Traditional Thanksgiving meals may be tasty and comforting, but may trigger hormone fluctuations that leave us feeling tired, stressed and moody. For those with diabetes, hypoglycemia, gluten sensitivity or hormone imbalances, the feast can affect health significantly. Discover how to have a more hormone-balanced Thanksgiving that is equally delicious and nutritious for everyone.
How Thanksgiving Dishes Affect Hormones
While indulging in buttery mashed potatoes, fluffy stuffing, thick gravy and rich pumpkin pie may feel satisfying in the moment, loading up on refined carbohydrates and sugars can have consequences later. Dense carbs can cause inflammation and blood sugar levels to spike.
Because cortisol (the stress hormone) helps maintain blood sugar levels, significantly increasing sugar can throw off cortisol levels. Eating too many sweets during the holidays can cause the body to go into fight-or-flight mode more frequently.
Eating too much sugar can also trigger serotonin production which is the feel good hormone. New York dietician, Leah Kaufman, says “The serotonin then activates the reward system in the brain, which tells you, ‘This tastes awesome, I’d like some more’ when you eat something delicious. This explains why it’s so hard to say no to Turkey Day seconds.”
The feast may feel good at the time, but after a few days of leftovers, hormone levels can become extremely out of whack. Indulging in too much comfort food can actually cause a vicious cycle that increases irritability and stress.
3 Tips for a More Hormone-Balanced Thanksgiving
By being more mindful of how food affects the endocrine system, we can make a few simple adjustments that increase energy and balance hormones.
1. Eat a Balanced Breakfast
Many may choose to skip breakfast on Thanksgiving in order to leave room for the feast. However, eating a healthy breakfast can actually make the turkey dinner more enjoyable. Breakfast sets the metabolic tone for the day and therefore regulates hormone levels for meals later.
Eating protein, healthy fats and antioxidant-rich food in the morning can prevent blood sugar from dropping early and then rising dramatically at dinner. Try eating one or two of the following for a balanced breakfast.
- Avocado egg toast
- Greek yogurt and blueberries
- Kale smoothie with chia or flax seeds
- Oatmeal with bananas or nuts
2. Eat the Rainbow
Thanksgiving dishes are often heavy in carbs and white, orange or yellow in color. According to the Rainbow Diet, the more balanced a meal’s color scheme, the more nutrients it’s likely to have. If your plate is mostly warm tones, then your dinner might not be properly hormone balanced. A good rule of thumb is to pair different colored foods together.
Try to incorporate a balance of naturally red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple foods into your Thanksgiving meal. If you have a lot of yellow starchy foods, balance your plate with leafy green vegetables. Keep in mind that rainbow-decorated cookies don’t count! Artificial coloring from food dyes does not apply!
3. Savor Every Bite
If you avoid eating before the Thanksgiving feast, you may be more likely to devour the meal quickly due to hunger. “Once you start chewing the first bite of food, the stomach immediately begins to expand because it knows more food is on the way that will need to be digested.” says Kaufman.
“This prompts more digestive enzymes to release from the stomach, pancreas, and the intestine. Insulin, the hormone that helps glucose move from the blood into the cells, is also released when you begin to nosh and sugar from the food enters the bloodstream. This subsequently triggers a release of the hormone, leptin, which helps the brain register that we’re eating, and allows for more insulin secretion.
When you start feeling full, sensory nerves in the stomach and appetite-controlling hormones like ghrelin activate the satiety centers of the brain, telling you you’ve eaten enough. However, those signals are easy to ignore if others around you are still munching away or the spread looks particularly appealing.” says Kaufman.
If you eat super quickly, your brain may not get the signal that you’re full until it’s too late. Try to chew your food slowly so your stomach has time to catch up. Taking time to savor every flavor will create a more satisfying culinary experience and a more hormone-balanced Thanksgiving.
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