As you navigate your fertility journey, you’ll undoubtedly come across a lot of advice to make changes to your diet. While diet is not the only aspect of your lifestyle that can impact fertility (exercise, sleep, and stress are important too), evidence does suggest that making small changes to what and how you eat can have a big impact on your hormone balance. This blog is Part 2 of a two part series about hormone balance and fertility. In Part 1, we discussed healthy fats and how important it is to regularly incorporate them into your diet. Today, we’ll discuss balance, variety, and meal timing, and how to easily incorporate new foods into your existing meal plan.
Tips for Your Hormone Balancing Diet
Insulin, blood sugar, and meal timing
Some conditions contributing to infertility like PCOS are tied to insulin resistance and blood sugar. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with PCOS, diabetes, or high blood sugar, your body and hormones will likely benefit from some of the recommendations below:
Eat regular meals, consistently.
The best way to manage blood sugar and insulin is to time meals so they occur every 3-4 hours throughout the day. This typically means eating 3 meals plus 1-2 snacks per day. Eating regularly prevents hormone swings which can cause undue stress on your body in the long term.
Balanced meals, balanced hormones.
Eating meals that incorporate all the macronutrients– fats, proteins, and carbohydrates– will not only ensure you’re consuming enough energy to properly fuel your body, but will also help regulate blood sugar and keep hormone swings in check. The REBEL plate is a great jumping off point for preparing balanced meals throughout the day.
More fiber from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables contain a lot of fiber, which not only helps with digestion and lower cholesterol, but also helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils are packed with fiber and protein and can easily help round out a balanced meal.
Recipes for Your Hormone Balancing Diet
Planning balanced meals doesn’t have to be complicated, time consuming, or expensive. In fact, some of our favorite balanced meals can be made in one pot or on a single sheet pan. Try adding some of these easy, balanced meal recipes into your rotation:
Our NOURISHED: 10 Ingredients to Happy Healthy Eating is also a great resource for meal planning with a variety of healthy ingredients that you can switch up week to week– so you can eat more foods, more delicious ways.
Micronutrients matter too
When you’re eating regular, balanced meals, you’re also ensuring that you’re getting important micronutrients like Vitamin C, E, zinc, and folic acid, each of which has been shown to be beneficial for hormone balance and fertility. Many foods that you may already be familiar with make great additions to your diet when trying to get pregnant. Consider the following:
Vitamin C Foods:
- Oranges, kiwi, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, snow peas, kale
Vitamin E Foods:
- Vegetable oils, peanuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli, fortified breakfast cereals
- Oysters, beans, lentils, pumpkin seeds, cashews, asparagus
Folic Acid Foods:
- Beans, peas, lentils, eggs, spinach, arugula, beets, nuts, seeds, citrus fruits
As is evident from the list above, some of the most micronutrient dense foods are ones that you may already be eating as a part of a varied and balanced diet that incorporates lots of healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Taking a vitamin, specifically a prenatal (like this one from Theralogix, for example), can help you reach your micronutrient goals as well. Always consult your healthcare provider prior to taking any new vitamin, mineral, or supplement.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the details
Perhaps the most important part of all is keeping your diet stress free. Eating should be a tasty, peaceful, and enjoyable experience, especially when you’re trying to get pregnant. That said, a hormone balancing diet shouldn’t feel like a diet at all. You shouldn’t stop eating your favorite foods in favor of eating exclusively the foods mentioned here, nor should you waste precious time and energy poring over every ingredient on a food label or lamenting over the occasional missed meal.
We discuss the idea of intuitive eating with many of our mamas-to-be because it can be so beneficial to their fertility journey. Intuitive eating may be useful for women who feel out of touch with their natural hunger and fullness cues and who feel overwhelmed by the idea of eating regular meals. Intuitive eating may make the idea of gentle nutrition and incorporating more foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables feel less daunting. Intuitive eating may also be useful for women who hope to achieve their natural, healthiest weight that supports ovulation without dieting, restricting, or bingeing.
Our dietitians are here to help you through this journey. We recognize that fertility and hormone balancing looks different for every woman, and that no diet is one-size-fits-all. We want to help you incorporate dietary changes that make sense for you and your life with the goal of pregnancy in mind. We’re also here to help you determine if intuitive eating is right for you and your journey, and, if it is, here to help you take the first steps.
Kristin Jenkins, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Kristin specializes in eating disorders and intuitive eating, and is an advocate for weight-inclusive care for all her clients.