What you eat regulates many aspects of body functioning, including the secretion of certain hormones. Your diet can actually help you maintain a healthy body weight and slow the aging process.
Below is a list of foods to eat (and to avoid) that will help you maintain a healthy hormonal balance. It’s based on my own research as well as what I’ve read in the literature, and these tips apply to women of all ages.
When we experience emotional ups and downs or unwanted breakouts, we are quick to blame our hormones, and it seems like something totally out of our hands. But one thing we can control is our diet, and since there are a number of foods that can mess with your hormones, it’s important to pay close attention to what we are eating, as these foods can affect all facets of our health. What we choose to eat determines more than just our waistline, which means it’s important to give some thought to the foods we tend to eat on a daily basis.
“There is a tremendous food-hormone connection,” says dietitian Kellie Gragg, MPH, RDH, CDR over email. “What we eat determines how our hormones are built, how they are released, how they function and how they control the various processes in the body. Without the nutrient building blocks that food provides, hormones cannot be fashioned or function as they are designed to. Eating the right food can become the number one re-set button for your hormone health.
Although there are other influences on our hormones such as stress, sleep, exercise, and environmental toxins, the food we choose impacts can be the first line of defense in achieving optimal hormone balance. Here are nine foods you didn’t realize can mess with your hormones.
Foods And Drinks That You Didn’t Know Can Mess With Your Hormones
Poultry, fatty fish, and soy proteins
All of these protein sources do more than just help you maintain lean tissue. Research has found that menopausal women lose more weight when most of their protein comes from these ingredients. Some evidence suggests that consuming soy foods may also help alleviate hot flashes, though evidence here is mixed. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, also protect against blue moods, heart disease, and cancer.
If you’ve ever had coffee in the middle of the day and found it gave you jitters or did more harm than good, you’re not alone. “A boost in caffeine in the afternoon doesn’t only tell your body to wake up, but it also increases blood pressure and production of cortisol, which in turn makes you feel nervous, fretful, or anxious,” says Anna Morrison, MSN, ARNP, FNP-BC over email. “Cortisol is also considered the ‘stress hormone’ and can contribute to weight gain.”
Non-organically raised cows are fed reproductive hormones to ensure efficient breeding and milk production, says nutritional therapist Kathryn Fielding over email. But even milk from organically-raised cows contains a significant amount of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, and these elevated levels of hormones could potentially lead to an increased risk of certain cancers such as breast and ovarian, according to various studies.
A lack of foods rich in vitamin B can contribute to feelings of depression. Consume foods high in the B vitamins, such as whole grains and lean beef.
Brown sugar, white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup — call it by any name, sugar has been shown to exaggerate hormonal symptoms in women. That’s why it’s important to limit your intake of added sugars.
A study from the University of Pittsburgh on women in their 50s and 60s showed that those who decreased their consumption of desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages lost more weight than those who didn’t, both over the short term and up to four years later.
Although soy in moderation can be healthy, eating too much of it can mess with your hormones. “Unfermented soybean products contain endocrine disrupting compounds,” says Fielding. “Soy is a source of phytoestrogens which acts like estrogen in the body.” One to two servings of whole and fermented soy foods is recommended at a time, and make sure to always opt for whole soy foods such as tofu or edamame, according to Dr. Oz.
“Processed carbohydrates made from refined white flours, including graham crackers, cookies, and bread, can decrease testosterone levels,” says Dr. Keith Kantor over email. “The sugar from these products can cause weight gain and raise the level of estrogen, depleting the testosterone levels, resulting in less sexual desires and poor libido.”
“Most people think hormone health and female hormones, but one hormone people forget about is aldosterone, the hormone that regulates blood pressure,” says Dr. Elizabeth Trattner over email. “Our diet, especially salt can affect blood pressure. A reduction in salt directly lowers blood pressure. Conversely too much salt raises blood pressure.”
Not only do most conventionally-raised meats contain added hormones, but proteins rich in saturated fats can cause inflammation in the hypothalamus, which can trigger overeating, says Dr. Barry Sears over email. Aim to consume grass-fed, all natural, organic and free-range animal products to minimize the effect on your hormones.