We don’t eat just to survive – we eat the best foods we can in order to flourish, thrive, and maintain optimal balance within the unique biological systems our bodies represent. Or at least, that’s how we should be eating.
While there’s no universal rigid diet that can fit the specific needs of each individual, we can all agree on the concept of eating for our wellbeing. And this is where we all share something in common: the very foundation of our wellbeing is having balanced hormones.
The complex sets of hormones within your body act as chemical messengers which maintain various functions and processes; consequently, they dictate so many aspects of your physical, emotional, and mental health. Their balance is important in order for everything to function properly and for you to feel well, but unfortunately, hormonal imbalances are increasingly common in our fast-paced modern world – especially among women.
Fatty acids are the building blocks of hormones. Including high-quality natural fats in your diet will help stabilize the production of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), protect you from developing insulin resistance, and stimulate the production of appetite-controlling hormones. Healthy fats help fight inflammation and raise your metabolism, which also contributes to balanced hormones. The best sources are:
- coconut oil
- extra virgin olive oil (uncooked)
- nuts and seeds (especially walnuts)
- egg yolks
- fatty fish (such as salmon or mackerel) are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein.
On the other hand, avoid trans-fats as they can promote insulin resistance, among other hazards.
There’s no need to emphasize why consuming protein daily is important, but we’ll just say this: in terms of your hormone health, protein influences the release of hormones that control appetite. It decreases levels of ghrelin, which is the “hunger hormone,” and increases production of hormones that make you feel full – you might have noticed that you’re likely to crave snacks after a meal that’s low in protein, no matter what quantity you’ve eaten.
Aim for an overall 60 grams of protein daily, spread throughout each meal and snack. Get it from organic, digestion-friendly sources such as poultry, fish, eggs, beans and legumes, seeds, quinoa, nuts, etc. – find which kinds of healthy proteins work best for your digestive system.
Speaking of the digestive system, that brings us to the next part.
Here’s the deal: gut health and hormonal balance are very intimately tied – and in numerous ways. That makes eating for good digestive health synonymous with eating for balanced hormones – it’s all connected. For example, estrogen is excreted through the bowels, so conditions such as constipation help build up excess estrogen inside the body, leading to hormonal imbalance.
All the foods we’re writing about in this post are important for maintaining a healthy digestive system, but there’s one group that stands at the pinnacle of foods for gut health: probiotics. They’re found naturally in bone broth, sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, etc. Include a serving or two of probiotic-rich foods daily.
Fruits and veggies
Along with probiotics, fiber is especially important for your digestive system, so make sure to get it from raw carrots, leafy greens, seeds, nuts, and so on. An abundance of organic fruits and vegetables will give you the nutrients your body needs, help maintain the health of your digestive system, and thus support hormonal balance. Maximize your intake of antioxidant-rich veggies – anything dark green or brightly colored.
Along with numerous other benefits, antioxidants help maintain a clean and unclogged liver. The liver is the “powerhouse” of hormone production and metabolism, so its health is very important in maintaining hormone balance.
Eating for wellbeing entails getting all the nutrients you need to nourish your body as a whole, with all its different systems intricately connected. If it’s difficult for you to get some vitamins and minerals through your diet, don’t hesitate to use supplements to make up for whatever you lack in. Vitamin D is one of the most common vitamins people supplement because we mainly produce it in our bodies from exposure to sunshine and very little from the diet. Magnesium is another commonly used supplement, and it’s an important mineral for thyroid protection.
There are other types of supplements also, which are designed to target hormonal imbalances in a natural way. Supplements that help maintain optimal estrogen levels are among the most popular ones, as excess estrogen is the most common hormonal imbalance. People take supplements such as these to help them detoxify from an excess build-up of synthetic hormones in the body. If you’re looking for any kind of supplement, make sure you get it from a reliable company that sells only high-quality natural products.
We’ve talked about what you should eat, but it’s not much use if you don’t avoid the culprits which are found all too often in our diets. When your body perceives a threat, your immune system responds with inflammation.
The thing is, your body perceives some foods as a threat because they disrupt the digestive system. Once the gut is hindered, your body goes into defense mode, affecting the entire system, including hormone balance and production. That’s why it is important to minimize your intake of highly processed foods, refined sugars and carbs, alcohol, and coffee.
You might find that some other foods, such as gluten or lactose, also disrupt your digestive system. Listen to your body and when it gives you a signal that a certain ingredient is not right for it, eliminate that ingredient.
Now, let’s take some time and reflect on the past week. Does your diet lack the key ingredients for optimal hormone balance? Or rather, do you feel like any aspect of your physical and mental wellbeing is a little off track? Whatever may be the case, the best place to start is by introducing some healthy changes to your diet. Remember, the food we eat can be medicine to our bodies. If you’re ready to make some changes, I strongly recommend keeping a food diary to help you in your efforts. Good luck!
Reach the balance deep inside that you’ve always craved for on a yoga and culinary vacation, where nutrition combined with centuries-old asanas will help your body flourish and your mind bloom.