6 Foods That Help Keep Your Hormones in Balance

A doctor explains how foods affect the hormones.

When it comes to our hormones and how they relate to stress, sleep, digestion, metabolism, skin, and brain function, we rarely turn to food to find answers. According to Erika Schwartz, MD, author of The New Hormone Solution, this is a major mistake. "There are plenty of foods we should be incorporating into our diet first, before we turn to medications or other forms of treatment," she says.

Dr. Schwartz says the first step is to remove foods that are detrimental to our hormonal balance: This includes processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine, and saturated animal fats. "We need to help our body by realizing that each vitamin and nutrient we put into it is carefully synthesized," she explains. This ultimately affects the quality of the hormones we make, which starts in the gut.

There are dietary guidelines that will significantly help balance the overall hormonal picture. "This leads to a reduction in mood swings and symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, and irritability," Dr. Schwartz says. "Finding hormonal balance also boosts mental clarity, happiness, focus, and energy." Did we mention hormone balance can decrease acne, hair loss, night sweats, and hot flashes?

Here are Dr. Schwartz's top foods to fuel your hormone production. Hint: They all facilitate digestion and nutrient absorption in the gut, too.

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Dark leafy greens

These help fight inflammation and lower our cortisol levels, thus decreasing wear and tear on the body. Greens also boost our iron—in turn increasing energy levels—and act as a natural antioxidant.

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Omega-3 rich foods

We're talking walnuts, salmon, olive oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, and more. Omega-3s help decrease cholesterol, improve memory, elevate our mood, and decrease inflammation, in addition to protecting our cellular membranes.

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One of the best-known anti-inflammatory agents is also excellent at helping your body naturally achieve balanced hormone levels.

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Avocados contain beta-sitosterol, which naturally decreases the stress hormone, cortisol. They also naturally lower cholesterol levels.

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Coconut, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds

All of these contain MCT, or medium chain triglycerides. MCT improves blood sugar regulation and metabolism, and helps to regulate appetite.

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Alkaline water

This functional beverage is said to improve your body's alkalinity. The resulting higher pH levels in your gut mean less acid, which helps combat inflammation and support hormonal balance.

RELATED: 7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Eat Every Day

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