You’ve probably heard the phrase “you are what you eat” many times before. Not many people realize just how true this statement is, though. Each time we eat, our body is flooded with hormones that have powerful short and long-term effects on our physical and mental health.
A well-balanced diet of quality foods encourages proper hormone levels and leads to improvements in nearly every area of your health and wellbeing. Eating poorly, on the other hand, can throw these hormones out of balance, making your goals harder to achieve and potentially leading to serious health problems.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the major hormones that can impact your health and wellness. Then we’ll look at how your diet can influence them to help you reach your goals faster and leave you feeling better than ever.
The Role of Hormones in Your Body
Hormones are chemical messengers released in your body. They travel from various organs to your brain, essentially giving it a status update and informing its decisions about how to regulate your internal systems.
Our hormones control an enormous amount of functions related to growth and development, metabolism, digestion, stress, fertility, mood, energy, and much more. When it comes to weight loss and general wellbeing, some of the most important hormones include:
- Insulin: You’re probably familiar with insulin. This hormone is produced in the pancreas and controls how your body uses and stores blood sugar. Low insulin results in hypoglycemia. Insulin also plays a critical role in diabetes.
- Ghrelin: Known as the “hunger hormone”, ghrelin is produced in the gut and is responsible for telling your brain it’s time to eat. Imbalanced ghrelin levels have been implicated as a leading cause of regaining weight after a diet.
- Leptin: Leptin tells your brain you have enough fat stored in the body. Low levels of leptin cause you to burn fewer calories and eat more food in order to build up healthy fat stores. This hormone is thought to play a major role in obesity.
- Testosterone: Testosterone is associated with sex drive, and it plays a vital role in sperm production, among many other things. Too little testosterone can also result in low energy, weight gain, and depression.
By avoiding processed foods and excess sugar and instead focusing on eating healthy fats and quality proteins, you can positively impact the levels of these key hormones in your body.
What You Eat Matters
There is a popular movement in the health and fitness world that claims that all calories are essentially equal. Known as the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) plan, this philosophy focuses on hitting a target number of calories spread across a specific percentage of each macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) and places less emphasis on what you actually consume. A common IIFYM spread might be 2,000 calories consisting of 30 percent protein, 30 percent fats, and 40 percent carbs.
While this type of plan may hold some water when it comes to weight management, it completely ignores the larger role your diet plays in regulating hormones. Without proper balance and a smart selection of foods, this numbers-only approach can result in hormone imbalances that slow weight loss and leave you feeling worn-down, moody, and hungry.
Putting It All Together to Achieve Your Wellness Goals
Because of their influence on hormone production, the foods you eat have a tremendous impact on your health and energy level. By developing and sticking to the right diet, you can help ensure the proper balance of hormones in your body, which in turn can help you:
- Lose weight faster and have an easier time maintaining your target weight.
- Reduce the symptoms of chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.
- Get deeper, more restful sleep at night.
- Experience more energy and a more positive mood during the day.
- Reduce anxiety, stress, and feelings of depression.
To get the best results possible, it’s always smart to consult with a registered nutritionist or wellness coach. These professionals can help personalize a diet for your body and goals. However, you can get started right away by following a few simple tips:
- Focus on fresh, whole foods and limit processed food as much as possible.
- Eat foods rich in healthy fats include avocados, certain types of fish, and whole eggs. Limit saturated fats and trans fats.
- Choose foods known for their hormone-boosting properties. Fish, like tuna and halibut, is excellent for regulating testosterone and ghrelin. Berries and whole grains can help increase leptin. And, of course, reducing sugar helps control insulin production.
A proper diet consisting of whole food is an excellent addition to any wellness plan. When you specifically choose foods with powerful hormone-boosting capabilities, though, you can increase this effect even more.
Fortunately, these food choices don’t actually differ much from the usual balanced diet. Focusing on fresh, whole foods and avoiding processed items and excess sugar can help restore balance to your body’s hormones.
Grant Reid is the founder of one of Canada's fastest growing health and wellness coaching companies called GFIT Wellness