Hormonal balance is vital to proper body functioning. Certain foods in your diet can affect this hormonal balance. The effect hormones have on our bodies will serve us well as we enter each new decade of our lives. I am not talking in your 50 ’s people, I am talking about from as early as your 20’s onwards.
The four hormones which I am going to concentrate on are cortisol, thyroid, insulin and oestrogen. The effect of food on your hormones can be divided into two parts: foods which feeds the hormones such as fresh, wholesome foods and foods which disrupts the hormones such as refined carbs, processed foods, sugar and trans fats.
The stress hormone is like the key master. This hormone when out of balance will adversely affect all the other hormones. Cortisol’s job is to put sugar in the blood. When there is nowhere for it to go insulin stores it away as fat. High sustained cortisol results in fatigue, anxiety, cravings, brain fog and weight gain.
Did you know the diet you choose affects your cortisol levels? Emotional eating or convenience eating of sugar-laden snacks, processed foods and alcohol can put your body under stress. Cortisol is released when the body is under stress and results in a stress belly and energy slumps. Can you relate to this? Caffeine and alcohol have been shown to cause mild increases in cortisol secretion so if you’re going through menopause, you should limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption, this can help keep your cortisol levels in check.
The Fat storing hormone. When insulin is out of sync it moves into the fat storing mode and causes sugar cravings and voila! that lean body you once had starts to get an extra tyre around the middle. Eating refined carbs and non-healthy foods (come on you know exactly the type of foods I am talking about) spikes your blood sugar and makes your body overproduce insulin (fat storing hormone).
Too much insulin and it goes straight to fat storage and increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Above all, it’s essential to maintain a controlled and balanced diet. Eating too many calories will cause you to gain weight, no matter what. This raises your risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. Only eat as many calories as you burn in a day. Opt for complex carbohydrates, such as oats, bran, whole grain bread, beans, lentils, and vegetables instead of refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, crackers, cookies, and white sugar.
The Thyroid regulates your metabolism and it needs cortisol to work properly. It turns your metabolism into fat burning and high energy mode or turns down your metabolism to fat storage and energy conservation mode. The wrong, unhealthy foods prevent the thyroid from getting nutrients which it needs to work well. It slows down your metabolism and goes into the slow fat storage mode.
A diet which lacks protein and not enough healthy fats or nutrients puts your body under stress and can affect your oestrogen levels. During the perimenopause and menopause years, your oestrogen levels fluctuate.
Soy is “the richest dietary source of phytoestrogens,“ according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. There’s substantial evidence that soy foods may help you address several conditions associated with menopause. For example, “eating soy may help lower your risk of ischemic heart disease, improve your blood cholesterol levels, and relieve hot flashes.” Flaxseed (linseed) is another significant source of phytoestrogens.
A well-balanced diet is essential at any stage in life for good health. The trick is to eat fewer calories than you burn. Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grain foods, lean meats and some dairy. Eat organic where possible. Limit the junk food that is high in calories and low in nutrients. The 80/20 rule is a good one to follow. Limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption is essential. So as you can see, making a few adjustments to your diet can make a massive difference to your hormonal balance and your health.