Balancing act: The dance of plants and hormones.
The stress of modern life can throw your hormones out of whack. These plant-based foods can help.
By Mary Savage
Hormones play a significant role in overall health —from metabolism and weight management to sex drive and mood. They are chemical messengers, secreted by various glands found in the endocrine system, which travel throughout the body to keep all the major systems working in harmony.
A change in energy levels, particularly fatigue, is often an early indicator your hormones may be imbalanced.
Thyroid problems such as brain fog, headaches, hot flashes and thinning or dry hair may also indicate hormonal changes.
You want healthy hormones—this is one of the keys to aging gracefully. Managing stress is key to healthy hormones. So are the foods you eat.
Dieticians recommend nutrient dense, plant-based whole foods such as fermented foods, leafy greens and omega 3’s.
Yes, these are excellent choices, but let’s look beyond the obvious and dig into foods that multitask both hormonally and nutritionally.
If there were a near-perfect bedtime snack, these dark beauties are it. Cherries offer a natural source of melatonin, magnesium and vitamin C, all of which can enhance a good night’s sleep.
As we age, our bodies create less melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone, which is produced by the pineal gland. Recent studies indicate
that cherries promote an increased level of melatonin, for better sleep quality and total sleep time.
They also contain magnesium, which encourages a deeper sleep by supporting optimal levels of
GABA, a neurotransmitter. Cherries contain vitamin C, an essential vitamin for regulating estrogen and progesterone, as well as ellagic acid, known for its cancer-preventing properties, plus a host of minerals and phytochemicals.
Try a handful of cherries every evening before bed.
[INDIAN GINSENG OR
This root hails from India where it is prized for its health benefits. It is considered an “adaptogen,” meaning your body uses only what it needs and eliminates the rest. It is most effective when used daily over a period of several weeks.
Ashwagandha rejuvenates and energizes the nervous system and helps to reduce two stress-related conditions: vitamin C depletion and the elevated levels of the
stress hormone cortisol secreted by the adrenal glands. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties; and increases physical endurance and improves sexual function. And in certain studies, it has been shown to modulate the immune system.
Although the texture and taste tends to be chalky and bitter, the health benefits far outweigh any after taste. Sprinkle a heaping teaspoon into a morning smoothie to bury its unique taste.
The phrase “small but mighty” best describes the relationship between your hormones and this wonder-seed. Flaxseeds contain a type of phytoestrogen called lignans, which help to regulate estrogen receptors. Think of it as a “lock and key” system. Your estrogen receptors are the locks and the lignans are the keys that help to modulate your hormones.
Known for its juicy, bright-red seeds, this fruit tops the list when it comes to nutrition and balancing hormones. Consumed for its many health beneﬁts by ancient cultures, not only is it rich in antioxidants, ﬂavonoids, minerals, tannins and phenolics, but it can actually help block excess estrogen.
Another adaptogen, this root is superb at helping at the body combat the negative eﬀects of prolonged stress. Your adrenal glands work overtime during stressful periods —releasing excess cortisol and adrenaline until eventually they burn out, which can lead to an array of problems: high blood pressure, elevated glucose levels, depression, diabetes, anxiety and autoimmune conditions.
Mary Savage is a Certified Holistic Nutritional Practitioner. She is a Wellbeing Counselor for a national grocery store chain, a nutritional consultant, journalist and life-long learner. She was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in 2006—prompting her to study nutrition.