Here’s the Skinny:
You Need Fat for Hormone Health
Ah, remember the 90s? Everyone wore Doc Martens and baby tees, and ate fat free to be healthy. While 90s apparel is definitely making a comeback, gone are the days of noshing Snackwells and Special K by the boxful. What we have a better grasp on today is that fats are good for overall health and are essential to healthy hormone balance for women. Here is a look at the best fats for your hormones, where to get them, and why.
Know Your Omegas:
Omega 3 and Omega 6 are essential fats that humans require because our bodies do not produce them so we need to supply them from diet. Omegas are different from other fats because they are not simply used for energy, they are bioactive agents that impact immune response and circulation.
Although we need them both, it’s best to maximize Omega 3 oils and keep an eye out to not have too much Omega 6 oils. Omega 3 oils are your friendly anti-inflammatory fats that come from sources such as coconut oil, walnuts, flax seeds, olive oil, and oily fish. Small amounts of Omega 6 oils are beneficial, however, because these oils are all too common in the western diet, it’s smart to limit these fats as much as possible: soybean oil, canola oil, vegetable oils, peanut oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, margarine, shortening. An easy way to avoid Omega 6 oils is to limit processed and fried foods and opt for more whole foods.
Omega 3s are of particular interest in the realm of women’s health. For example, Omega 3’s anti-inflammatory action as well as it’s positive effect on blood flow has shown to have some benefits to dysmenorrhea or painful periods. In fact, the promise of Omega 3’s is so powerful, supplementation has been linked to preventing conditions such as preeclampsia, postpartum depression, menopausal problems, postmenopausal osteoporosis, and breast cancer.
Vitamins A, D, E, are fat soluble micronutrients. This means they need to be ingested with fat in order to be transported and absorbed into tissues. Think of fat as the delivery and storage system for these key nutrients. In other words, a diet that includes healthy fats helps to maintain adequate levels of A, D, E, each of which play an important role in hormone balance.
Vitamin D is profoundly important to hormone health - in fact, it IS a hormone as well as a nutrient. The body requires Vitamin D and cholesterol, another form of fat, for hormone synthesis. Also, vitamin D is essential for insulin control and thyroid function.
Vitamin A is used to metabolize iodine which nourishes the thyroid. Vitamin A is used throughout the body for cell differentiation which allows the immune cells and hormones to interact without interference.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps to diffuse harmful free radicals and protect healthy cells. Also, Tocopherols, derivatives of vitamin E, are known to interact with estrogen receptors and may play a role in estrogen modulation.
There is an undeniable connection between hormone health and inflammation. After all, there is a lot of overlap in the mechanisms of action of hormonal/endocrine response and immunological response. Inflammation can often lead to hormonal imbalances, or vice versa. Therefore it is critically important to incorporate lifestyle elements, such as a diet that includes healthy fats, that supports hormone balance and discourage inflammation to be the healthiest version of yourself and look and feel your best.