Many of us make reference to hormones in our everyday conversations. Relating the changes we experience to everything from our mood and energy levels to our monthly cycle. But few of us truly understand the key role hormones play in our overall health. These chemical messengers that travel through our bodies. And they transmit and set in motion numerous biological processes keep everything working as it should. That’s according to Canada-based naturopathic doctor Sarah Connors, N.D. Here are the six best foods for balancing hormones.
“Although there are two main types—peptide and steroid hormones—we’re typically talking about the steroid hormones, which are produced primarily in the testes for men and the ovaries for women,” she says.
“However there are also the hormones produced in the other areas of the body, the endocrine glands: the pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands and pancreas.” Having the normal amount of these hormones is the key to overall health. They dictate everything from growth and metabolism to sexual function, mood and reproduction.
Most of us don’t realize the control we have over our hormones, namely through the foods we eat. What we put in our bodies can have positive and negative impacts on hormone function and signaling pathways, notes Nicole Avena, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University and author of What to Eat When You’re Pregnant.
“Not getting enough nutrients or getting too much can disrupt hormone activity, causing our bodies to lack the chemical messengers needed to undergo various processes,” she says. “Therefore, it is important that we have a balanced diet, ensuring that our body has enough of a wide range of nutrients.”
Is hormone balance is a top priority for your health? Here are the six best foods for balancing hormones that experts recommend eating every day.
Best foods for Balancing Hormones: #1. Flax seeds
These tiny brown seeds are incredibly effective at balancing estrogen. Which is the female sex hormone that plays a vital role at regulating the menstrual cycle, urinary tract, mucous membranes and blood vessels. Additional benefits include lower fasting blood sugar levels, improving cholesterol levels, and overall insulin sensitivity, according to Dr. Connors.
While flax seeds come in several forms—whole, ground or oil—Dr. Connors notes that they can provide benefits in any capacity. “ They are helpful even as a whole seed. As they help produce mucilage when they are added to liquid. Which can help with ensuring the bowels move properly, and by extension get toxins out of the body,” she says.
“Adding them to a smoothie or cereal in ground form, usually a tablespoon a day is a good place to start,” she says.
#2. Cruciferous vegetables
These types of vegetables are part of a specific family called Cruciferae and include broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts. They play a role in reducing an individual’s risk of a myriad of chronic and acute diseases. These vegetables are known for their help in metabolizing estrogen in the liver. As well as helping increase the absorption of vitamin A, K, D and E.
She recommends consuming 1.5-2.5 cups per week on a salad, stir-frying it with noodles or roasting in the oven.
#3. Salmon and other fatty fish
“One of the richest sources of omega 3s in terms of food sources, salmon and other fatty fish, help to ensure that we actually get this important compound,” says Dr. Connors. Making it one of the best foods for balancing hormones.
“Most North Americans are deficient in omega 3s, and by being deficient this increases our risk for numerous diseases, especially heart disease and certain cancers.”
Another benefit of getting your fill of omega 3s is that doing so keeps inflammation in the body at bay, as well as providing healthy fats needed to make hormones. If eating fish, Dr. Connors notes that 1-2 servings a week is what is typically recommended. However, she points out that, for many people, this is not enough depending on your health needs. “This is where a good fish oil product may be a better option,” she says.
#4. Bitter greens
If a food tastes bitter, most of us think to avoid it—if not simply for a preference in taste, but also because, biologically, we might worry that it’s poisonous. But, as it turns out, we tend to underestimate the benefits of bitter foods. “Bitter greens help to stimulate digestion, and assist the liver in detoxifying the body,” says Dr. Connors. “There are some new investigations into how bitters may actually help with fertility as well, as there seems to be a relationship between the ovaries and bitter compounds.”
She recommends adding some bitter greens, like cabbage, turnips or broccoli rabe, to a salad or adding bitter herbs like rosemary or ginger to roasted vegetables, especially good for the fall and winter months to have more warming foods. Either way they are one of the best foods for balancing hormones.
Also Read: These are the 20 Healthiest foods for women
This creamy, green fruit is good for more than just guacamole! It is extremely versatile and packed with vitamins and minerals. “Avocados are loaded with beta-sitosterol, which can positively affect the stress hormone cortisol as well as blood cholesterol levels,” notes Dr. Avena. “Additionally, they can influence progesterone and estrogen which aid in the process of ovulation and menstruation.”
The ideal serving of an avocado is about half to a third. As to not overdo it on the calories and high (good-for-you) fat content. “Avocados can be eaten on toast, a salad, for breakfast with an egg, etc!” adds Dr. Avena.
#6. Pumpkin seeds
The next time you carve a pumpkin, don’t forget to keep its seeds. Not only because they make a delicious snack when baked, but also because they’re an economic powerhouse of nutrition for hormones. “They contain zinc, which supports testosterone metabolism and also provide magnesium, which is important for liver detoxification of hormones, thyroid function, and mood support,” says functional medicine naturopathic doctor Jolene Brighten.
“Pumpkin seeds can be used as part of seed cycling to support your hormones at specific phases of your cycle.”
Best Foods for Balancing Hormones – In Conclusion
Balancing your hormones is never easy. And likely can’t be achieved by diet alone. But eating the right kinds of foods can be a great first step to achieving hormonal balance.
Jenn Sinrich is a freelance editor, writer and content strategist located in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her BA in journalism from Northeastern University and has more than a decade of experience working for a myriad of female-focused publications including SELF, Parents, Women’s Health, BRIDES, Martha Stewart Weddings and more. When she’s not putting pen to paper (or, really, fingers to keyboard), she’s enjoying the most precious moments in life with her husband and daughter.