If you feel overwhelmed by stress or wake up tired in the morning, a hormone imbalance may be the reason. One way to take your life back and balance hormones is with nutrition.
What Are Hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that dictate all aspects of human function, including mood, wakefulness, fat burning, and muscle building. They impact energy levels, ability to sleep, hunger, and libido.
Nutrition directly impacts balance of almost every hormone in the body including the following:
Metabolic hormones insulin and glucagon
Hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin
Sex hormones testosterone and estrogen
Stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine
The sleep hormone melatonin
Nutrition To Balance Hormones
By adopting a well-designed nutrition plan, it’s possible to balance hormones, without falling prey to the pitfalls of unhealthy foods or excess calories.
#1: Plan meals around whole protein, healthy fat, and vegetables.
Every meal should prioritize the highest quality protein to mitigate hunger and regulate blood sugar. Healthy fats and vegetables ensure optimal digestion of protein foods, while adding flavor and promoting satiety.
Always eat whole proteins that contain healthy fat. Although pure proteins, such as egg whites or super lean meat, appear beneficial for body composition, the gut does not handle them well, reducing digestibility and absorption. Notice that protein never occurs in nature without fat: Meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and even plant proteins always provide fat along with amino acids. It is this combination that humans have evolved to digest optimally.
#2: Eat a wide variety of whole carbs based on energy needs.
Eating a diverse diet of colorful plants will ensure you aren’t missing out on nutrients that are necessary for hormone balance. Berries, apples, citrus, pears, stone fruit, green vegetables, tubers, leafy greens, eggplant, cucumbers, legumes, lentils, and heirloom grains are just some of the whole carbohydrates you can add to meals for flavor, texture, and improved nutrition.
The key is to optimize carb intake based on activity levels: Highly active individuals can favor higher carb foods whereas those who are sedentary will want to get the bulk of their carbs from lower glycemic sources, saving starchy carbs and grains for special occasions.
#3: Supplement to pad nutrient holes.
Ideally, you can get the majority of the nutrition for hormone balance from food. Occasionally, it’s necessary to supplement, particularly if you are trying to overcome imbalanced hormones, such as high cortisol or elevated insulin levels. For example, magnesium is often deficient in individuals with poor blood sugar management, and this nutrient is also necessary for the metabolism of cortisol. If you suffer from massive stress and blood sugar issues, you probably need extra.
#4: Avoid inflammatory foods.
Because hormone balance is often impaired by inflammation, it’s worth the effort to avoid foods that cause inflammation. These will be somewhat different for each person, depending on genetics and health conditions, such as obesity, prediabetes, or heart disease. A basic list of foods to watch out for include the following:
Gluten grains and foods made from gluten-based flour
Artificial colorings and sweeteners
Soy and corn
Dairy in certain cases
#5: Swap out refined foods in favor of whole foods.
Whole Foods provide a lot of the deal-breaking nutrition necessary for balanced hormones, including magnesium, B vitamins, and bioavailable zinc and iron. They also help you avoid artificial additives and sugar in ultra-processed foods that alter hormone balance.
Make It Happen
With those actions in mind, check out this list of 15 foods you can use to swap out unhealthy foods. Designing nutrition around these foods will balance hormones for improved energy, overall well-being, and better performance.