The 14 foods to eat and avoid to improve a hormonal imbalance

Woman experiencing a hormonal imbalance. (Getty Images)
Certain foods can help improve a hormonal imbalance. (Getty Images)

Women's hormones fluctuate naturally during different stages of life, particularly during puberty, various stages of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and the menopause.

However, sometimes due to both external and internal factors your hormones can get out of whack, or unbalanced, which can lead to health issues.

According to women’s health and menopause clinic Hormone Health, hormonal imbalances can sometimes result in symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, itchy skin, low moods, and others.

It occurs when "there is too much or too little of a hormone", while it can happen during the various different life stages, hormone imbalances can also be affected by lifestyle factors and some medical conditions.

The symptoms of hormone imbalance can affect your wellbeing and everyday life, which pushes people to look for ways to alleviate the side effects or bring their hormones back into balance.

One of the most effective ways to address hormone imbalances is by switching up your diet.

Woman eating a healthy meal. (Getty Images)
What you eat can impact your hormones. (Getty Images)

"The impact of our dietary choices on our health is profound, particularly concerning foods that trigger spikes in blood sugar levels, such as sugary treats, alcohol, and carbohydrate-heavy meals," explains Lauren Johnson Reynolds aka London Wellness Coach nutritional therapist and hormone imbalance expert.

"They play havoc with our hormones, and can induce fluctuations in blood sugar that, in turn, elevate cortisol levels, disrupting sleep patterns, mood stability, weight management, and exacerbating peri/menopause symptoms like hot flushes."

When it comes to regulating hormones, Johnson Reynolds says the key is balance.

"You don't have to be perfect to feel better—just focus on starting your day with a breakfast that's got protein, healthy fats, and fibre. That helps cut down on sugar cravings and sets you up for a good day."

Foods to help restore hormone imbalance

  • Protein - such as wild caught salmon, chicken, grass fed beef - protein fills us up and keeps us fuller for longer, therefore keeping our blood sugar levels balanced.

  • Blueberries

  • Avocado

  • Nuts

  • Seeds ( chia/flax/pumpkin)

  • Green vegetables

  • Beans and legumes

  • Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut

  • Oats

Foods to avoid if you are experiencing a hormone imbalance

  • Heavily processed food (white bread/ready meals/crisps)

  • Excess alcohol

  • Excess sugar

  • Seed oils - canola, rapeseed, sunflower

  • Sugary cereals and pastries for breakfast

Woman preparing a protein-rich breakfast. (Getty Images)
Experts suggest eating a protein-rich breakfast. (Getty Images)

Other ways to improve a hormone imbalance with diet

Start the day with a protein rich breakfast

Johnson Reynolds says blood sugar imbalance has a huge part to play in mood swings, brain fog, frequent night waking, sugar and carbohydrate cravings as well as weight gain around the middle.

"Focusing on eating a breakfast rich in protein, fibre and healthy fats keeps blood sugar stable and has been shown in studies to actually reduce the amount we eat for the remainder of the day and lessen evening snacking," she explains.

"Rather than grabbing a couple of shortbread biscuits for breakfast, be intentional about preparing scrambled eggs, smoked salmon with avocado and rocket and know that you’re setting yourself and your hormones up for the day, in the best possible way.

Have sugary foods straight after a meal

Ok so we're not advising you go overboard on the sugar, but if you fancy something sweet it's a good idea to have it straight after a meal.

"Keeping our blood sugar balanced by eating sugary foods right after a meal actually helps to slow down the absorption of sugar into the blood stream, avoiding a blood sugar spike which is a hormone imbalance trigger," explains Johnson Reynolds.

"Not only will this help to reduce the symptoms already mentioned but it also helps to give the adrenal glands a break which are often overworked by blood sugar imbalances and life stressors," she adds.

Vegetables. (Getty Images)
Vegetables can help improve a hormone imbalance. (Getty Images)

Make the most of vegetables

Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and kale belong to the brassica family that when broken down, produce a compound that is especially important for hormones. "These cruciferous vegetables can help to inhibit some of the negative impacts that declining rates of oestrogen during peri/menopause have on the body," explains Johnson Reynolds. "They do this by increasing antioxidants, reducing inflammation, supporting the immune system and facilitating the breakdown and elimination of potentially toxic oestrogen before it is able to recirculate back into the body."

Swap regular pickled condiments for fermented foods

Making the switch from pickled red cabbage to fermented kimchi or sauerkraut (both are cabbage based) gives a beneficial hit of probiotics while being equally delicious, Johnson Reynolds explains.

"These fermented foods are packed with good bacteria for the gut microbiome which supports gut health and therefore hormone and mood balance, immunity, appetite and so much more," she adds.

Give non-alcoholic cocktails a try

"Don’t be afraid to mix things up for the sake of your hormones," advises Johnson Reynolds. "Many women find that alcohol can worsen symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and low mood so though it’s fine to have a glass or two, you may wish to explore other alcohol-free options."

Hormones: Read more

Watch: Everything you need to know about 2024's hormonal skincare trend