Hormone imbalance is something that needs to be medically treated, but it is something that your eating habits can assist with.
As a Woman’s Fitness Specialist, I frequently run into women who are trying to meet fitness goals while dealing with hormone imbalance.
As a result, a big part of my job is helping women get out of diet culture habits that are often disruptive to hormone balance, and get them into more healthy eating habits that are helpful to promoting hormone balance.
For example, low-fat or low-calorie diets are known to cause nutrient deficiencies, depression, and hormone imbalance but are common in the fitness culture because of the emphasis on lower body fat percentages.
Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to reduce your body fat percentage (most of the time) but there is no need to completely omit a food group and throw your body off balance just to lose weight.
Instead, use your nutrition to promote an internal balance and watch how fast you achieve your fitness goals!
And before you start worrying about how complicated this is going to be, let me assure you that it’s really quite simple and you’ve probably heard some of these things before.
I hope that after reading this article, you will feel comfortable to implement some of these healthy eating habits and help balance out your body to achieve your fitness goals with more ease.
Here’s a quick rundown of the 5 things were going to go over in this article:
- Nutrient timing
- Swap for healthier fats
- Reduce animal products
- Increase detoxifying ingredients
- Cut processed sugars
I am also going to be inserting little bits of relevant, but off-topic, information throughout. Don’t worry-I will recap it all at the bottom!
Now let’s get into these five, easy peasy dietary changes to promote hormone balance…
What is nutrient timing?
Nutrient timing is one of the most common practices that I preach, mostly because women are so in the habit of neglecting to eat all day and then sitting down to a large meal for dinner.
Nutrient timing is the practice of intentionally spacing out small meals and snacks, so as to provide your body a steady flow of nutrition throughout the day.
Nutrient timing has been proven to be beneficial for:
- Metabolic health
- Preventing malnutrition
- Promoting healing and muscle building
- Maintaining energy and focus
- Preventing cravings and overeating
Typically you would consume a meal every two to four hours, especially if you are looking to stay active or build muscle mass.
This can vary depending on your body and your lifestyle, however.
How to implement nutrient timing
To implement nutrient timing you would simply calculate your daily nutrition needs through calories and macro or micro nutrients, and then space that out throughout the day based on the hours you are awake.
So if I am typically awake from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. then I am awake for about 16 hours a day.
If I were to plan to eat every 4 hours then I would get 4 small meals or snacks a day.
- If my goal was to eat 2000 calories a day, I would simply look for 4 meals or snacks that are about 500 calories each.
- Or if I was trying to eat 3 cups of vegetables a day, then I would aim for ¾ cup of vegetables in each of my 4 meals.
Simply put: we are just taking what you need to eat in a day in spacing it out throughout the day like most people know they should be doing anyways.
While it may seem more convenient to try to sit down and eat all of this in one or two meals, the reality is that your body cannot absorb all of it at once so it is really a waste to try to consume it in one sitting.
To maximize on your nutrition and make sure that your hormone health is optimal, provide your body with steady nutrition and that it can absorb constantly throughout the day.
Let’s start off with the fats that need to be avoided.
There are certain fats that are known to cause inflammation and disrupt hormone balance, partially due to the fact that they are often animal-derived.
These are going to be called saturated and trans fats on the nutrition labels of your food.
Saturated fats tend to be derived from animal products such as lard or butter, and are known to contribute to inflammation and increase risk of things such as cardiovascular disease.
Trans fats are processed fats, usually with a long shelf life because of the way that they are processed, and they are known to be toxic to the body in a way that is not only disruptive to hormone balance, but also to gut health, mood regulation and brain function.
Here are some examples of unhealthy fats that you should avoid:
- Lard or tallow
- Bacon grease
- Processed vegetable oil
- Canola oil
Healthy fats, on the contrary, are known to promote hormone balance and reduce inflammation.
These fats are going to be referred to as unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats on your nutrition labels.
Here are some examples of healthy fat sources that you can consume instead:
- Avocado and Avocado Oil
- Olive Oil
- Fish and Fish Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
How to swap fats
Swapping out unhealthy fats for more healthy fats can be a little bit tricky…
Some of the unhealthy fats are just going to have to be cut out and there won’t be a good alternative for it, to be honest.
Bacon grease, for instance, is not something that you’re going to match the flavor of (which is part of the reason why people use it) but it is something that needs to be reduced or completely omitted from the diet especially for hormone balance.
