Lose weight and look and feel amazing by keeping these chemical messengers in check
When it comes to lifting your mood and losing weight, maintaining sky-high energy levels and low stress levels, keeping your hormones balanced, is the answer. Every moment of every day these chemical messengers are whizzing through your bloodstream, making their way to your organs to let them know the work that needs to be done.
Your body requires hormones in specific quantities in order to do their job effectively, and there are some key players that can dramatically affect your wellbeing. Firstly, there’s insulin, an important hormone which works by bringing blood glucose levels back to a safe range after you eat sugary or carbrich foods. When levels are unchecked you run a higher risk of problems like weight gain, type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. And when it comes to weight management, leptin and ghrelin are also firmly in the spotlight, as these two hormones regulate satiety levels and alert your brain to when you’re hungry.
Then there’s cortisol which is produced by the adrenal gland – a hormone which controls everyday functions such as your response and sleep pattern, as well as the condition of your skin. Plus, serotonin, which keeps you feeling happy, regulates sleep and staves off dreaded PMS-linked low mood. And of course, we couldn’t talk about hormones without mentioning one of the most crucial female hormones – oestrogen. This all-important hormone helps create the right environment for pregnancy, but it also protects organs like your brain and heart.
Like pretty much anything, when it comes to hormones, too much or too little can be bad news. All hormones are vital for wellbeing, and what’s super-important to remember is that they are all connected. If cortisol levels are out of sync, there will be a spike in blood glucose levels, which will affect insulin production. If oestrogen is out of balance it can have an impact on serotonin levels, and so on. This means that fine-tuning the interlinked system is the key to unlocking super health. Food forms the building blocks for hormones and, fortunately, one of the main ways you can help hormones stay on top of their game is by eating smart. Below I’ve outlined the best foods to stock up on to nudge your body in the right way.
Start the day with a bowl of oats to help keep the fat loss hormone insulin in check. Oats are high in fibre, which helps to promote steady blood sugar levels. Avoiding a rollercoaster of blood glucose peaks and troughs will help insulin to function efficiently, minimise the chances of overeating and prevent your body from storing excess fat.
Scientists have found a connection between low serotonin and depression, and it’s thought that increasing your levels of serotonin through dietary measures can make a big difference to how you feel. Bananas are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed for your body to make serotonin, so opt for the fibrous fruit as a snack time must-have.
Next time you’re feeling stressed out, load up on spinach. This leafy green is chock full of goodies such as magnesium and B vitamins – two calming nutrients which help to keep those all-important cortisol levels balanced.
Brightly coloured orange foods such as carrots are thought to help regulate oestrogen levels. Containing the plant-based source of vitamin A known as beta carotene, there is evidence that orangehued fruit and veg may help to protect against oestrogen-dominant chronic diseases such as breast cancer.
Keeping ghrelin (the hunger hormone) level and leptin (the satiety hormone) regulated comes down to nibbling on small meals around the clock and noshing on the right foods. Add wholegrain rice to your weekly shopping list, as this complex carbohydrate will keep you fuller for longer. The good news is that, once you’re full, leptin will send a message to your brain to signal satiety, which will help curb overeating and cravings.
Everyday tricks to keep haywire hormones in tip-top shape
1. Avoid plastic Plastic containers or drink bottles can contain a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) which releases xenoestrogens that can throw oestrogen levels off track. Look for plastic products that state they are BPA-free, or use glass or stainless steel containers as a safe alternative.
2. Exercise regularly Physical activity is essential to keep hormones balanced, and calming exercise like yoga, Pilates, swimming or hiking are good forms of exercise to recharge energy levels without over-taxing your body.
3. Breathe deeply Physical activity is essential to keep hormones balanced, and calming exercise such as yoga, Pilates, swimming or hiking are good forms of exercise to recharge energy levels without over-taxing your body.
4. Go natural Conventional toiletries and cleaning products contain a cocktail of chemicals that can disrupt regular hormone production. Choose fragrance and chemical-free cosmetics where possible, and use natural cleaners like bicarbonate of soda and vinegar as household cleaning agents.
5 Choose organic It may come with a more expensive price tag but pesticide-free produce helps to minimise exposure to chemicals which can act as oestrogen disruptors. Where organic isn’t a feasible choice, make sure to wash fruit and veg in a solution made from three parts water and one part vinegar to help remove pesticide residue.
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