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.
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 contain 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.
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.
4Fish High In Mercury
"Mercury — which is often found in fish and seafood, but can also come through other exposures — can accumulate in the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that helps control hormone secretion," says Ashley Koff, RD over email. "When it comes to fish, choose those that live shorter lives, as they tend to accumulate less mercury. Opt for fish like wild Alaskan salmon and wild-caught sardines."
As much as we love dessert, there's a reason why it's saved for special occasions. "Sugar consumption results in a spike of the hormone insulin and desensitizes you to ghrelin and leptin, our appetite-controlling hormones, making it harder for you to say no to second helpings," says Fielding. "Insulin also instructs our fat cells to store glucose as fat while also inhibiting the breakdown of fat, impeding fat loss efforts that may be exerted in the gym."
"Processed carbohydrates made from refined white flours, including graham crackers, cookies, and breads, 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."
Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, and cauliflower are loaded with health benefits, but go overboard with how much of the food group you consume, and it can mess with your thyroid health. However this doesn't mean you should shy away from the vegetables completely, as it would take a large amount of cruciferous vegetables to cause hypothyroidism, and there is only a risk if someone also has an iodine deficiency, according to Dr. Josh Axe.
"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 effect 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 they 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.