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6 Hormone Hacks That Support Healthy Aging

What to eat to keep levels balanced

Hormone Hacks

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Doctors suggest avoiding caffeine, sugar, alcohol and highly processed foods for healthy aging.

Before you order that bacon cheeseburger, you should know that what you eat can support (or sabotage) hormone balance and healthy aging. In both men and women, five hormones play a role in cognition, memory, sex drive, mood, bone health, sleep quality, skin tone, weight — even how often we have to pee, says Tasneem Bhatia, a doctor of integrative medicine and the author of the new book Super Woman Rx.

A sixth hormone, progesterone, is key to quality of life in women as they age. Bhatia shares some new ways to think about hormones and healthy choices in the chart below.

Jody Dushay, an endocrinologist at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, told us which foods to leave on the shelf in order to support hormone balance. Avoid caffeine, sugar, alcohol, highly processed foods and those with ingredients you don’t recognize. Pass up the snack cake, white rice and white bread. Most important, she says, don’t self-medicate with nonprescription hormone supplements you might see in stores or on the internet without checking in with your doc.

Hormone

Think of it as…

Impact on Aging

Eat this to help keep levels balanced

Estrogen

The beauty hormone

Supple skin, hair thickness and shine, reproductive health (in women) all depend on balanced levels.

You need healthy fat to manufacture this hormone. Opt for coconut oil, olive oil or ghee. Sweet potatoes and avocados are other great menu choices.

Progesterone

The brain hormone

In proper balance, supports sleep, cognition energy and mood in women.

Pumpkin seeds, black beans.

Testosterone

The mojo and muscle hormone

In both men and women, plays a function in mood stability, sexual performance, mental sharpness.

Reach for foods high in zinc. Try pumpkin seeds, oysters, nuts, lean meat, chicken.

Thyroid Hormones (including TSH, T4, T3)

The energy hormone

Metabolism, mood and weight.

Brazil nuts and other sources of selenium, red meat and other sources of iron. For iodine: seaweeds such as nori or kelp, iodized salt or Himalayan pink salt.

Insulin

The metabolism and weight hormone

We become more resistant as we age, meaning insulin levels spike. That’s linked to high blood pressure, some cancers, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Limit your daily fruit intake to a serving or two. Load up on fresh veggies. Choose protein-rich snacks such as nut butters. Cook with healthy fats. (See "Estrogen.") Choose quality carbs such as sweet potatoes.

Cortisol

The stress hormone

Chronic cortisol spikes, due to prolonged stress, trigger an inflammatory response. Inflammation is linked to diabetes, cancer and other diseases.

B-vitamin-rich whole grains such as oatmeal and quinoa are calming to the nervous system, as is chamomile tea.

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