It’s late August! That means students are back in school with their shiny new lunchboxes and sharpened pencils, ready to learn! Well, listen, they’re not the only ones being taught a thing or two because you’ve just signed up for Hormone Health 101 taught by Professor Corie! Our first lesson is all about balancing your plate for optimum hormone health 🙂
I’m so happy you’re here. If you struggle with understanding what on Earth to actually eat, keep reading. If you’re someone who thinks buttered popcorn is a sufficient dinner, keep reading. And for crying out loud, if you often experience afternoon fatigue, early morning waking (like 2-3 AM) or ravenous hunger, KEEP READING! (All signs of blood sugar not being regulated well.)
What does it mean to “balance” your plate?
By balancing your plate, I’m talking about your macronutrients. Macronutrients is a fancy word for the three most consumed nutrients carbohydrates, protein and fat. I know you’re probably somewhat familiar with these, but let me give you a brief synopsis of each and why they’re important for us.
Carbohydrates give us a quick source of fuel for our brain and muscles. They burn the fastest of all three of the macronutrients. Carbs are great for fueling us for short, intense activity. They also help us to regulate our energy, fight infections and in the form of fiber, they help us to feed our microbiome.1Nutritional Therapy Association. (2021). Basics of Nutrition- Nutritional Therapy Association. Tumwater. Those good bacteria need food in order to thrive, ya know?
Also, FIBER! Ever heard of it? Most dietary fibers are classified as carbohydrates.2Medeiros, D. M., & Wildman, R. E. C. (2019). Advanced human nutrition (4th ed.). Jones and Bartlett Learning. While fiber by itself doesn’t really provide us with energy, it does have benefits for our digestion by affecting our food transit time, either speeding it up or slowing it down depending on the kind of fiber we’ve eaten. 3Nutritional Therapy Association. (2021). Basics of Nutrition- Student Guide. Tumwater. Fiber adds bulk to our stools which helps us to poop regularly (as long as we are also staying hydrated!) Having regular bowel movements is a good thing for your hormone function. We flush excess estrogen through our poop! If we aren’t pooping regularly, we’re at risk for a buildup of estrogen which can further imbalance our orchestra of hormones.4 https://www.jennalongoria.com/blog-archive/poop-hormones-tips-relieve-constipation
Healthy sources of carbs:
- brown rice
- sweet potatoes
- sourdough bread
Proteins are essential building blocks comprised of amino acids. Proteins and amino acids have several roles within the body including supporting blood clotting, hormone function, energy utilization, immune function, muscle function/structure and they make up the building blocks of enzymes. 5Medeiros, D. M., & Wildman, R. E. C. (2019). Advanced human nutrition (4th ed.). Jones and Bartlett Learning. Enzymes are special protein molecules that act as the catalysts for ALL biochemical processes!6Nutritional Therapy Association. (2021). Basics of Nutrition- Nutritional Therapy Association. Tumwater. So proteins are extremely important! For the health of your hormone function, fertility and your overall health.
Healthy sources of proteins:
- Grass-fed, organic meat (beef, lamb, elk, bison, pork, etc.)
- Pasture-raised, organic poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, etc.)
- Wild-caught seafood
- Organic eggs
- Full-fat, raw, grass-fed dairy (milk, cheese, etc.) *If well tolerated
- Nuts, seeds and legumes
High-quality fats are vital to the health of your body!
There are four fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) that are essential for skin health, eye health, hormone health, cardiovascular health and much more. We can’t absorb these vitamins without fats. You absolutely must have fats in your diet in order to build cell membranes and protect your organs via their lining.7Nutritional Therapy Association. (2021). Basics of Nutrition- Student Guide. Tumwater. Also, fat increases our satiety when we eat and makes food taste better. Have you ever eaten a piece of dry toast? It was probably just meh. But, buttered toast?? What a difference in flavor and satiety!
Also, read more about how eating good-quality fats DAILY is so imperative for hormone health and fertility in my recent blog post. (Pssst! Your body can’t even make steroid hormones without fats and cholesterol. So don’t make the same mistake I did in the past of eating a low-fat diet. It wreaked havoc on my hormone health.)
Healthy sources of fats:
- Grass-fed butter
- Egg yolks
- Wild-caught fatty fish
- Nuts and seeds
- Coconut oil
- Fats from pasture-raised animals (lard, tallow, suet, duck fat, etc.)
A Note on “Diets”
There are many diets out there that are entirely based off of restricting one of the three macronutrients. I almost never recommend cutting out or limiting any one macronutrient. I know we’ve all heard of low-fat or low-carb or no carb diets, but in my opinion, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any one of the macronutrients (for most people). They all have a function. As long as they’re in balance, there’s no need to be fearful of any of them. AND as long as you’re eating healthy sources of them 😉 as stated above. However, I do recognize that some people have certain medical diagnoses that are better managed if one restricts a certain macronutrient. But, most people will benefit from incorporating all of them in their daily diet.
How Balancing the Macronutrients Affects Your Hormone Health
When trying to support your hormone health, it’s so important to make sure that all three of the macronutrients are on your plate when eating a meal or snack. Here are some examples of different breakfasts to explain why:
If you were to eat a carb-heavy meal, for instance, a glass of orange juice and a piece of toast with jam, your blood sugar would spike soon after. This is because carbohydrates are fuel for the body like kindling is for a fire- they burn quickly! After the spike a little while later, your blood sugar is going to plummet right back down which could cause you to feel fatigued and reaching for coffee or something else to eat to get your energy back up. Then maybe you reach for a donut to give you a little energy- the same thing will happen where the blood sugar goes way up and then crashes back down.
