Posts Tagged ‘Hormone Harmony Diet’

Fat is Your Friend

You’re probably thinking right now, what?! Fat is our friend – since when? This statement comes as a shock because for decades we’ve been told that fat is bad and that low fat is the way to go.
The hype around low fat diets first began in the 1960s. By the 1980s low-fat foods were widely promoted as healthy options and America jumped on the bandwagon. We started eating more processed foods and refined carbohydrates like pasta, rice cakes, cereals, bagels and other baked goods. But to appeal to taste buds, low-fat foods compensated with refined flour and sugar, which has triggered a host of health problems including obesity and diabetes.
Now we know that one of the most basic links between diet and hormones is this: consuming too much refined flour and sugar disrupts hormonal balance by increasing insulin demand. Chronically high levels of insulin contribute to insulin resistance which leads to fat storage. However, eating fat does not trigger the release of insulin. And, contrary to popular belief, eating fat does not cause you to store fat. Healthy fats are necessary for cell function, reduce inflammation, help balance hormones, reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes, support healthy function of the brain and nervous system and protect against mood swings and depression.
You know about the healthy sources of fat like fish, nuts and olive oil, but here some other sources of fat that you’ve probably cut out, but really aren’t necessary to:

  • Avocado – yes, avocadoes are high in fat, but high in healthy, monounsaturated fat. Avocadoes have shown to reduce cholesterol.
  • Egg yolks – stop throwing away your egg yolks and stop eating just the whites. Egg yolks are the richest source of choline, which boosts brain function and reduces inflammation. Eggs also promote weight loss and protect eyesight.
  • Milk – it’s okay to have some fat in your milk. You don’t have to limit yourself to just skim milk. Studies have shown that drinking whole milk may be better for building muscle and both – skim or whole – improve cholesterol levels.
  • Red meat – red meat does have health benefits and you don’t have to cut it out entirely. Stick with leaner meats of beef and try to go for grass-fed beef when possible, but it is okay to consume red meat. And don’t forget about other red meats like venison and bison, which are naturally leaner than the cow.
  • Butter – while a healthy oil is a better alternative, I’d rather you use real, unsalted butter than margarine. Margarine has trans fat, which is much worse that the saturated fat found in butter. You can incorporate butter or other healthy oils such as organic ghee (clarified butter) into your meals.

Now I don’t want you to think all fat is good – because it isn’t. You want to focus on high-quality fats, eat  saturated fat in moderation and avoid trans fat at all costs. Trans fat is man-made and the human body has absolutely no physiological need for it. So if you see “partially hydrogenated” oils or shortening listed on an ingredient label put that item back on the shelf and walk away.

New Year, New You

The New Year is upon us, but instead of setting drastic resolutions for yourself, how about making small changes to your diet that will help balance your hormones and improve your overall health? First of all, don’t set a number for the amount of weight you want to lose. Instead make a resolution to eat healthier and measure your success by the way you feel. Do you have more energy? Are your hot flashes getting better? Are you more focused at work? Are you sleeping better at night? Has your libido increased?

Here are some general guidelines to help get you on track this new year so you can feel like a whole new you:

  • Drink water! – Water is very important for our bodies to detoxify all the toxins that are stored in our fat. Drinking a glass of water prior to a meal can also help you eat less.
  • Plan your meals in advance, even snacks – If you know what you’re going to eat when you’re hungry the less likely you’ll stand in front of the fridge or pantry trying to find something. This is when “less than optimal” foods may enter your mouths.
  • Record what you eat – This helps you lose weight by showing food patterns, monitoring areas of improvement and tracking progress.
  • Eat breakfast – Breakfast is important because your body needs to restore the fuel it lost during the night. If you don’t eat breakfast your body won’t have fuel to work with and your body sees that as a stressor and your cortisol levels will rise.
  • Eat every 3 hours – Small, more frequent meals provide a consistent input of fuel, which won’t trigger an increase in cortisol demand and reduce your metabolism due to lower thyroid hormone.
  • Don’t drink your calories – Sodas (even diet), fruit juices, sports drinks, sweet tea, and specialty coffee drinks should be replaced with water, seltzer water, green tea, herbal tea and decaf coffee. The sweeteners and caffeine contribute to insulin resistance and cortisol imbalance. If you can’t function without your morning coffee, start with one cup of caffeinated and then switch to decaf.
  • Eat healthy foods 80-90 percent of the time – If you’re eating whole, nutritious foods 80-90 percent of the time, you can indulge in a little something special during the other time. If you’re too rigid, you’ll get frustrated and give up, which is why many diets fail.

