Top 6 Foods for Hormonal Health!
31 May 2021
Dhow X Samantha Hadadi
Sam is a health coach, specialising in women’s health and hormones. She helps frazzled, busy women to love their bodies, enjoy PMS-free lives and to feel energised. She is also a plant-based cook and has four boys. In this piece she talks about the 5 main foods best for female hormonal health.
Without further ado... Let's dive in!
Whether you’ve been feeling snappy and irritable, struggling with break outs or painful, cramping periods, most women have struggled with haywire hormones at some point in their lives.
Our hormones are clever little chemical messengers which control all different aspects of our health. From our metabolisms to our stress response, reproductive health, sleep and even satiety and hunger levels, our hormones play a key role in pretty much everything.
Yet, this is why when things fall out of balance, we can suffer in all kinds of ways. Signs of hormonal imbalances vary for all of us, but when it comes to female health and our cycles, signs of an imbalance can include:
- Heavy or painful periods
- Poor sleep
- Skin complaints (such as acne)
- Mood swings
- Irregular periods
- Low libido
- Unexplained weight gain
- Fertility problems
So, what can we do to keep our feminine hormones happy and healthy? Well, first of all - please recognise that you don’t need to suffer. PMS and painful periods do not need to be normal. And, while there is plenty you can do to help ease symptoms, I would always suggest chatting with a GP to rule out any underlying conditions first.
Once you get to the bottom of things, then you may like to chat things through with a qualified health coach or nutritional therapist. In the meantime, here are some of my favourite foods for female hormone health:
1) Cruciferous Veggies
Cruciferous veggies are a godsend when it comes to getting healthy, happy hormones! You see, without getting too technical, they help to support our body’s natural detoxification process, helping us to flush out any excess hormones (such as oestrogen) that we no longer need.
Excess oestrogen is one of the major culprits when it comes to hormonal imbalances. When there’s too much oestrogen in the body, it can lead to hormonal havoc, causing all those symptoms of PMS that we know and hate, as well as painful and heavy periods and peri-menopausal symptoms.
Want to add more cruciferous veggies to your life? Here’s some you might like to try:
As a tip, aim to cook your cruciferous veggies before eating (or at least eat in moderation if you’re going to enjoy them raw!) because they contain goitrogens, which some people believe can affect iodine levels and thyroid hormones. If you suffer with an iodine deficiency, thyroid issues or are feeling unsure, chat things through with your GP first!
Back in the 90s and early noughties, I tried every diet going. I always wondered why they never worked, why my skin would always break out, and why my hormones were a mess to say the least.
One of the major problems? This was back when low-fat diets were all the rage - when fats (even the healthy kind!) were seen as the dietary equivalent of the Devil. And my hormones suffered terribly because of it. You see, we NEED healthy fats in our diet. They are one of the building blocks of happy hormones, and they also help to reduce inflammation. They’re great at keeping us feeling fuller for longer and at stabilising blood sugars, another crucial component when it comes to keeping everything in harmony.
Avocado is one of my favourite healthy fats because it’s just as delicious as it is good for you! As well as helping us to build balanced hormones, avocados are also thought to help keep both stress and oestrogen levels in check.
Not a fan of avocados? Here are some more of my favourite healthy fats to load up on and try:
- Dhow's Organic Chia seeds (also packed with fibre and protein, which are both crucial for hormonal health)
- Raw nuts
- Flax oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
3) Add a Sprinkling of Flaxseed
Yes, this is a healthy fat, but flaxseed is SO good for hormonal health that it deserves a spot of its own! In fact, flaxseed is a food I eat every single day because it is fantastic for female hormones! Not only is flax rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3s, but it also contains a form of phytoestrogen (a plant substance which mimics oestrogen in the body) known as lignans. These lignans work wonders at helping us to regulate oestrogen levels in the body, and they’re also great for easing certain symptoms (such as hot flashes) during perimenopause.
Some people also swear by seed cycling, which you might like to try. This involves eating certain seeds at different points of your menstrual cycle - eating flax and pumpkin seeds during days 1-14 (menstruation and ovulation of your cycle) and sunflower seeds and sesame seeds from ovulation to menstruation.
4) Dark Chocolate
Chocoholics, rejoice! Dark chocolate (at least in its purest form - you want to avoid any brands with lots of sugar in them, which only messes hormones up more!) is rich in antioxidants and also contains magnesium, which is known to calm and soothe the nervous system. It’s also a crucial mineral for hormonal health because it is thought to support oestrogen clearance and even help to reduce period pain.
Dhow's Organic and protein rich Bam-Choco Latte is also great for hormonal health, it is a mix of cacao and vanilla with some delicious spices for a flavourful boost!
This wonderful, golden spice has been used medicinally for centuries in Eastern cultures - and for good reason! It is a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient and there is some evidence to suggest that it may also work its magic when it comes to period problems, such as cramping, bloating and headaches. Try adding to a calming moon milk, sprinkle over porridge, or toss into curries! Dhow’s Organic Turmeric Powder is incredibly rich, in colour and flavour and can be added as a dusting to most meals - just add a pinch of Dhow's natural ground black pepper to enhance absorption. Or try the Organic Turmeric Latte blend, all perfectly blended for a delicious, flavourful golden latte!
6) Complex Carbs
Carbs (at least the good kind) aren’t bad for us. In fact, they might be very, very good for us - especially when it comes to female hormones and period health. And, while there have been many studies to show how low-carb diets can help us to lose weight, there’s been little research into the impact it may have on our wonderful sex hormones.
Pretty crazy, right?
Yet, here’s the thing: labelling any food group (such as carbs) as “bad” has potentially damaging effects - both for our minds and for our bodies.
Of course, we all function differently - and some women can survive on much lower carb diets than others! Yet, I’d urge you to experiment and find your carb “happy zone” because low-carb diets can stress the body, increase cortisol (which, ultimately, wreaks havoc on our female hormones), affect our thyroid and also cause constipation (which, again, wreaks havoc on hormone detoxification).
Carbs are also packed with fibre (which we now know flushes out excess oestrogen), are needed for energy and fertility and calm the nervous system, so they’re great to enjoy in the evening with dinner!
Again, see what works for you and find your own ideal when it comes to carbs (for example, if you’re sedentary, you’ll need less than someone who is active) or consult a nutritional therapist, particularly if you have a specific health condition. However, consider trying complex or whole grain carbs such as:
Refined carbs such as cakes, white bread and processed sugars are terrible for hormone health! In other words, focus on the quality of your carbs - not in cutting them out altogether.
Here's a quick rundown of the Dhow goodies in a food pyramid to help visualise where they sit in different food groups: