Oh, hormones. Many of us have a love-hate relationship with our hormones because they seem to either be working in our favor or working against us. This relationship becomes even more complicated with diabetes when insulin levels can become unregulated, especially during times of pregnancy and menopause when our reproductive hormones change rapidly.
Hormones are messengers in the body and regulate everything from our body temperature to our fertility health. Rather than being annoyed when we experience symptoms of hormone imbalance such as blood sugar spikes, mood swings, or the dreaded weight gain (especially in the mid-section, arg!), I like to think of these symptoms as a message that our hormones are trying to send us. What a blessing it is that our bodies let us know when something is out of whack!
Just like with most things, nutrition can play an important role in hormone health throughout the lifespan. Thyroid function and gut health play a big role in hormone balance, so eating to support these body processes will in turn support the hormones.
Nutrients that help support healthy hormone levels during pregnancy, menopause and beyond include:
- Protein: Protein provides amino acids which are the building blocks to hormone production, and also helps preserve lean body mass which can decline during later years and during hormonal changes in menopause. Try my easy Baked Chicken with Lemon Roasted Veggies for a high protein/low carb meal the whole family will enjoy!
- Selenium: Selenium is crucial to healthy thyroid function, which as mentioned plays a big role in hormone health. Brazil nuts are the highest selenium containing food with >700% of the daily value per serving. Other high selenium foods include tuna, shrimp, cottage cheese, and brown rice.
- Folate: Folate is necessary during rapid cell division and growth and can help prevent some birth defects, so getting adequate amounts during pregnancy is essential. However, getting this nutrient solely from supplements isn’t sufficient, since folic acid in supplement form is metabolized differently in the body than the folate from whole food sources. Some good food sources include leafy greens, asparagus, beans, and lentils.
- Cholesterol: Yes, eat the egg yolks! Many hormones, including sex hormones crucial to pregnancy and menopause are made from cholesterol. While the body is capable of producing cholesterol on its own, consuming dietary sources of cholesterol such as from egg yolks and other high quality animal products may help with hormone regulation.
Foods to limit:
- Processed foods, added sugar and excess exposure to toxins such as pesticides can create inflammation in the body and disrupt normal hormone functioning. Therefore, consuming foods in their most natural form, choosing organic versions when possible, and limiting sugar intake are also beneficial to hormone health.
Key takeaway: What we eat has a profound impact on our hormonal health. By ensuring your diet is properly balanced and consists of the nutrients outlined, you can help set yourself up for a healthy pregnancy, menopause, and beyond.