Hormones are the chemical messengers in your body that regulate processes such as digestion, detoxification and reproduction. Hormones that cause stress include cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine. Hormones that energize and elevate joy include dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin.
If your mood feels like a roller coaster lately, your hormone levels may be imbalanced. There are a variety of factors that influence hormones such as genetics, environment, sleep, exercise and diet. Diet is one of the factors that is easier to manage; a healthy stomach is a happy stomach!
When we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, we often reach for comfort food to lift our spirits. Treats and snacks that are high in sugar and saturated fat may provide a temporary mood boost, but can cause crashes and lethargy later. Chronic consumption of junk food can lead to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In contrast, anxiety can cause loss of appetite. Our digestive system works best with regular meals and snacks that include a combination of protein, fat, and complex carbs. This combination produces the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) in the gut. CCK improves digestion and increases the sensation of fullness (satiety). Leptin, also referred to as the “satiety” hormone, sends signals to your brain that you are full. Skipping meals can deplete CCK and leptin which can lead to even more mood swings and irritability.
Next time you’re feeling anxious, try reaching for a plant-based snack. Whether you’re vegan, sensitive to dairy or simply looking for alternative snack ideas, try these recipes to feel more balanced naturally.
1. Banana Nut Smoothie
This plant-based snack and smoothie is packed with nutrients and easily portable.
Unlike typical store-bought smoothies, this blend has tons of flavor without added sugar. The ingredients are high in fiber which will keep your blood sugar levels stable. Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Feel free to customize the ingredients and substitute fats and fibers to your taste. Choose any nut butter or coconut oil, hemp seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, avocado, or MCT oil. You can also use cashew milk, flax milk, coconut milk, etc.
Nuts and seeds can lower the risk of depression by increasing brain health. They also include tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin. Almonds in particular are excellent sources of zinc and selenium. Deficiency in these minerals has been associated with higher rates of depression.
Banana Nut Smoothie Recipe
- 1.5 cups almond milk
- 1/2 large banana
- 1 tbsp cashew butter
- 1 tbsp cacao powder
- 2 tbsp chia seeds or acacia fiber
- 2 handfuls spinach leaves (about 2 cups)
- Add all ingredients in a blender or food processor.
- Pour smoothie into cup and enjoy!
2. Blueberries & Cream
This yummy plant-based snack may feel more like a dessert, but it’s loaded with nutrients so go ahead and treat yourself!
Blueberries are a superfood with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They improve cognitive functions and neural response by protecting nerve cells from oxidative damage. The vitamin C in blueberries stimulates progesterone production, which influences reproduction and sleep cycles. Blueberries also contain anthocyanins, the pigment that gives certain berries their purple-blue color. A 2018 Study found that a diet rich in anthocyanins can lower the risk of depression symptoms.
Kale is a member of the brassica family and contains indole-3 carbinol, which is a powerful hormone balancer. I-3C helps eliminate excess estrogen and prevent estrogen dominance. Kale is full of B and C vitamins which help balance cortisol, counteract free-radical damage and reduce systemic inflammation. Kale also contains calcium which can reduce symptoms of PMS.
Blueberries & Cream Recipe
- 1/2 Cup Chilled Coconut Cream
- Handful of Fresh Blueberries
- 2 Large Kale Leaves with stems removed
- Put can of coconut cream in refrigerator overnight to chill.
- The next day, toss all ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend until the kale pieces are the size you desire.
- Serve in a bowl and top with extra berries
3. Coconut-Crusted Avocado Fries
When you’re in the mood for a more crunchy, salty plant-based snack, try these avocado fries instead of chips. They are a gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free way to add a little nutritional fun to your day.
Avocados are another superfood and are rich in healthy fats and fiber, plus contain over 20 vitamins and minerals. Avocados balance hormones by reducing estrogen absorption and boosting progesterone and testosterone levels. They are high in folate which can be beneficial for pregnant women. Folate prevents birth defects and promotes proper nerve function.
Avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol which can help balance the stress hormone cortisol. They also include zinc which regulates immune function and increases satisfaction by regulating the senses of smell and taste.
Coconut-Crusted Avocado Fries Recipe
- 1 large avocado
- ½ t onion powder
- 1 t garlic powder
- ½ t smoked paprika
- ¼ t black pepper
- 3 T arrowroot powder
- ½ T flaxseed, plus 1½ T water
- ¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- ½ T water
- Preheat oven to 400°F and place a rack on the middle shelf.
- Line a baking tray with aluminum foil or a non-stick reusable baking sheet and set aside.
- Add the flaxseed and 1½ tablespoon water to a bowl, mix together and place in a fridge.
- Slice the avocado in half, and remove the pit. Cut each half into 4 or 5 slices, and set aside.
- In a bowl, combine arrowroot powder and half of the seasonings (garlic, onion, smoked paprika and black pepper).
- Remove the flax and water mix from the fridge.
- In a second bowl, combine flax and water mixture with an extra ½ tablespoon water to make it more liquid.
- In a third bowl, combine the shredded coconut and the remaining half of the seasonings.
- Start with one avocado slice at a time. Dip an avocado slice in the arrowroot mix, then in the flaxseed mix, and then coat in the coconut mix.
- Place the coated avocado on the lined baking tray. Repeat this process for the remaining avocado slices.
- Bake in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes (this is dependent on your type of oven). Check after 5 minutes. If the coconut is very lightly golden in some places and the avocado slices don’t feel ‘soggy’, then they are ready. If not, cook for a few extra minutes and keep checking until cooked.
Balance Hormones with Supplements
Support your mental health and diet habits with natural supplements. Supplements offer a quick, easy way to absorb essential nutrients daily. Boost your immune system and your mood with the following options:
If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body doesn’t have time to detox both physically and mentally. Boost your moods with natural melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin helps regulate circadian rhythms and your body’s natural sleep cycle. Quality sleep can help you wake up feeling more joyful and energized.
5-HTP can support relaxation and help you feel more rested. The brain uses 5-HTP to produce serotonin, a calming hormone. Serotonin regulates sleep, appetite and temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. 5-HTP can balance serotonin levels by helping us feel more calm, focused and grounded.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active ingredient in cannabis derived from the hemp plant. It can help treat conditions like pain, insomnia, and anxiety by increasing serotonin levels.
If you’d like to declutter your mood and mind, find more clarity with Tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid that plays a critical role in dopamine production. Dopamine is also closely linked to memory. Tyrosine can improve mental alertness, attention and focus.