Now, you must be asking yourself, what are these foods and why should a woman over 40 be concerned about them? Well, as you age, your body's hormone production starts to evolve. A diet comprising the wrong types of food can exacerbate hormonal imbalance, leading to various health challenges such as weight gain, mood swings, fatigue, and even more serious conditions like osteoporosis.
A woman’s diet, particularly as she ages, is instrumental in regulating hormone production. Consuming the wrong types of food can exacerbate hormonal imbalances and lead to various health challenges.
The focus in this article is to spotlight those less-than-hormone-friendly foods. This doesn't necessarily mean you should eliminate them completely from your diet. Instead, it's about being aware and making conscious choices. Understanding the effects that certain foods have on your hormones is the first step in a holistic approach to your overall health and wellbeing.
So, are you ready to discover the vital role your diet plays in your hormonal balance? Let's dive into the nitty-gritty of hormone-unfriendly foods to help better navigate your journey through hormonal changes. It's never too late to make healthier dietary choices.
The Least Hormone-Friendly Foods You Can Eat
Think of your body as a finely-tuned orchestra, where hormones act as the various musical instruments. If one instrument goes out of tune, it can impact the whole performance. Similarly, when your hormones are imbalanced because of the foods you eat, it can affect how your body functions. Now, let's explore how this works and why the foods on your plate may be pulling your hormones out of tune.
You're probably aware that foods can have a huge impact on your overall health condition. But did you ever imagine that they have the power to affect your hormones as well? Some foods can increase production of certain hormones, whereas others can decrease them.
The key hormone in focus for us right now is insulin, which is responsible for controlling our blood sugar levels. When you consume processed foods high in sugar or simple carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels spike, triggering your body to release more insulin. This can lead to insulin resistance and disrupt the delicate harmony of your hormonal orchestra.
Another hormone heavily influenced by food is cortisol, often referred to as the 'stress hormone'. Consuming excessive processed food and caffeinated drinks can lead to an increased cortisol level causing sleep disturbances, weight gain, and even reduced immunity.
Similarly, the foods you eat can also affect the levels of estrogen in the body. Consuming highly processed foods and those containing artificial additives can lead to an increase in estrogen levels, which can sometimes lead to weight gain, mood swings, and other health issues.
So, friends, remember that maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is not just about keeping your weight in check or your heart healthy, it's also about ensuring that your unique hormonal orchestra stays well-tuned. You are the conductor of this orchestra. By making smart choices about the food on your plate, you get to decide how well the music plays.
Peri-Menopause, Menopause and Hormone-Friendly Foods
As we navigate the transformational journey from perimenopause into menopause, some pivotal changes occur in our bodies. Key among these changes is a decline in the production of certain hormones, like estrogen and progesterone. This hormonal recalibration, though a natural part of aging, can be a challenging experience—triggering symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.
What role does food play in all this? Well, significantly, certain foods can exacerbate these symptoms by causing hormone fluctuations. Specific foods, like those high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, leading to insulin imbalance. This cascade effect can disrupt other hormones, including those directly linked to menopause. Excess intake of fatty foods not only boosts your risk of heart disease but can also influence the balance of your hormones. As we age, the body's ability to effectively metabolize these foods reduces, magnifying their impact on our hormonal health.
It's essential to adjust our diets as we move through these life stages, embracing foods that nourish and support rather than disrupt our hormonal balance. It's all about staying in harmony with our bodies and ensuring that we play the sweetest melody.
Now, let's dig into the least hormone-friendly foods for your body.
Foods Impacting Hormone Balance in Your 40s and Beyond
As we dive in, it's important to note that not all foods are created equal in terms of their impact on your hormone balance. Some foods interact with your hormones more than others, and it's these foods that you need to be aware of so you can make informed choices.
Refined Carbs and Sugar
Firstly, foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugar can cause your hormones to go astray. Eating these foods can lead to a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar, which can, in turn, cause insulin levels to spike. Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance and disrupt your hormone balance, causing issues ranging from weight gain to mood swings.
I don't think I can overstate how severely people underestimate both the impact of sugar in the diet and how much one person actually consumes. In working with clients for over 20 years, a vast majority of them think they don't eat too much sugar and really don't think the sugar they are eating is making that much of an impact on their health (and hormones).
If you watch out for refined carbohydrates and processed sugars alone, reducing them to a bare minimum, you'll be 95% of the way there.
Many may not realize that alcohol can impact hormones too. Alcohol interferes with how your liver functions, which can affect estrogen levels in a negative way. Too much estrogen can lead to breast tenderness, mood swings, and other symptoms associated with hormone imbalance.