Top Foods and Traps to Avoid

To continue from yesterday’s post on the Hormone Harmony diet plan, here are some top DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to your nutritional choices.

Top foods to incorporate into your diet to balance hormones, include:

  • fish for healthy omega-3 fats,
  • flax also for omega-3 fats,
  • nuts for healthy fats and fiber,
  • lean protein to benefit blood sugar and reverse or prevent insulin resistance,
  • vegetables – variety rules,
  • moderate amounts of fruit –particularly apples and berries for their high fiber and less impact on blood sugar,
  • legumes and whole grains for fiber that slows down digestion and stabilizes blood sugar levels,
  • extra-virgin olive oil and vinegars.

Food Traps to Avoid:

  • Consume saturated fats from dairy and meat in moderation
  • Avoid trans fats completely, the human body has no physiological need for it and it’s deadly
  • Watch for hidden trans fat – partially hydrogenated oil or shortening
  • High fructose corn syrup, which is found in almost any type of processed food – sodas, breads, ketchup, sauces, soups, cookies, pastries and almost  any type of packaged food
  • Liquid sugar and zero-calorie sweeteners

The Hormone Harmony Diet Plan

The connection between our diet and hormones is significant, yet widely ignored, even though our hormones directly impact our health. The most basic link between diet and hormones is this: consuming too much refined flour and sugar disrupts hormonal balance. It is imperative to keep blood sugar stable in order to balance hormones. How do we do this? By eating every few hours, managing carbohydrates, consuming helpful fats and avoiding harmful ones, sticking with high-quality foods and avoiding too much processed foods.

Eat small meals every 2-3 hours that consist of a lean protein – chicken, turkey, fish, nuts – and a complex carbohydrate – a vegetable or high-fiber fruit. Consume carbohydrates that rate low on the glycemic index such as vegetables, nuts and seeds, milk and plain yogurt, barley and quinoa, beans and legumes, sourdough bread and fruits from Northern and Mediterranean climates.

When you eat small portions of low-GI foods every three hours or so, it is more effective in keeping blood sugar stable. When your body isn’t in starvation mode, you can make more rational and healthy food choices and keep portions small, rather than overeating on bad choices. Small, frequent meals or snacks of low-GI foods provide a steady stream of energy, reduce stress and result in fuel going to muscles rather than fat, leading to a leaner body.

When you start to eat more nutritious foods, you’ll see food doing what it should do to restore and maintain harmony among hormones:

  • Keep blood-sugar levels stable
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Provide sustained energy
  • Help reduce body fat
  • Help maintain a healthy weight
  • Contribute to overall health and well-being
  • Reduce risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis
  • Keep taste buds happy

Mood Boosting Foods

High-quality fats, such as those found in fish, nuts and flax seed, hold many health benefits and support many functions of the body; from reducing inflammation to reducing the risk for heart disease and diabetes to supporting function of the brain and nervous system.

These healthy fats are also known to protect against mood swings and depression.  Here is a list of some of the top mood-boosting foods and how you can incorporate them into your diet:

Fish – coldwater fish especially is the richest source of omega-3 fats to help improve mood. Think wild salmon, sardines and tuna. See a recipe for a healthy salmon salad below; great to pack for lunch.

Flax – the oil in flaxseed is the richest plant source of omega-3 fats, and the seeds are a great source of fiber. Add toasted flax seeds to salads, soups and sandwiches, and ground seeds are great in smoothies. Flaxseed oil can also be found and used for salad dressings or in smoothies.

Olive oil – although not a source of omega-3 fats, olive oil contains other healthy fats beneficial to stabilizing blood sugar and mood swings. Extra-virgin olive oil is a good substitute for butter on bread and vegetables and makes a great salad dressing.

Healthified Salmon Salad
2-cans canned salmon, drained or packaged salmon
1 cup Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well if using canned
1 Tbsp. Capers
1 cup Artichoke hearts, roughly chopped or quartered (can buy jarred or frozen)
¼ cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
Season with fresh ground black pepper and Kosher salt

In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients together.

This recipe doesn’t have to follow exact measurements. You can eyeball the ingredients according to your likes and dislikes. I like to scoop the salmon salad into a hollowed out tomato or on top of a bed of mixed greens.

This recipe is a healthier and delicious alternative to a mayonnaise-based salad. Benefits this recipe provides include: healthy fat from the olive oil; Omega-3 fat and protein from the salmon; fiber from the beans; and the vinegar and oil helps curb spikes in blood-sugar levels.