Healthy whole foods offering a rich and concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are often referred to as “super foods” and can play a significant role in human health. Aside from support to the cardiovascular, neurologic, inflammatory, immune and digestive systems, the plants we eat play a role in balancing hormones.
Hormones are a complicated discussion because they are all interconnected and play master regulatory roles in the body. When talking hormone balance, it is important to consider external hormones affecting us from the environment as well. Compounds in food and plastics like the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) can disrupt our delicate balance by acting as an estrogen. Luckily many foods help the body process and eliminate excess hormones in a variety of ways.
Hormone balance often means supporting detoxification pathways and that is where many of these foods come in, containing nutrients that aid the liver in excreting estrogen and other hormones among other toxins that build up in the body. All fruits and vegetable really are superfoods and support the body in so many ways. These five superfoods go above and beyond to help the body achieve hormonal balance are proven to target specific systems that play a role in hormone processing and excretion.
- Broccoli: containing co-factors for detoxification in the liver as well as sulfuric compounds unique to the cruciferous vegetable family, make sure to eat your broccoli (and cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli sprouts and cabbage). There is evidence that broccoli and other vegetables in this family aid in the processing and removal of hormones by the liver.
- Flaxseeds: these power seeds contain a type of fiber called lignin and studies have shown that this compound binds to and promote excretion of excess estrogen in the body. Bonus, these tiny seeds also support good bacteria living in the gut. Be sure to include ground flaxseeds in the diet as the grinding process makes the benefits easier for our body to access.
- Maca root: a fiber-rich tuber native to South America, this root has been said to aid women with hormonal imbalances including premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause symptoms including hot flashes. Not surprising, it is related to the common radish and so also belongs in the cruciferous vegetable family, famous for excreting toxins and excess hormones. Maca is an adaptogen which helps the body adapt to external stressors. Human studies have shown a hormone balancing effect of maca including decreased hormones estradiol and luteinizing hormone.
- Seaweed: edible seaweed fibers have been shown in human studies to help the body rid itself of excess estrogen. Some forms of seaweed like kudzu also help modify estrogen receptor activity through antioxidants called isoflavones.
- Soy: myth-busting time! Soy (and many other foods) contain plant estrogens or phytoestrogens and the antioxidant family isoflavones. Diets that include soy foods – choose an unprocessed source like tofu, tempeh or edamame – have been shown to modify estrogen receptor activity in a positive way.
If you have any concern about your hormonal balance, be sure to ask your doctor for testing. Medications, medical conditions, age and family history need to be properly assessed before supplementing or treating. Symptoms of one hormonal issue can mimic another and so this topic should be addressed integratively by a qualified health care provider. Too much of a good thing can also cause imbalance – these foods should be consumed in moderation and discussed with your doctor or dietitian for individualized recommendations. Enjoy and let us know if you have any other favorite super foods for balancing hor mones!
Bisphenol A (BPA) Action Plan. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/bisphenol-bpa-action-plan. Published 9/26/16. Accessed 10/20/16.
Hall D. Nutritional influences on estrogen metabolism. Applied nutritional science reports. 2001;1:1-8.
Liu AG, Juvik JA, Jeffery EH, Berman-Booty LD, Clinton SK, Erdman Jr JW. Enhancement of broccoli indole glucosinolates by methyl jasmonate treatment and effects on prostate carcinogenesis. Journal of medicinal food. 2014;17(11):1177-82.
Meissner HO, Mscisz A, Reich-Bilinska H, Mrozikiewicz P, Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska T, Kedzia B, Lowicka A, Barchia I. Hormone-balancing effect of pre-gelatinized organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon):(III) clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study. International journal of biomedical science: IJBS. 2006;2(4):375.
Teas J, Hurley TG, Hebert JR, Franke AA, Sepkovic DW, Kurzer MS. Dietary seaweed modifies estrogen and phytoestrogen metabolism in healthy postmenopausal women. The Journal of nutrition. 2009;139(5):939-44.
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.