I want to go one layer deeper in explaining this. Alcohol increases a metabolite of estrogen called 16alpha hydroxyestrone. This type of estrogen is greatly associated with both breast cancer and inflammation. Needless to say, alcohol also does a number on your liver, which plays a big role in fat metabolism. If you want to stay less inflamed, free of disease and leaner, pump the breaks on frequent trips to the bar cart.
Caffeine can stimulate the adrenal glands to release cortisol, a stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to a cascade of hormonal reactions, including the increased production of insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. This surge in insulin can disrupt blood sugar balance, potentially leading to insulin resistance over time, especially with high, frequent caffeine consumption.
Don't get me wrong; caffeine can be really good for us. In fact, the amino acid l-theanine found in green tea works wonders for anxiety, but you can get too much of a good thing - especially as hormones start to shift naturally on their own.
I always recommend easing off caffeine by about 9:00am to allow your body's cortisol levels to come down naturally.
Lastly, processed foods can be troublesome. They contain chemicals and preservatives that can disrupt the natural balance of your hormones. These additives can lead to inflammation, weight gain, and other health problems.
Deceptively hidden on labels but important to look out for, below are some problematic ingredients often found in processed foods:
- Enriched Flours: The word "enriched" may sound healthy, but when you see it on an ingredient label, it simply means "stripped of nutrients." Enriched flours are the highly refined counterpart of whole grains. Buy foods made with whole grains, not enriched.
- Trans fats: They're known to raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, impacting hormonal balance. On food labels, you can recognize trans fats as "hydrogenated oils," "shortening," "partially hydrogenated oil," "margarine," etc. No amount of trans fats are healthy, however, as long as a food contains .5 grams or less, it can be listed as zero grams. Try to avoid this.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): Often leads to rapid weight gain and hormonal discrepancies. Fructose is metabolized differently than glucose (the other component of sucrose), primarily in the liver, and can lead to a greater propensity for fat production and storage. HFCS is linked to increased risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
- Sodium Nitrate/Nitrite: These preservatives can disrupt endocrine functions. Sodium nitrate can react with certain components in foods, such as amino acids, to form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are compounds that have been associated with cancer and may disrupt normal hormonal balance. Foods that contain sodium nitrate include bacon, hot dogs, jerky, luncheon meats and some canned fish.
Being aware of these ingredients in your food can assist you in maintaining a healthy hormone balance.
Processed Vegetable Oils
Despite their seemingly healthy label, processed vegetable oils can pose a significant hormone hurdle. These oils, including products like margarine and refined vegetable oils, are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Although these fats are necessary for our body, imbalance in the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids leads to inflammation, further contributing to hormonal imbalance. This discrepancy has been linked to an increased risk of hormone-related conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and early menopause. On top of this, these processed oils undergo heavy refinement and bleaching, lending them an unhealthy dose of toxins. Moderating your consumption of such oils will go a long way in protecting your hormonal health as you pass through the golden years.
Understanding these connections is important because it empowers you to make food choices that support your hormone health rather than detract from it. By being mindful about your diet, you can potentially ease some of the hormonal shifts that occur as you age.
Eat More Hormone-Friendly Foods: Practical Tips
The big takeaway is that it's just as important what you don't eat as it is what you do eat. So many of us have the outlook that if we just add in the next trendy supplement or vegetable or new diet, all of our hormone and weight concerns will vanish. Unfortunately, that's never the case.
Avoiding the foods that create hormonal disruption is equally important to eating foods that create more hormonal harmony.
So what does a day in the life of eating hormonally harmonious look like?
Wake up and Drink Water: Hydration helps aid in digestion. When you eliminate food from your GI tract, excess hormones get eliminated, too!
Have Oatmeal + Walnuts + Blueberries for breakfast. It's a high fiber, balanced breakfast loaded with some omega-3 fatty acids (from walnuts) and protein, too! The berries and oats give your body a lot of plant-based nutrition as well.
A few hours later, snack on an apple + unsweetened peanut butter. Don't overthink eating healthy.
Lunch is a great time for a big salad or stir fry made with an olive oil-based salad dressing. Throw as many vegetables and leafy greens on top as you'd like. Quinoa, chickpeas or eggs make a good protein to add for extra nutrition.
What's for dinner? A hearty bean-based chili, soup or combination of lean protein, vegetable and starch (i.e. 1/2 c rice of 1 c potatoes) will do the trick!
Watch out for extra snacking, drinking your calories and mindless eating.
If you want more guidance, pick up my apple-shaped meal plan, ideal for pre-menopausal women, or my menopause meal plan, ideal for women who are going through or who have transitioned through menopause.