Inflammatory foods are everywhere, from innocent-looking products labelled as ‘health foods’ on the supermarket shelves to the more obvious offenders like fast food and confectionery. While you may be well-versed on the dangers of inflammation when it comes to heart disease and diabetes, many remain unaware of the destabilising effect these foods can have on our hormones.
Hormonal imbalance is a massive health crisis, with an estimation of at least 80% of women affected by this condition. More concerningly, research has shown these imbalances can lead to the development of other diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Here are just a few of the many symptoms of hormonal imbalance:
- Stomach problems like constipation and diarrhoea.
- Fatigue and muscle pain.
- Hair loss.
- Weight gain or weight loss.
- Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
If this sounds like something you’re struggling with, there are steps you can take to regulate your system – and if you don’t have these symptoms, well, prevention is key, after all. Take a look at the foods most likely to send your hormones into overdrive, plus what to put on your plate instead.
Trans fats – officially trans-unsaturated fatty acids, are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to inflammation. The reason is simple – studies have shown these fats lead to a higher amount of what’s known as C-reactive protein, which is one of the major markers for inflammation.
You may be surprised at some of the foods you’ll often find trans fats in:
- Vegetable shortening.
- Cookies and cakes, especially those made commercially.
- Frozen foods like pizza.
- Fried foods.
What to do instead: Opt for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are heart-healthy fats found in foods like olive oil, nuts and nut butters, seeds and avocado.
These lesser-known chemicals are found in countless food products, from the supermarket shelves to fast food stores. Phthalates are made of plastic – unappetising, we know. But this ubiquitous ingredient is a popular choice for companies wanting to increase the pliability of foods, and sometimes it simply ends up in food by accident.
The problem is that these inflammatory chemicals wreak havoc on our hormones, with studies showing that long-term exposure negatively affects endocrine system, leading to issues with fertility, child development and reproductive function. Phthalates have been detected in fast foods, processed foods, and even some meat and bread products.
What to do instead: The best way to avoid this common ingredient is by going for whole foods – the fewer ingredients, the better. But the packaging can also get into food products, so take caution with plastic microwave packets. Keeping the fast food to a minimum is also a solid plan to keep these hormone-destroying phthalates out of your diet.
You probably already know fried foods aren’t the healthiest, but did you know that can throw your hormones out of whack? Common favourites like doughnuts, chips and fried chicken are all bursting with inflammatory properties. The culprit is the pairing of fat and carbohydrate content, which does a number on your blood sugar levels, leading to inflammation.
What to do instead: You can still eat your favourite foods, but by changing the cooking method you’ll not only be reducing inflammation, you’ll also be increasing the amount of nutrients you consume. This doesn’t mean you have to eat boiled food alone, roasting in the oven and air frying make for healthy alternatives to deep frying.
Sugar is the biggest offender on this list and is known to cause all manner of ill health – from obesity and diabetes to autoimmune diseases and liver failure. It’s found in most processed foods, including many of the so-called health foods like muesli bars and oatmeal sachets, along with the usual suspects like chocolate and ice cream. PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) is one condition where research shows a direct correlation to excess sugar intake, with a major contributor being insulin resistance caused by sugar.
What to do instead: We challenge you to cut out sugar and see how much better you feel.
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