Nutrients to support hormones
Hormones act as chemical messengers in the endocrine system, influencing metabolic processes and reproductive health. Hormone fluctuations are natural throughout a woman's life; therefore, healthy lifestyle choices and nutrient-dense foods can significantly affect hormone health. Whole foods are the preferred source of nutrients; however, vitamin supplementation can assist with any potential micronutrient deficiencies concerning hormone balance restoration. Essential nutrients such as vitamin D, magnesium, and B vitamins significantly influence major metabolic processes. Along with assisting in muscle health, magnesium helps improve thyroid health and estrogen functions. Vitamin D is importnat in regulating bone health and creating our important hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Therefore, women with reproductive concerns may be at more risk for deficiency and benefit from supplementation. Lastly, B vitamins are essential in providing energy, which can positively influence reproductive outcomes. Additionally, studies have shown that Vitamin B6 supplementation may improve premenstrual symptoms.
Eat quality protein at every meal
Protein is made of amino acids, the building blocks for female hormones that maintain reproductive health and regulate menses, mood, and fertility. Studies show increasing protein intake decreases the effect of hormones that make us hungry and increases levels of hormones that make us feel full. Not only that, this macronutrient helps stabilize blood sugar and support the maintenance of a healthy body weight. Protein also supports a diverse and balanced gut microbiome. A healthy gut helps to balance hormones by regulating insulin resistance and satiety. Thankfully, the traditional American diet allows us to meet the recommended daily amount of protein, which is up to 20% of your total daily calories.
We recommend including protein sources at each meal and snack throughout the day to support hormonal control. Animal-based protein sources, including poultry, beef, fish, and dairy, contain all nine essential amino acids. Many plant proteins such as tempeh, quinoa, hemp seeds, chia seeds, tofu, edamame, nutritional yeast, buckwheat, and spirulina are complete proteins as well. Combine legumes, nuts and seeds to get a complete plant protein with all nine essential amino acids.5 You can add more protein to your diet with a few eggs in the morning at breakfast, quinoa or buckwheat on your plate at lunch, or a serving of salmon with dinner. Greek yogurt, hummus, cottage cheese, or a handful of nuts are a convenient, protein-filled snack.
Reducing intake of added sugar
You may already have heard about a lot of things that added sugar does to our bodies. Added sugar also plays a role in hormonal regulation. Insulin is a hormone that helps our body use sugar as energy. However, overconsuming a large amount of added sugar can overwork the insulin in our body, which may lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is commonly found in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) because sugar in their bloodstream cannot be taken up by insulin effectively, which puts this population at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. A study also showed that over 50% of women with PCOS are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by the age of 40. Therefore, it is important for women with PCOS to monitor and reduce their intake of added sugar.
There are lots of ways to curb your sugar craving without adding refined sugar. Cinnamon is a great spice that gives you the aroma of sweetness. It goes perfectly with unsweetened apple sauce, and now you have a dessert without any added sugar. Adding bananas, dates and apple sauce as natural sweeteners when baking can help increase the sweetness without affecting the blood sugar level. You can also make a natural sweetener by simply combining chopped dates and water. Although these ways do the trick if you want something sweet without adding refined sugar, moderation is the key because there is already natural sugar in the food. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is recommended to limit less than 10% of added sugar of the total calories per day.
As a reminder, vitamin supplements should support your hormone regulation journey rather than be used as a replacement or one-stop shop. Please consult with your doctor and registered dietitian for specialized needs and recommendations.