In my blog Pregnancy Hormones: How to Know if They're out of Whack, I talk about how giving birth to three children in 17 months—my firstborn son and then twin girls—never allowed my body to fully recover. On top of that, I didn't know then what I know now about hormones and nutrition. I ended up with two of the most common hormone imbalances that arise post-pregnancy and came very close to permanently damaging my health.
I'm grateful to have found a different path and one that works for me, which is why I'm so passionate about helping other women balance their hormones through proper nutrition. An added bonus: It makes losing baby weight that much easier!
Nutrition for healthy hormones—and losing baby fat!
When you feed your body what it needs, it will do what it is intended to do—naturally.
Try these 5 nutritional tips to help balance and maintain healthy hormones:
- Increase your healthy fat intake. Fat is crucial in maintaining hormonal balances—including the thyroid-producing hormones—as well as ovulation, fertility, ideal body composition and decreased inflammation throughout the body. Make sure your fats are the healthy kind:
- Grass-fed meats, ghee butter, wild-caught salmon or sardines, avocados and olive oil. Avoid hydrogenated oils such as soybean oil, canola oil and vegetable oils. Watch out for these oils in salad dressings—it is best to make your own from olive oil or avocado oil.
- Your brain is 70% fat so why not feed it and also boost your baby's brain as well if pregnant or breastfeeding!
- Eat carbohydrates as close to nature as possible. Carbohydrates do not necessarily regulate hormones, but they give the fuel that hormones need to run effectively.
- Eat dark green, leafy vegetables as much as possible due to their high phytochemical and antioxidant components. Stay far away from white carbohydrates as much as possible. Whole ground wheat bread, pumpernickel and sprouted grain breads are great bread options. Quinoa, brown or black rice, chickpeas, hummus and baba ganoush are nutrient dense as well.
- Power up on protein. This powerhouse of all macronutrients is critical to maintaining hormonal balance. Proteins affect growth hormones, estrogen, thyroid hormones and insulin. Without adequate protein, your body will stimulate a stress response, which can lead to adrenal stress and excess storage of fat in the body.
- It is easiest to obtain all essential proteins (amino acids) by eating animal protein. It is best to eat high-quality protein that is hormone-free, grass-fed and nitrate free. The vegetables that have most or all essential amino acids include quinoa, spirulina, buckwheat, organic soybeans and brown, black or wild rice.
- Be sure to eat at least one protein-dense meal a day in order to keep blood sugar steady. It is optimal to pair protein with a healthy fat and a non-processed complex carbohydrate vegetable. When snacking, eat protein with a healthy fat.
- Feed your thyroid. The best foods to support thyroid health include:
- Brazil nuts; cooked cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts; sea vegetables (seaweed) and wild-caught fish (especially salmon).
- Boost your adrenal gland. The best way to nutritionally support the adrenal glands is to:
- Eat regular meals, especially breakfast, to prevent sugar fluctuations
- Consider a low glycemic diet
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco
- Eat high amounts of Omega 3 rich foods found in grass-fed meats, wild-caught salmon, oysters, sardines, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
- Always Include dark green vegetables and fruit (in its whole form not juiced) when eating for optimal hormonal health
Always check with your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise program.
Dara Akdamar is a certified Nutritional Health Coach with an emphasis on hormones. She is currently pursuing a master's in Health Sciences specializing in Functional Nutrition. Dara and her husband live and work in the Dallas area. She loves to run, spin, read, research—and now that the couple are empty-nesters—travel.