When it comes to changes in our hormones or issues related to these changes such as stress or PMS, we often don't think to turn to food as a remedy. However, certain foods can help balance out your hormones, and including these foods in your diet can help level out your body and improve your overall health without having to take any medication. Although everyone's body reacts differently, incorporating these health foods can help to at least ensure a healthy diet, which can keep your body functioning optimally.
"Hormones control nearly every aspect of how we feel, and insulin, serotonin, cortisol and dopamine, not to mention estrogen and testosterone, can all be effected by food choices we make," says Marci Clow, MS, RD and Senior Nutritionist at Rainbow Light to Bustle over email. "Each macronutrient (fat, carbohydrate and protein) plays a role in how hormones function and how they are synthesized in the body."
On the flip side, unhealthy foods such as sugar, high glycemic foods, and alcohol can have a negative impact on your hormones, so it's important to only eat these foods in moderation, says Lindsay Langford, MS, RD, CSSD to Bustle over email.
If you want help keep your hormones in balance the natural way, try incorporating these 11 foods into your diet.
Avocados are a delicious addition to any meal, but they can do a lot more for your health than you think. On top of being a great go-to brunch treat, avocados can help manage stress hormones, and even impact the hormones that control your menstrual cycle.
"Avocados are loaded with beta-sitosterol, which can effect blood cholesterol levels and help balance the stress hormone cortisol," says Clow. The plant sterols present in avocados also have an effect on estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones responsible for regulating ovulation and menstrual cycles, according to LIVESTRONG.
You may have heard of this new superfood, but did you know that flaxseed can have all sorts of benefits for your hormones?
Flaxseed is a significant source of phytoestrogens, and it specifically contains a type of phytoestrogen called lignans. "Lignans have both an estrogenic and antiestrogenic effect, and they have been suggested to have protective benefits against certain types of cancer," says Clow.
Flax seed is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. try eating it in your oatmeal, or even throw it in your smoothy.
There's a reason you were always told to eat your broccoli. On top of its multitude of health benefits, broccoli can also work to balance your hormones. This cruciferous vegetable can help maintain estrogen balance, and since it is so high in calcium, it can also help with premenstrual syndrome, according to LIVESTRONG. "Broccoli contains phytoestogenic compounds which may promote beneficial estrogen metabolism, helping to rid environmental, or 'bad' estrogens from the body," Clow says.
But broccoli isn't alone in being able to do this. Other cruciferous vegetables you can enjoy include cauliflower, bok choy, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, turnips, and kale.
This antioxidant-filled fruit can help block excess estrogen production in the body, according to a study from the American Association for Cancer Research. The study also found that this could mean pomegranate has the potential to prevent types of breast cancers that respond to estrogen.
"Pomegranates have a natural compound that may inhibit the enzyme in women’s bodies that converts estrone into estradiol, which is a powerful estrogen that may play a role in origin of hormone dependent cancers," Clow says.
According to the American Heart Association, it's important to eat fatty fish, which is high in omega-3s at least twice per week. A 3.5 ounce serving of fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna can not only keep your heart healthy, it can help those at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Fatty fish provides excellent good fats for cell-to-cell communication, which leads to overall improved hormonal communication, Ginny Erwin, MS RDN CPT, tells Bustle. This can also lead to improved mood and cognition.
6. Leafy Greens
Nutrient-rich foods such as leafy greens are ideal for balancing hormones. Because they're filled with so many antioxidants, leafy greens help prevent inflammation and lower levels of stress, which can help improve cortisol levels, according to SFGate.com. They can also help with estrogen balance.
Certain veggies like collard greens, spinach, kale, beet greens, dandelion greens, and swiss chard are also a good source of iron. Since iron deficiency can be an issue that leads to fatigue, brain fog, and headaches, it's always good to incorporate your leafy greens into your daily meals!
Nuts like almonds have an effect on your endocrine system, which can assist in lowering your levels of cholesterol, according to LIVESTRONG. They can also help lower insulin and maintain blood sugar levels.
Walnuts in particular contain polyphenols, which can protect our heart and cardiovascular system by fighting free radicals in our body. This component can also have anti-inflammatory properties, and they're rich in omega-3s which are good for brain health.
Most of us know that soy affects estrogen levels, but eating the bean can have some positive benefits, especially during menopause. "Edamame and tofu in small amounts have estrogen-like effects on menopausal women," Erwin says. This can help diminish symptoms such as hot flashes, according to WebMD.
According to the Mayo Clinic, soy may also be able to reduce the risk of breast cancer in some people. While it was once believed that soy could increase breast cancer risk, because it can mimic estrogen in the body, it has actually been found that those who have a lifelong diet rich in soy may reduce their risk of breast cancer.
Turmeric has lately been known as a great remedy to treat inflammation. Because it is made of curcumin, turmeric is found to have many healing properties. One 2009 study even found that turmeric had the ability to ease pain in those with arthritis just as much as ibuprofen could.
Like soy, tumeric's active ingredient, curcumin, can mimics the activity of estrogen. The root can help minimize menstrual pain, such as period cramps.
Because quinoa is a complex carbohydrate, it can help keep your blood sugar levels steady, which in turn keeps insulin and androgen levels at bay, Trevor Cates, ND tells Prevention.
But quinoa is chock full of other benefits too. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, quinoa is a great source of protein and fiber, having 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per cup. Quinoa also doesn't contain gluten, making it the perfect snack for people with celiac's disease.
Eating a good combination of healthy foods can keep your hormones balanced, but if you are experiencing anything out of the ordinary, you should always visit a doctor.
This post was originally published on May 7th 2017. It was updated on June 3, 2019. Additional reporting by Kristin Magaldi.