Balancing your hormones with food

This blog was written by dietitian & nutritionist Millie Padula

If you dabble in the online space at all (I’m looking at you Insta-scrollers), chances are you will have come across content advocating the role of certain products, services, diets, exercise regimes and even spiritual rituals in ‘balancing’ your hormones. 
The thing is (hear me out), a lot of what you read online about hormones is very high level, meaning it isn’t necessarily relevant or applicable to you or your situation. Jumping in here with a very brief disclaimer to take what you read; including this blog, with a grain of salt, and to always seek individualised advice from qualified practitioners. 

As a Dietitian, and a female myself who is going through her own hormonal journey (yay to coming off the pill) I’m incredibly passionate about the role that our diet plays in relation to the functioning of our hormones, in particular – how certain foods and nutrients can support our hormone production. 
Whilst conventional medicine may be recommended from your general practitioner or endocrinologist, the functioning of certain hormones - such as cortisol, insulin, estrogen, testosterone and those associated with your thyroid can be profoundly influenced by what you consume on a daily basis. 

If you have a diagnosed hormone-related condition such as Insulin Resistance, Diabetes, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Hypo - or Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s Disease, Grave’s Disease or Addison’s disease, by all means take the following advice on board, but please be mindful that personalised intervention will be required. 

Let’s take a closer look into 4 dietary strategies you can follow to help support your hormone health.

Eat a wide variety of foods from the 5 food groups.

As cliché as this point sounds, the truth is we just aren’t eating enough of the right types of foods. Here in Australia – only 7% of us are eating enough vegetables, alarming right? I know!  

Consuming adequate amounts of quality carbohydrates (think wholegrain bread, rolled oats, lentils and legumes, brown rice, pasta and quinoa), lean sources of protein and healthy fats, alongside an array of fruits and vegetables is vital for our hormone health. That’s right, there is no need to cut out any foods or food groups!

Try a new food each week to increase the variety in your diet, your body will love you for it!

Fit in the Fibre

If you’ve read any of my articles or blogs before, this won’t be the first time you’ve seen me rave about Fibre. Quite frankly, I’m fibre-obsessed – especially when it comes to its role in our hormone health. Fibre can be found in all plant-foods – everything from fruits and vegetables to lentil and legumes to nuts, seeds and whole-grains. Eating enough fibre is vital for balancing your blood sugar levels and controlling insulin production. We all need between 25-30g of fibre per day so my most practical tip to help you achieve this is to fill half of your plate at most meals with fruits and vegetables, to prioritise wholegrain carbohydrates (‘brown/grainy’ varieties) and enjoy high-fibre plant proteins such as lentils, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds when you can.

Nourish your gut

Gut health is all the rage at the moment, and for good reason! Nurturing your gut microbiome by filling your body with prebiotic plant-foods (onions, garlic, leek, artichokes, apples, oats, lentils, legumes, cashews and dried fruit) and incorporating probiotic-rich foods such as miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir is essential for your hormone health. Additionally, 95% of your serotonin (one of our happy hormones) is located in the gut, so the environment in which it lives is imperative to its functioning. You really can eat your way to a better mood!

Make sure you are eating enough, full-stop!

Lastly, it is essential that you are eating enough to meet your nutritional requirements. Afterall, your body requires a baseline level of energy (calories) to function and to perform all of your bodily processes. Failing to eat enough can negatively affect your health, including your hormone health.

Don’t be persuaded into following or trying restrictive, low-calorie, rule-driven fad diets that encourage you to remove whole foods and food groups from your diet in the name of balancing your hormones, they don’t work!