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Eating for hormone health

Foods to help with hormone balance, from internationally renowned women’s health expert Aviva Romm


Protein provides a major source of energy, giving you hours of fuel per serving and keeping you feeling satisfied. Feeling sated prevents sugar cravings and binges, and studies show that swapping out empty carbs in the diet for healthy protein can dramatically improve blood sugar and hormone balance.

Protein-rich foods also provide amino acids and sulfur-rich compounds, the building blocks we need to make compounds used in detoxification, and for producing the neurotransmitters that support our mood and prevent and reverse PMS and depression. Here are the best choices.

Omega-3 fats, which are found abundantly in fatty fish like salmon, have numerous benefits for hormonal and gynecologic health, including improved ovulation and progesterone levels, decreased premenstrual symptoms and pain and reduction in the risk of developing endometriosis. Aim to eat low-mercury, omega-3-rich fish three times a week. If you don’t eat fish, make sure to include a fish- or algae-based EFA supplement.

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. And no, they don’t cause high cholesterol. With a side of veggies, they’re a quick, complete, and easy meal unto themselves.

If you eat both the white and the yolk, they’re also a rich source of brain-, cell-, and hormone-healthy fats and nutrients.

Legumes and beans are plant-based sources of protein that also provide powerful protective phytoestrogens that block and reduce the effects of hormone-disrupting environmental chemicals and also eliminate break-down products of oestrogen, keeping hormone levels healthier. They’re rich in zinc, folate, and amino acids needed to support detoxification.

Nuts and seeds are incredibly hormone healthy. Almonds, pecans, and walnuts can prevent and reverse high cholesterol and promote heart health and are an important part of any plan to reduce insulin resistance. Seeds have many powerful benefits for hormone health, including providing some hormone-regulating effects, and they include ovary-nourishing nutrients like selenium and zinc.

Poultry and red meat are a quick, easy source of iron. Meats are also rich in vitamins B6 and B12, zinc, selenium, and the metabolism-boosting nutrient coenzyme Q10, all important for healthy ovulation, fertility, and thyroid function. Do your best to use only ethically and ecologically raised antibiotic-free, grass-fed, meats.


High-quality fats are a mainstay of hormone production and balance. Without fat, you can’t produce oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol. Fats are also essential components of cellular membranes, including those in your nervous system, so they’re essential for a healthy mind and healthy moods. Healthy fats also help you feel satisfied and full after meals, maintain steady energy and blood sugar and absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. The best choices include a variety of mono-unsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats, as well as essential fatty acids.

Olive oil: I use this in salad dressings, stir-fries, on my greens, and for most of my cooking needs.

Avocados: Rich in monounsaturated fats and magnesium, they can be eaten in an almost endless number of ways, from guacamole to salads.

Nuts and seeds: A great source of healthful protein, nuts and seeds are also a premium source of hormone-healthy fats.

Fish: Three 4 oz. servings of high-quality salmon each week can meet all your omega-3 needs.

Saturated fat: In small amounts, organic butter, ghee, or coconut oil are hormone healthy. Oils should be cold-pressed, organic and non-GMO.


Carbohydrates (a.k.a. “carbs”) are sugars, starches, and fibres found in fruits, grains, vegetables, and dairy products. They’re classified as simple or complex based on the type and length of sugars they’re made up of. Complex carbohydrates are found primarily in whole grains, which contain nutrients like B-vitamins, and are rich in fibre. Their complex structure gives them a slow, steady burn that doesn’t jack up your blood sugar. Legumes and brown rice also contain resistant starches, indigestible fibres that increase and support healthy gut flora, maintain better blood sugar balance, improve insulin sensitivity, and contribute to easier weight loss. Refined simple carbs turn into sugar quickly after we eat them and provide only short-lasting energy.

Studies demonstrate that eating complex carbs benefits hormone health. Eating complex carbs premenstrually reduces PMS cravings and lifts mood and memory. A lot of women with hormone imbalances, especially PMS and PCOS, develop worse symptoms and struggle with a no-carb diet. One or two servings per day of grains, and one or two of energy veggies—combined in a meal with healthy protein and fat, prevents blood sugar spikes and keeps insulin levels healthy, while providing you with steady energy.

Leafy greens

Leafy greens, particularly those in the Brassicaceae family—broccoli, cabbages, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and collards—are rich in powerful nutrients and phytochemicals, like sulfur and indoles needed for detoxication of environmental toxins and are the best fibre for a healthy microbiome.

Energy veggies

Starchy vegetables, particularly sweet potatoes and winter squashes, provide important sources of energy, nutrients, and fibre, so I refer to them as energy veggies. The starch they contain is good for keeping your bowels regular and your microbiome happy—which means healthier oestrogen levels.


There are two different types of fibre - soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre attracts water and turns to gel during digestion, slowing digestion and thus keeping you satiated for longer. Soluble fibre is found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and some fruits and vegetables, as well as in psyllium seeds. Insoluble fibre is found in foods such as whole grains (in the hulls) and numerous vegetables. It adds bulk to your stool, helps with elimination, and supports microbiome health.

Fibre is critical for excreting oestrogen metabolites, breakdown products made when the liver breaks down oestrogen, and is meant to be dumped into and then excreted via your bowels. Hormone-healthy fibre is found in all our plant foods. Fibre found in flaxseeds, in the form of lignins, is especially important for hormone health. It increases sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and keeps hormone levels healthy by helping you excrete excess circulating oestrogen and testosterone. Six to eight servings of veggies and one to two servings of fruit each day will give you the fibre you need to keep your bowels moving and gut flora healthy.

Extracted from Hormone Intelligence by Aviva Romm, published by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins, RRP £20.

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