed our body the right nutrients it needs for hormones to be both produced and function optimally. For example, red peppers are rich in vitamin C, which boosts ovulation and in turn supports natural progesterone production. Dark leafy greens are rich sources of B vitamins and magnesium – we need both for a number of hormonal processes, including stress regulation, optimal blood flow, and healthy hair.
Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables every single day, and ideally take up half your plate with these nutritional powerhouses. Smoothies are also great places to sneak in extra servings of fruits and veggies, especially vegetables like frozen cooked cauliflower or zucchini, spinach, or cucumbers. You can also boost the nutritional content of any smoothie by adding a greens powder (like VegEssential which has the equivalent of 6-8 servings of fruits and veggies!) that will increase vitamin and mineral status in the body overall. Tight on time? Skip the entire smoothie and simply add it to water or juice, mix and drink up.
Sugar, deep fried foods, and alcohol all cause the liver to work in overdrive, which in turn wrecks havoc on our hormones. But it’s not just these offenders that are to blame. Keeping an eye on processed foods that contain highly inflammatory oils, like soybean oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil is also critical. They are found everywhere, and thus, are a huge contributing factor to hormonal imbalances because of how the liver processes these oils.
A liver that is trying to process these inflammatory foods and oils can’t do its job to produce and detox hormones (one of the liver’s main jobs) properly. As a result, improper detoxification of hormones will lead to excess hormones in the body—typically excess estrogen—and also causes other pro-inflammatory pathways to execute. It’s likely the reason why you break out if you eat too much sugar or drink too much alcohol on the weekend, or the reason why excessive cramping occurs during menstruation. Fortunately, moderating our consumption—or even better, eliminating these foods—can decrease our total inflammatory load.
On the other hand, being mindful of the healthy oils we consume is another great way to keep our hormones balanced. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids (we love Progressive OmegEssential for women) not only benefits our health entirely, but also combats the pro-inflammatory pathways. Omega-3 fatty acids create and maintain cell membranes and synthesize hormones – AKA Omega-3’s are needed for the production of healthy hormones. Unfortunately, they are not made in our body, so we must eat them or take supplements. Including oils rich in antioxidants and nutrients, like raw olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, and coconut oil is another way to keep our hormones in check.
Small steps such as keeping your blood sugar balanced, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables plus staying away from inflammatory foods can have a bigger impact on your hormone health and athletic performance. And remember, you don’t have to do everything at once. Take your time and slowly try to incorporate these ideas and before you know it, they will become second nature! How do you take care of your hormones? Let us know! Tag us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. We are #ReflexNation.
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