You may know that I really don’t advocate New Year resolutions or radical ‘all or nothing’ changes to your diet or lifestyle. Especially when they involve deprivation, hunger or extensive will power! Instead I like to recommend some intensive Self Care.
I don’t mean going on a spa break (although that’s nice!), I mean self care for your body and mind. Because that will not only support your hormones, but will also get you into some good self care habits for the rest of the year.
Over the next 4 weeks, I’ll be covering my 4 step Happy Hormones Code – 4 real self care steps that will support your hormones so they will work for you, not against you. When your hormones are happy, you’ll have boundless energy, balanced moods, a slimmer body and a clearer brain.
Today I’m covering Step 1 of my Happy Hormone Code – Eat!
Step 1 – EAT
Food is step one for a reason. It’s the one thing that you can do right away and you will see the difference really quickly. That’s because food directly affects our biochemistry and our hormone balance – almost immediately.
Every time you put food (or drink) in your mouth, it sends a signal to your body. Food is not just a source of calories. It’s information. And your choice determines what that message will be. Will it support your hormones or disrupt them? Will it tell your cells to store fat or burn it? Will it give you lasting energy or crash you? You get the picture.
When you know which foods nourish your hormones, so that they can work with you not against you, then you can make the right choices and start to get the benefits of happy hormones.
These are the types of foods that really support your hormones and that you’re aiming to include in your diet as much as possible;
- Vegetables – and plenty of them! Remember the 2 C’s – colourful and cruciferous! Aim to fill half your plate with veg, organic where possible.
- Protein such as organic meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, quinoa, organic soy
- Healthy fats such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados
- Low glycemic carbs such as brown or wild rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat etc
- Fruit, especially low sugar fruits such as berries and citrus fruits.
- Water – filtered to avoid any potential toxins
How to feed your Feisty 4 hormones
So let’s look at how what you eat can affect your Feisty 4 hormones– cortisol, insulin, thyroid and oestrogen.
1. Cortisol – your stress hormone
The wrong foods can be a huge stress on your body. And stress increases cortisol, the alpha male of your hormones as it can really mess up your other hormones, especially if you’re going through peri or menopause, or if you have PMS or other hormone imbalances
So what are the foods that can stress the body? Well it’s not a definitive list for everyone, as each of us is unique and may react differently to different foods. But there are some general guidelines;
- Sugar – we all know not to eat too much sugar. But what we don’t realise is that carbohydrates are just long chains of sugar, so when we eat bread for instance, it breaks down into sugar pretty fast. So its not just the sugar we need to avoid, it’s also the refined carbohydrates.
- Bad fats – are a stress for most people and certainly not hormone friendly. They are found in many processed or deep fried foods –anything that has been cooked with vegetable oils. These oils are very volatile and when heated and processed get de-natured and turned into trans fats (they basically go rancid)., damaging our DNA, disrupting hormones and accelerating ageing! As well as raising cortisol.
- Food chemicals – if you look at the label on the average packaged food, you may see ingredients you’ve never heard of. Ingredients that would never be in that dish if you cooked it from scratch. That’s because they are industrial chemical additives, used as preservatives, flavourings, colours, fillers and binding agents. Not things you’re going to need on your average home cooked spag bol!
- Food sensitivities – if you are sensitive to something like gluten or dairy (they are the biggest 2), each time you eat them, you put your body under stress. These foods can cause inflammation (a stress state) and disrupt the absorption of nutrients vital for your hormones and other functions.
- Toxins – pesticides, antibiotics and hormones given to animals, PCB’s and heavy metals. Eat as organically as possible, and definitely filter your tap water.
2. Insulin – your fat storer
Certain foods have a big impact on insulin – carbs and sugar in particular. Protein has a moderate insulin response and fat doesn’t need insulin at all.
- Get off the blood sugar roller coaster – too many carbs and sugar will give you blood sugar highs and lows. In those dips your cravings are going to be pretty powerful for more sugar/carbs. All that insulin production will put your body into fat storing mode all day long. And not only are you putting on weight, but your energy will be low, your brain slow and your moods all over the place. Because weight, energy and mood all follow blood sugar.
- Load up your plate with vegetables – good quality protein and healthy fats, so keep this in mind when you prepare your meals.
- Try not to snack between meals – unless you’re diabetic or have blood sugar issues. Snacking all the time just produces more insulin, which ends up with more fat storing. Try leaving 4-6 hours between meals, or try Time Restricted Eating to get the benefits of fasting.
Your thyroid hormones need lots of nutrients to work properly. That means you need to be including foods with those nutrients in your diet on a regular basis. These include;
- Protein – thyroid hormone are made from tyrosine, an amino acid. Good sources of protein are; grass fed organic meat, fish, organic dairy, organic eggs, legumes, beans and pulses. You can also include a protein powder in a smoothie to give you a boost. Try my nutritional smoothie guide to give you some ideas.
- Iron – many women are low in iron (esp if they are still menstruating), so it’s important to be eating iron rich foods like meat, fish, seafood, beans, lentils, dark green veg.
- Vitamin A is important for your thyroid – the bio-available form (retinol) is found in liver, grass fed butter and most animal products. Plant sources are beta-carotenes (found in carrots, greens, peppers, sweet potatoes etc) are not easily converted in the body, so if you’re vegan, you will need to supplement with retinol vitamin A (found in most multivitamins).
- Key minerals such as selenium and zinc – eg Brazil nuts, seeds, meat, fish, eggs
- Iodine – in fish, shellfish, sea vegetables
- Coconut oil can be helpful for your thyroid as its an instant source of energy for the body, increasing your metabolism.
Oestrogen and progesterone depend on the right nutrients for production, storage, transport and elimination;
- Limit sugar and carbs – these increase insulin, which can increase oestrogen (leading to PMS, mood swings, bloating, heavy periods, cravings) and inflammation (which can cause period pain and fluid retention)
- Increase fibre – it can help with oestrogen detoxification and elimination, helping to avoid oestrogen dominance
- Reduce hormone disrupting chemicals – these toxins can disrupt oestrogen balance – avoid pesticides, BPA plastic, phthalates (synthetic fragrances)
- Include phytoestrogens – they can help to balance oestrogen – eg organic soy, flaxseeds, chick peas, lentils.
When you are nourishing your body, you’ll have happy hormones and you’re likely to see a big difference in how you feel.