That being said, cooking oils are fairly simple to swap out but you just need to keep a few things in consideration:
- The smoking point of things like olive oil are going to be lower than more processed vegetable oil. So you are not going to be able to use this for deep-frying or anything like that. But if you are concerned with hormone balance you shouldn’t be trying to deep fry anything.
- The flavor of healthy oils is going to be a little more prevalent than the flavor (or lack thereof) in processed oils like canola oil which has almost no flavor.
- Most healthy fats are healthiest when they are cooked as little as possible so they are great for toppings and salad dressings but you want to avoid overcooking them.
Besides swapping when cooking, the goal is really to just implement healthy fats in snacks and meals as a whole food.
This may mean adding seeds to your salad, or just snacking on mixed nuts.
Reducing Animal Product
I have already been touching on this briefly, but one of the biggest suggestions to assist with balanced hormones is to reduce the amount of animal products in your diet.
Not only does high amounts of animal product in the diet increase your risk of various cancers, but because animals that are raised for food are often pumped full of antibiotics, hormones and fillers, animal products tend to disrupt hormone balance.
Dairy products might be the worst of all the animal products for hormone balance.
A lot of companies involved in the production of dairy will pump their animals full of hormones to extend the lactation period and stimulate more milk production so they have more to sell.
Just as with any human or animals body, the substances given to the animal will still be present in the milk that is being produced by them.
(The same as women being encouraged to not drink alcohol or consume caffeine while breastfeeding for the safety of their baby).
That means that any substance that is being given to an animal that you are consuming or consuming product from is going to be entering your body as well.
Considering that, take a moment to imagine how your body may react to drinking (or consuming through cheese, even) hormones that are intended to make a whole cow lactate longer…
It is because of exactly this, that reducing or removing dairy from the diet is often the first course of action when dealing with hormone imbalance.
The same as dairy, the meat of an animal is going to contain remnants of whatever they were given to eat, or whatever they were medicated with.
In meat production however, there is usually less emphasis on supplementing the animals with hormones because it is less necessary, but there is a lot more emphasis on things such as:
- Feeding the animals as cheaply as possible, meaning that the animals are not always eating food that they are meant to be eating.
- Storing or housing the animals as cheaply and easily as possible, meaning that they are often crowded, infected and in need of antibiotics in high doses (which your body will then get remnants of).
- Growing the animals to be as big as possible or even injecting saline solution into the flesh of the animals after they have been butchered.
So not only will the saline solution and the antibiotics contribute to your hormone imbalance, but some of these practices cause hormone imbalance in the animal which then directly translates to the human consuming that animal.
Plant-based vs vegan
At this point you may be considering completely removing animal product from your diet, and you would be right to do so.
This is a good point to stop and talk about the extremity to which you should or can be omitting animal products from your diet and your lifestyle.
To start I will just say that you can get rid of or keep whatever you feel is right for you as long as your doctor is okay with it.
So if you want to reduce dairy but keep string cheese as a snack, that’s entirely up to you!
Unless your doctor says so, there is usually no NEED to completely remove animal products from your diet 100%.
That being said, there are plenty of people that go completely without animal product and they’re usually classified as either vegans, or being plant-based.
Plant-based people are people who primarily live on a plant-based diet.
This means that they eat no animal products including dairy, meat, eggs or even butter.
Plant-based people usually are plant-based for the sake of their own health-this is a dietary thing for them.
Vegans are basically plant-based people who take it a step further.
Vegans not only refuse to eat any animal product, but they also do not use any animal product in their lifestyle at all.
Vegans are often vegan because they believe in not killing animals as a food source, and they are also probably environmentally conscious.
Veganism is more than a diet for them-it’s a lifestyle.
Vegans will not wear leather, they do not use beeswax, they do not take vitamins that are encapsulated in gelatin-some vegans don’t even believe in keeping pets.
They do not utilize any form of animal product as a strict moral code.
Veganism as a lifestyle choice has not been shown to make a different health impact than being plant-based, so honestly you could do either.
It just depends on your own morals and how much work you are willing to do to live in that lifestyle.
Increasing Detoxifying Foods
Detoxifying, or cleansing, foods are ingredients that help your body remove toxins from its tissue.
Toxins are absorbed and consumed in all parts of life.
