Feeling Moody? These Foods Are Affecting Your Hormone Balance Every Single Day
Might it be time to clear out the kitchen cupboards? These foods could be causing a negative impact on your hormones. And we don't need any more disruptions to our hormones, now do we?
In the wake of the recent WHO report that claimed an increased cancer risk due to eating excessive processed and red meat, some of you are probably feeling more than a little jaded about the seemingly, inherent health risks evident in so many of the foods we eat.
Most of these reports advocate moderation, which should be easy enough to achieve with a balanced diet. Having a little of what you fancy is probably okay, but we should still be focusing on all the foods we know are good for us.
The good news is that a few tweaks to your daily diet could have a big impact on your health, meaning you don’t have to cut out all the foods you love. It’s really more to do with how the food is processed and quality of the original ingredients.
One of the biggest concerns relating to our modern diet is the impact it may be having on hormonal balance. Men displaying signs of reduced testosterone levels, weight gain and loss of muscle mass, while women are experiencing a surge in hormone responsive health conditions, like endometriosis and breast cancer.
There is scientific evidence on the potential impact certain foods may have on our reproductive hormones, so if fertility is your primary concern, it would be wise to keep these offenders off your dinner plate.
There are a number of ways you can minimise your risk, and one of the best places to start is in the kitchen.
The issue with foods that are stored in tin cans with a white plastic lining is that they are likely to be contaminated with Bisphenol A (BPA) a known endocrine disrupting chemical. Anything that disrupts your endocrine system is bad news as it leads to hormonal imbalance that can cause amongst other things fertility issues or cancer.
Food fix: thankfully, it’s not too difficult to work around if you stick to tinned cans that don’t have the white, plastic lining, which contains the offending BPA. Look for the stainless steel cans that have the recycling symbol no.4, as a safer alternative.
Also, where possible try to buy foods that are stored in glass, so instead of tinned tomatoes, you could opt for glass jars of tomato passata. Sweetcorn can be found in glass jars in most big health stores also, as the tinned supermarket variety tend to have the white, plastic lining.
A hotly debated topic is whether soy products are good or bad for your health. Soy beans are a source of phyto-oestrogens (plant derived oestrogen), which can have a hormone balancing effect on women.
The crucial point is the type of soy product you buy.
Whole food soy products that are minimally processed such as edamame beans or fermented soy products like miso soup, tempeh or soy sauce are actually good for you. Fermentation is the best option as it removes the phytic acid that is naturally occurring in the raw soy bean, which can inhibit some nutrient absorption.
Some freshly steamed, edamame beans are still a good option, but the nutrient density and ability to promote healthy gut bacteria isn’t as pronounced as with fermented soy products.
The problem is the highly processed soy, which includes most forms of tofu, soy milk, protein bars made with soy protein isolate, soy cheese, soy ice-cream, soy margarine and especially, soy isoflavone supplements.
Research has linked the processed soy protein isolate to an increased risk for breast cancer or a feminising effect in men (lower testosterone), but these results were not seen with test subjects who consumed the whole-food, unprocessed version of soy.
Food fix: stay away from seemingly healthy snack bars that list ‘soy protein isolate’ as one of their ingredients and have a nut-based bar instead.
If you are looking for dairy alternatives and had been depending on soy, then consider coconut-based products. There are now great varieties of coconut-based ice creams, yogurts and even cheeses that do not have the same oestrogen-mimicking concerns that are associated with soy products.
We’ve all heard the story about the guy who developed ‘man boobs’ or gynecomastia (if you want the technical term), as a result of eating too much chicken, but is there any truth to the claim that the chicken you buy is pumped full of hormones?
Perhaps, given that it is estimated that over 90% of then chicken used by restaurant/takeaways is imported from countries outside the EU, so you don’t really have any idea what has happened to the meat before it arrives on your plate.
Food Fix: try to reduce the amount of chicken you have when eating out. Opt for fish instead, as there is currently no law that requires a chicken’s country of origin to be noted on a menu, so it’s difficult to find out where your meat came from.
Cooking chicken at home is the best option. At least the chicken you buy in the supermarket has to be labelled properly – it should note the country of origin and whether it's quality assured by Bord Bia, so you know exactly what you are getting. You also have the option of buying organic, which is guaranteed to be free of growth hormones and antibiotics. Free range is not the same as organic. The chickens may have more space to roam around, but there is no obligation to give the chickens organic feed or avoid the use of antibiotics.
For more on the foods that aid fertility see here.
Jessica Bourke is a Natural Fertility Specialist who deals with all aspects of reproductive health. Her clinical approach is based on evidence-based nutrition protocols, acupuncture treatment, and she also offers functional lab tests to support you on your journey to parenthood. She's a regular contributor to Irish media and co-author of the 'Guilt Free Gourmet' cook-book. As a Mum of two, Jessica understands the challenges of pregnancy and parenting. For more, visit jessicabourke.com.