How to Optimise Women’s Health Through the Foods we Eat.
The food we eat has a huge impact not only on how we feel but also how our hormones function.
You see our hormones rely on many different nutrients to function properly within the body as well as how our body produces them and removes them.
A bit like how stress can affect our moods and menstrual cycle, so can the food we eat.
The aim is to help balance out our hormones and of course we are all different so we require different amounts of nutrients, but there are certain foods and nutrients that we can incorporate each day that can help to optimise hormonal balance.
Did you know that Magnesium plays a big role in hormonal balance? It is essential for the production of hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA, but it also supports the enzyme COMT (catechol-o-methyltransferase) in the liver which promotes the healthy excretion of excess oestrogen reducing the risk of oestrogen excess conditions such as fibroids.
Magnesium is a vital nutrient that can help to maintain a healthy balance of oestrogen within the body.
During the menstrual part of the cycle, magnesium levels tend to be lower, resulting in symptoms such as cramps and migraines, so including magnesium rich foods can help to increase levels and reduce PMS symptoms.
Magnesium can help to promote blood sugar balance which is vital in conditions such as PCOS, which can help support moods and energy levels, but magnesium also supports the production of energy by attaching to the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Magnesium helps produce glutathione which is an important antioxidant that helps support liver detoxification. Our liver plays a big role in hormonal balance by helping to excrete excess oestrogen. When oestrogen has been used and circulated through the body, we need to break it down ready to be excreted so that we don't have high levels through the body. This is where the liver comes in, as it breaks down and detoxifies excess oestrogen. Magnesium also helps the methylation process in phase II of liver detoxification.
Did you know thatCacao has the highest plant based source of magnesium.
In the menstrual phase when our magnesium levels are lower, we often crave chocolate and that is our bodies way of signalling its need for magnesium. Its high in antioxidants that supports the liver to remove any excess oestrogen as well as having natural muscle relaxant properties which can help with cramps. It also plays a big role in energy production which can help reduce symptoms of fatigue.
Another important nutrient that is often low after your menstrual cycle is iron. Iron is essential for thyroid health. The thyroid's function is to produce hormones that help to regulate the body's metabolism. Iron is necessary for making T4 and converts T4 to T3 the active thyroid hormone. Low levels of iron can cause issues with hormone production resulting in slow metabolism, low energy, fatigue, feeling the cold and restless legs.
Including iron rich foods can help to boost iron levels and support thyroid function.
Cacao is a rich source of iron, but make sure that any non heme iron from plant based sources is eaten with vitamin C rich foods to help its absorption. By including vitamin C foods with plant based iron can actually increase its absorption by 67%.
Why not try dipping strawberries into melted dark chocolate, adding vitamin c rich fruits to your morning cacao smoothie bowl or including vitamin C rich Camu Camu Powder in your home made chocolate creations.
Iodine is another important nutrient needed for thyroid hormone production as well as being vital in pregnancy to support the development of a baby’s brain. Our body does not make iodine so we must get it all from the foods we eat.S
Seaweed such as dulse is naturally high in iodine which can help support thyroid function, cognitive function, metabolism and energy production.
Dulse is particularly high in B12 which is often low in non meat eaters. It’s vital for the normal function of the brain and nervous system, as well as being crucial for a healthy pregnancy. Some medications have been shown to reduce levels of B12 absorption, as well as digestive issues. Low levels have been linked to low energy, poor bone health, anxiety and depression as well as anaemia.
Just 9.9g of dulse contains 0.6mcg of B12, which is over 100% of the RDA. It is also high in potassium with 34 times more potassium than a banana, calcium, beta-carotene and antioxidants to support the body against free radicals and inflammation as well as fibre which can help support a healthy gut and healthy fats which helps support metabolism, brain health and help regulate the cells response to insulin.
Why not try adding Dulse Flakes to your next noodle bowl or even add it in with some crunchy granola for a delicious umami flavour that works so well with the sweetness.
Of course there are many other nutrients that can help support hormonal balance so it’s vital that we eat a well balanced and colourful diet that includes a variety of different plant based foods to ensure that we get optimal amounts of wonderful antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to support energy levels, our mental health, gut health as well as our bodies’ natural hormone production and liver function.
By Neleta Winter Nutritionist
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