When the blood sugar goes drastically up and down like this and becomes dysregulated, this can produce cortisol, a stress hormone. It’s actually stressful to your body to have to deal with your blood sugar on an up and down rollercoaster ride because your pancreas is constantly trying to keep up by either secreting insulin if the blood sugar is too high or glucagon if the sugar is too low. 8Blood Sugar Regulation Student Guide, Nutritional Therapy Association, 2021 Stress and blood sugar regulation both have so much influence on your hormone health, so it’s important to keep them well managed by eating balanced macronutrients.
Let’s say we chose a different breakfast. Perhaps a glass of orange juice and an egg white scramble with peppers, onions, spinach and low-fat cheese. So, now we’re looking at a meal with protein and carbs, but barely any fat. The good news is that when you eat protein with carbs, it slows down the energy usage you would get from just the carbs alone. So you’re not going to have a drastic rise and crash of your blood sugar when protein is involved! However, without any fat, you’re:
- missing out on absorbing the vitamin A from the spinach since you can’t absorb fat-soluble vitamins without fat.
- not getting any of the beneficial vitamin K2 or cholesterol without the egg yolks. (Again, you can’t make hormones without cholesterol)
- eating a flavor-less, sad breakfast.
- not going to be nearly as satisified after you eat the sad breakfast so you may STILL reach for that donut after all!
And don’t even get me started on low-fat cheese. Gross. Just eat the full-fat version, y’all.
Okay, final example. What if your breakfast was low-carb, high protein and fat? Let’s say you chose to eat four strips of bacon with two eggs. What’s wrong with a low-carb meal? Well, actually people assigned female at birth are often sensitive to low-carb diets. Studies show that when females eat low-calorie or low-carb, this can disrupt the production of key hormones such as luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This can negatively impact fertility and increase the stress hormone cortisol. 9https://dieteticallyspeaking.com/carbohydrate-and-female-hormones/
So, just because your husband or boyfriend or male neighbor appears to thrive off of a keto diet doesn’t mean the same will work for you. I always encourage clients to do research on any kind of diet before trying it, especially in regards to how it can affect hormones.
So, what have we learned, students?
CARBS + PROTEIN + FAT= a well balanced, tastier meal that will keep the blood sugar better regulated, vitamins better absorbed and keep you satiated!
So drink the OJ, eat the bacon, eggs and buttered sourdough toast. A much more balanced meal 🙂
My recommendation to balance your plate
Everyone is different as far as what ratio of carbs: protein: fat they prefer or feel best on. It all will depend on a person’s age, activity level, and other factors. You may already have a general idea of how much of each macronutrient you like to have on your plate. A good place to start if you’re just starting out being mindful of macronutrient balance is to try eating 40% carbs, 30% fats and 30% protein. You can tweak this per your preference.
There’s no need to be super scientific here. Just try to eyeball your plate and use the plate like a pie chart (as seen above). Or just try and be mindful that with each meal or snack you can identify a carb, a protein and a fat are included. As you become more mindful of your macronutrient balance, you may find that my recommendation above doesn’t work as well for you. Perhaps you prefer to eat 40% fat, 40% protein, and 20% carb. Or some other variation. That’s fine! We are all different and need different ratios. Play around with it, have fun with it and see what works best for you. Take note of how you feel after you eat a meal. Are you satiated? Do you feel full? Is your energy relatively stable throughout the day? Any digestive discomfort? See how making shifts in your macronutrients affects all of these factors.
Here are some balanced dinner and snack ideas you could try!
- spatchcock chicken with roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots and potatoes
- wild-caught salmon with brown rice and zucchini sautéed in ghee or bacon grease
- taco bowls (seasoned ground beef, brown rice, spinach, sautéed peppers and onions, avocado, salsa)
- brown rice pasta with marinara sauce, browned turkey and shredded raw cheese on top
- seared grass-fed steaks, baked sweet potatoes with butter and a fresh salad
- the best oven-baked chicken thighs, mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus
- brown rice cake with nut butter
- sourdough toast with hummus, avocado, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper
- boiled egg(s) with a piece of fruit
- chia pudding with coconut milk
- dark chocolate with a handful of walnuts (for my fellow dark chocolate fans!)
- my famous magenta smoothie
I hope y’all enjoy!
If you have any questions about balancing your plate, send me a note! I’d love to help.
Y’all take good care!
Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only, and it hasn’t been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information isn’t intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any condition or disease, nor is it medical advice. One should always consult a qualified medical professional before engaging in any dietary and/or lifestyle change.
- 1Nutritional Therapy Association. (2021). Basics of Nutrition- Nutritional Therapy Association. Tumwater.
- 2Medeiros, D. M., & Wildman, R. E. C. (2019). Advanced human nutrition (4th ed.). Jones and Bartlett Learning.
- 3Nutritional Therapy Association. (2021). Basics of Nutrition- Student Guide. Tumwater.
- 5Medeiros, D. M., & Wildman, R. E. C. (2019). Advanced human nutrition (4th ed.). Jones and Bartlett Learning.
- 6Nutritional Therapy Association. (2021). Basics of Nutrition- Nutritional Therapy Association. Tumwater.
- 7Nutritional Therapy Association. (2021). Basics of Nutrition- Student Guide. Tumwater.
- 8Blood Sugar Regulation Student Guide, Nutritional Therapy Association, 2021