Hormone Balancing Foods for Female Fertility – (Part 2)
Testosterone balancing foods
Women naturally produce a little testosterone and need small amounts for good hormonal health, however, if women produce too much testosterone it can have a negative impact on fertility health, negatively impacting ovulation. Women with PCOS often have higher than normal levels of testosterone and this is the hormonal imbalance that produces many of the tell-tale signs and symptoms of this condition such as excess hair, acne and irregular periods. Women with PCOS can often also have higher than normal levels of a form of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Dietary changes and eating enough key nutrients can help to balance the production of these hormones.
How to eat to balance testosterone
Interestingly the high levels of testosterone experienced in PCOS are actually produced as a result of another hormone; insulin. Eating a lot of sugar and refined carbohydrates leads to high levels of insulin and this stimulates both the overproduction of testosterone and reduced production of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG is a carrier protein that controls the amount of free and active hormones available in our bloodstream, when levels of SHBG fall then there are higher levels of free and active hormones and this can exacerbate hormonal imbalances.
Eating to reduce insulin – insulin is produced in our body when we consume carbohydrates and sugar. Low fibre and fast-release carbohydrates result in higher levels of insulin being produced and eating sugar results in a lot of insulin being produced. To reduce the amount of insulin being produced following a few simple rules:
- Avoid refined white carbs and replace them with high fibre carbs – replace white bread, pasta and rice with wholegrain versions and eat potatoes with their skin. High fibre carbohydrates take longer to digest and release energy more slowly and therefore result in a smaller release of insulin compared to fast-release white carbs.
- Cut out sugar and sweet treats – sugar, sweets, biscuits and cakes result in a rapid spike in blood sugar, which then causes a huge surge in insulin levels. When you are trying to balance hormones sweet treats should be enjoyed a maximum of 2 times a week.
- Include some protein with each meal and snack – eating protein causes our meals to be digested and release energy more slowly and leads to a smaller release of insulin after a meal. Great sources of protein to include every time you eat include nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, fish, beans, lentils and high-protein dairy products.
- Fill up half your plate with vegetables – at main meals aim to fill up half your plate with vegetables, the fibre provided by vegetables will slow energy release and lead to lower insulin levels.
Foods that reduce DHT – DHT is responsible for some PCOS symptoms, including hair loss. Certain foods and nutrients can help reduce DHT levels.
Zinc-rich foods – the mineral zinc helps to inhibit the action of an enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. So making sure that you have plenty of zinc-rich foods in your diet can reduce levels of DHT. Zinc-rich foods include red meat, eggs, shellfish, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds and dairy products. Those following a vegan or vegetarian diet are more likely to experience a zinc deficiency.
Green tea – green tea can help to block the activity of the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT, aim to have 3 cups of green tea daily to support hormone balance.
Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil – pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc and the oil produced from pumpkin seeds is known to block the action of DHT in the body.
Edamame beans – the fresh soya beans are a great source of protein and fibre that will balance insulin levels and also contain compounds called isoflavones that help to reduce DHT levels by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT – so they are a fantastic food for balancing testosterone levels.
Flaxseeds to increase SHBG – increasing SHBG will help to balance the activity of excess testosterone, eating around 30g of flax seeds daily was found to increase SHBG levels and promote hormone balance. Women with PCOS who ate 30g of flax seeds daily also experienced an improvement in insulin levels.