Superfoods are phenomenal when it comes to naturally balancing hormones, especially a select category of superfoods called Adaptogens.
What makes them so extraordinary is their ability to restore imbalances in the body to their optimal natural state.
The most potent adaptogenic superfoods that balance hormones naturally are:
- Maca root – an adaptogen from the Andes Mountains
- Ashwagandha – an Ayurvedic super root for anxiety and stress
- Hemp – a nutritionally complete super seed for the human body
- Shatavari – an Ayurvedic super root that balances female hormones
- Super berries (acai, camu) – antioxidant-rich super berries to balance the adrenals
- Mucuna – an Ayurvedic bean that boosts & balances our happy hormones
The best way to incorporate adaptogenic superfoods that balance your hormones into your lifestyle is to simply add the wholefood powders into your go-to daily meals or recipes. Clean and organic wholefood powders generally have more nutrients bioavailable and are easier for the body to absorb as they exist in complete synergy, unlike isolates or synthetic tablets which lack key functional biochemicals to help absorb the nutrients.
Let’s explore some of the hormones that govern our bodies, find out how each adaptogenic superfood functions to support our hormones & create some hormone-balancing recipes to help reduce hormone imbalances.
A woman’s body is governed by both regular hormones and hormones unique to female physiology. Our regular hormones control our stress levels (our “stress hormone” – cortisol), digestion (leptin and ghrelin), sleep (melatonin), relationships and social prejudice (ie. our “cuddle” hormone – oxytocin), metabolism (thyroid hormones – thyroxine), mood and happiness (serotonin, endorphins and dopamine), blood sugar (insulin), sex drive and stamina (testosterone) etc. Whereas the female-specific hormones primarily control reproductive health, breast health, energy levels, libido and fertility (estrogen, progesterone and prolactin), follicular growth and ovulation (Luteinizing hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)).
How adaptogens work
Adaptogens have been supplementation used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda healing systems for centuries. They regulate the body’s internal systems and stress responses with their healing abilities to restore the body’s natural physiological functioning. Much like the way a thermostat regulates temperature, adaptogens regulate systems in the body to function optimally. They can stimulate and increase our systems when required, and reduce or calm our systems down when it’s over-stimulated.
During periods of stress and poor sleep, adaptogens promote relaxation, and during periods of physical or emotional fatigue, they help boost the body’s energy levels and resilience.
- Glucosinolates in Maca rebalance the endocrine system & hormones to boost energy and stamina. As a ‘hormonal adaptogen,’ it doesn’t contain hormones but provides the necessary nutrients to support and regulate normal hormone production. Its nutrient density and minerals also support healthy thyroid functioning and stimulate hormones relating to sexual desire, making it good for the libido. It’s also especially good for regulating oestrogen levels in postmenopausal women to ease off symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot sweats, fatigue and insomnia.
- Ashwagandha supports the adrenals for a more balanced cortisol ie. ‘stress hormone’ response.
- Mucuna rebalances our mood by working on the endocrine system & hormones to restore our ‘happy hormones’ serotonin.
- Hemp is high in good fibre and healthy, hormone-balancing fats Omega 3 & 6 in the perfect ratio for the human body. It’s the only plant source of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) Omega 6 and is high in Omega 3 fatty acid that we usually don’t get enough of.
- Shatavarin and sarsapogenin in Shatavari, THE women’s health herb, are precursors to the female hormones and help balance oestrogen levels (good for menstruation, fertility and menopause).
- Superberries support your adrenals responsible for producing and regulating the stress hormone. The adrenals need a good amount of vitamin C to function healthily, and in a whole-food, bioavailable form, your body can absorb and use the natural vitamin C to support and balance your hormones responsible for regulating the body’s stress response.
And so you see, adaptogens work to fine-tune hormone production (and physiological responses to stress) by regulating our endocrine system, stress mediators and biochemical markers (cortisol, cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose). In this way, they ensure that the body functions optimally (read more on adaptogens).
Balancing hormones is not just essential for female physiology, but for male physiology as well. In our podcast “How to get high and not hijacked by your hormones” we go into more depth on how hormones can control our bodies and how imbalances can affect not only our mental health (PMS, cramp) but our physical health and wellbeing (PCOS, Endometriosis, Infertility etc.), driving a powerful point across of the importance of getting balance back and how to do it. To get more in-depth guidance, watch the video.
Here are 4 functional superfood hormone-balancing recipes you can try out to introduce the healing benefits of adaptogens.
Camu Berry Lemonade
Ingredients: 500 ml of water
2 tsp Camu C+
1 Tbsp honey
juice of ½ a large lemon
1 tsp Baobab Powder
kombucha to taste
Ashwagandha Bliss Bites
Ingredients: ½ C walnuts
½ C dates
¼ C almond flour
1 Tbsp Plant-Based Protein Superfood Mix
1½ Tbsp Cacao Powder
1 Tbsp honey or agave
6 Ashwagandha capsules
1 Tbsp nut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
Ingredients: 500ml water & ice blocks
1½ bananas, frozen
1½ Tbsp Maca
¾ C cashews
A pinch of salt
½tsp vanilla extract, powder or pod (optional)
Healthy Hemp Fudge
Ingredients: 1 C almonds
1 C coconut, desiccated
½ C Mesquite Powder
½ C Hemp Seeds¼ C Cacao Nibs
½ tsp. salt
½ C Cacao Butter, melted
1½ C dates
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- Anderson A.D (2008) Assessment and Nutraceutical Management of Stress-induced Adrenal Dysfunction. Integrative Medicine 7(5)
- Vitamin C: Essential for Stress and Adrenal Function. adrenalfatigue.org. https://adrenalfatigue.org/vitamin-c-adrenal-function-stress/
- Bundrant, M. Vitamin C and Its Key Role in Mental Health. Psych Central. https://blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/2017/01/vitamin-c-and-its-key-role-in-mental-health/