We breathe them in the air, especially if you live in a populated area, we eat them in our food, we drink them in our water, we soak them up through our skin.
These toxins are harmful in various ways, one of them being that they can disrupt gut health and hormone balance.
Helping the body to remove some of these toxins with anything you can is going to assist in creating an internal balance.
There are many herbs that are known to assist with the detoxification process of the body.
I’m going to offer examples of the most commonly accessible herbs and avoid obscurities here.
Here’s a list of popular herbs that are known to help detoxify the body:
While they are not herbs, it is worth noting that many spices such turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, anise and more are also rich with powerful antioxidants.
Cleansing fruits and vegetables
There are so many fruits and vegetables that are beneficial for detoxifying the body!
I am going to list a few examples here but what I really encourage you to do is check out my Rainbow Eating Blog and download the guide, which will help you identify detoxifying nutrients in different colors of fruits and vegetables.
Here are some examples of fruits and vegetables that will help clean out your body:
- Citrus fruit
- Leafy green vegetables
- Dark colored berries
- Cruciferous vegetables
Grains are another important tool in helping your body to detoxify, partially because of the high fiber content.
On top of the high fiber, grains also offer a collection of vitamins and minerals that will assist with your body’s ability to cleanse.
As with most ingredients, it is recommended that you eat grains as unprocessed and as whole as possible.
Here are some examples of whole grains:
- Brown rice
I would also like to mention that legumes (such as beans and lentils) are also helpful to cleansing the body and promoting an internal balance of gut health and hormone health.
Cut Processed Sugars
What are processed sugars?
Processed sugars are sugars that are usually derived from natural sources but then extremely processed through washing, cooking or adding things to the sugars.
Processed sugars are used very frequently because they are inexpensive and they tend to be sweeter than a natural sugar source so less of it needs to be used.
Examples of processed sugar products include:
- Granulated sugar
- Corn syrup
- Simple syrup
Why should I avoid processed sugars?
Unfortunately a lot of these sugar sources will contain ingredients or compounds that are disruptive to gut health and hormone health.
On top of that, they tend to deposit very high doses of fast-acting sugar to the stomach and bloodstream which can cause an inflammatory response in the body.
If you consider naturally-sourced sugars like fruit or even sugarcane: when you consume it in its natural state, it is less sweet than sugar or syrup and it will contain other nutrients such as fiber or vitamins.
Part of the concern with consuming processed sugar is that without additional nutrients, it is more harmful for your body to suddenly be trying to process higher doses of sugar.
What can I use instead of processed sugars?
Before I get into what you should use, I do want to take a moment to say that I personally do not recommend using sugar-free, or zero-calorie sweeteners in lieu of processed sugars.
Zero-calorie sweeteners are another form of processed sugar that are meant to be used for low-calorie diets and are promoted as helpful to preventing or managing diabetes.
There has been plenty of evidence to show that zero-calorie sweeteners contribute to imbalance or dysfunction of insulin production/response, and therefore contribute to risk of diabetes and hormone imbalance.
There is also a scary amount of evidence that shows certain zero-calorie sweeteners to also cause various types of cancers.
Instead, opt for naturally sweet ingredients such as:
- Fresh fruit
- Maple syrup
- Dates and other dried fruit
- Mashed or “sauced” fruit
I definitely recommend taking some time to check out my blog on Carbohydrates to better understand sugar sources!
What’s the takeaway?
Nutrition is consistently a main contributing factor to most medical conditions and diseases.
While changes to your diet or probably not going to heal any existing conditions, it can always help and prevent.
Make the effort to eat with respect to your body’s internal need for balance, and get help from a coat if you are struggling with finding your nutritional balance.
Here’s a recap of some of what I linked throughout and maybe a little extra:
- Clear up the Confusion Around Carbs in your diet!
- Discern the differences between Vegan and Plant-Based Lifestyles before making changes to your diet.
- Learn more about the female body, it’s health and hormone balance!
- Read more about Gut Health and how to manage it in your lifestyle!
- Try some Detoxifying Exercise to help manage your hormone balance!
- Check out my Rainbow Eating Blog for a list of colorful nutrients.
Your food is an impactful tool-use it!
This article was written by Elexis Smolak CPT, CNC, WFS founder of Adapted Fitness and Integrative Health and Fitness Specialist for Women. Learn more or schedule a virtual coffee at AdaptedToYou.com