Metabolic

The One Breakfast Endocrinologists Want You to Eat for Healthy Hormones

Eating meals rich in protein, fiber and healthy fats can help support your hormone health.

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You may blame it on your hormones — that stubborn acne, those mood swings, the weight gain. But the truth is, hormonal balance is important for so many aspects of your overall health, and the foods you eat make a difference.

Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with an imbalance or maybe you’re just looking to change your eating habits with hormone health in mind. In any case, endocrinologists, aka the hormone experts, recommend starting your day with a bowl of savory oatmeal with leafy greens, a poached egg and some avocado.

And if you sprinkle on some flaxseeds, and you’ll get an extra dose of hormone-balancing fats.

How Your Diet Affects Hormones

Hormones are chemical messengers that affect hundreds of mechanisms that keep your body functioning, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The foods you eat affect the production and secretion of hormones, according to the Institute for Functional Medicine. Even minor changes in hormonal balance can have a major effect on aspects of your health (and vice versa).

In particular, your diet affects a hormone called insulin. Insulin controls the amount of sugar in your blood by signaling your cells to use that sugar as a fuel source. When we eat too much sugar, this can lead to insulin resistance or eventually, type 2 diabetes.

Insulin also plays a role in regulating reproduction, per June 2014 research in ​Physiology and Behavior​.

Insulin resistance can affect your weight, bone health, reproductive health and brain function as well as put you at a higher risk for conditions like heart disease. Eating the right nutrients can help you manage or avoid it.

Eating for Healthy Hormones

Keeping your hormones happy means eating a balanced diet of whole, nutrient-dense foods. It also means keeping your blood sugar levels in check. Eating too many refined carbs and loading up on sugar can throw them out of whack.

A bowl of savory oats with an egg, greens and avocado provides you with lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, antioxidants and fiber — all of which play a role in hormone health, according to a February 2018 review in ​Nutrients​.

Below are four ways this endocrinologist-recommended breakfast supports happy hormones.

The avocado and oats in this breakfast may be beneficial for lowering your blood sugars because they contain soluble fiber.

Studies have shown that soluble fiber supports healthy insulin levels, according to an August 2019 review in the ​European Journal of Clinical Nutrition​. Oats are on the list of foods high in soluble fiber, making them a good option for controlling diabetes, according to a September 2016 study in ​Nutrients​.

Smeaton recommends oat groats as they are slower to digest than traditional flaked oats and will keep blood sugar more stable. Oat groats are nutritionally similar to rolled oats, but they are less processed and have less of an effect on blood sugar, according to Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

Satiety, aka how full you feel after a meal, is tied to hormone health in an intricate way. Hunger is dictated by hormones that send chemical signals to your brain which tell us it’s time to eat, namely, ghrelin and leptin.

Keeping these hormones balanced is a major factor in your metabolic health. For example, high levels of ghrelin in relation to leptin may cause you to overeat, which can lead to issues like obesity over time. This can cause a vicious cycle, as obesity is linked to other hormonal imbalances.

Research shows that eating a breakfast high in protein may help regulate the secretion of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for short-term appetite regulation, per a February 2006 study in the ​American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​.

Serving up an egg along with your savory oatmeal supplies just enough protein to keep you full until your next meal, according to Sapna Shah, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist with Paloma Health.

Eating a high-protein diet has been tied to increased satiety and better weight management, according to May 2008 research in the ​American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​. The researchers hypothesize that this could be because of the way dietary proteins affect hormones in the digestive tract.

Protein also promotes the secretion of insulin in the body, which may help keep blood sugar stable and ultimately, support hormone balance, according to July 2014 research in the ​American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​.

“High-quality fats can also curb your appetite,” says Shah. Good sources of healthy fats include fiber-rich avocado and flax seeds.

3. It May Improve Reproductive Health

Estrogen is a reproductive hormone in both people assigned female at birth (AFAB) and people assigned male at birth (AMAB). For people assigned female at birth who have not undergone hormone treatments or therapy, estrogen is the primary reproductive hormone, and it declines during menopause.

Flaxseeds contain a plant compound called phytoestrogen, which just means plant estrogen. Some research suggests that including phytoestrogens in your diet can help with hormone balance because they act like estrogen in the body, according to a September 2017 review in the ​British Journal of Pharmacology​.

“Like vitamin C, phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors and turn them on. This can help reduce menopause symptoms like hot flashes and even delay bone loss,” Smeaton says.

Eggs are also an estrogen-balancing food. “They contain vitamin A (a fat-soluble vitamin) which is critical for estrogen as well as progesterone balance,” Smeaton says.

4. It Balances Hormones Important for Bone Health

This savory oatmeal bowl can easily be made with spinach or kale. Smeaton says spinach is great, but highly recommends cruciferous vegetables such as kale. “Cruciferous vegetables have rockstar compounds that help with estrogen balance,” she says.

On top of its role in reproductive health, estrogen supports healthy bones. It is the hormonal regulator for bone formation and preservation, according to a November 2012 article in ​Trends in Endocrinology Metabolism​.

Other Bone Health Benefits

Leafy greens like kale are good for your bones because they are high in vitamin K, which supports bone metabolism, according to a June 2020 review in ​Bone Reports​.

They are also sources of plant-based calcium, which is needed for bone formation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

More Tips for Healthy Hormones

Of course, eating a single healthy meal isn’t all that’s required to maintain hormonal balance. As mentioned, it’s important to eat a diet that is balanced in all your micronutrients with an emphasis on lean proteins, complex carbs (particularly ones rich in fiber) and healthy fats.

Check out some other tips below.

Omega-3s are found in your cell membranes, and they help you make hormones that regulate inflammation, blood clotting and the function of your arteries, according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

Chia and flaxseeds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts and pistachios are all good sources of omega-3 fats, according to the USDA.

Enjoy a handful of berries

Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and cranberries are loaded with antioxidants, according to The Mayo Clinic. “Berries are also a good source of fiber to support healthy gut hormones and keep them in balance,” says Shah.

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