You had to know as a nutritionist that I was going to get here eventually. After all, food is the number one contributor to health. It will either heal you or make you sick.
Last week I spoke a fair bit about nutrition for PCOS and I got a little ahead of myself. Since one of the contributing factors to PCOS is high levels of testosterone, it makes sense that the same guidelines apply to androgens overall.
Let’s dive a little deeper.
What NOT to eat:
- Dairy – dairy increases mucous and inflammation, neither of which you want.
- Sugar – sugar contributes to a weakened immune system, spikes your insulin and taxes your pancreas.
- Caffeine – I know … it’s one of the last things you wanted to hear but caffeine (mostly coffee and this includes espresso unfortunately) is inflammatory and we want to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a major contributor to most disease, especially arthritis, diverticulitis and anything else that ends in “itis”.
- Alcohol – please don’t hate me. I don’t make up the rules … I just do my best to follow them and pass them along. Does this mean you can never have alcohol again? Probably not, unless of course you have issues with it. For most of us, we can indulge in a glass or two of wine once in a while. I don’t recommend beer unless it’s gluten free (there are actually some pretty good ones out there) because of the inflammation factor. Red wine is probably your safest bet, will do the least amount of damage and does have some benefits to it.
- Vegetable oils. Most of these oils are very high in Omega 6, which again is inflammatory. Does that mean that Omega 6 is bad for you? No, but the average diet is far too high in Omega 6 and far too low in Omega 3. The ideal ratio is 1:1 but the average diet is approximately 15:1, which is very unhealthy.
You’re likely saying “Ok Sandy, you’ve taken away all my fun. Sugar, coffee, alcohol, even my ice cream. So what am I supposed to eat?” I shall tell you.
What TO eat:
- High fibre foods. Vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes. These will all help to keep things moving. When your digestive system is healthy and you’re not constipated, hormones will stay more balanced because your body eliminates excess hormones through bowel movements.
- Foods low on the glycemic index such as vegetables, protein sources and some fruit. Berries and apples are some of the lowest.
- Protein in the form of grass-fed beef, chicken, free run eggs. If you’re vegetarian or vegan (and even if you’re not), there’s quinoa, beans and legumes, rice and peas. It’s a little trickier to get sufficient protein because you need to know how to combine foods properly. Unfortunately a lot of vegetarians and even some vegans eat far too many carbs (including the unhealthy ones) in order to get enough food to satiate themselves. They ignore proper food combining rules.
- Spearmint tea. I know it might seem a little odd, but it’s been shown that spearmint tea actually reduces the amount of androgens in your body, which is a really good thing if they’re too high. Men … and women who compete in bodybuilding … will not want to drink spearmint tea. Peppermint is a good thing to stay away from as well.
- Long grain brown rice is low in fat and high in fibre, both of which reduce testosterone levels.
- Organic soy. I’m not a fan of soy products. Soy is one of the biggest GMO crops so you need to be careful to purchase organic soy and preferably fermented soy. What is fermented soy? Tempeh. It has a neutral flavor and is totally adaptable. I would suggest restricting your soy intake to once or twice a week maximum. Too much soy can increase estrogen levels and send them out of balance and then you have other issues.
- Lima beans contain the phytoestrogenic fibre inositol which lowers testosterone.
- Ground flaxseeds are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and fibre. Just be sure to either grind the seeds just prior to consuming or store ground seeds in an airtight container in the freezer. Flaxseeds go rancid very easily and quickly. You can add ground flaxseed to smoothies, soups, yogurt or cereal.
- Pumpkin seeds. High in zinc, which helps lower androgen levels. Other foods that are high in zinc are green beans and sesame seeds.
- Yes … I know … water, water, water. Everybody is preaching water. But here’s the thing. There’s a reason why everyone preaches water consumption. Water has numerous benefits, among which are elimination of waste, keeping your skin clear and youthful and keeping your brain functioning well. And I don’t mean the water that’s in your juice, your coffee and your food. I’m talking about clean, filtered water. The average person should be consuming approximately 2L a day. Do you find water too bland? Put some fruit or vegetables in it. Cucumbers, berries, lemon and/or lime are my favourite.
As you can see, there are plenty of tasty, flavourful foods you can eat while trying to lower androgen levels. A healthy, anti-inflammatory diet full of vegetables, a little fruit, lean protein and non-glutinous grains will help balance your hormones and stabilize your weight.
I made the change five years ago from a high fat, very high carbohydrate and sugar diet full of processed and fast foods. It did take a bit of getting used to but now I think nothing of it and my food has flavor, nutrients and variety.
I encourage you to make these changes for one month and see how you feel. You can reduce unhealthy foods a little at a time or go cold turkey like I did. Ultimately it depends on your relationship with food and whether you will stick with a drastic change or not.
Next week I’ll discuss what supplements can help you to reduce androgens (predominantly testosterone). Until then, have a fabulous week.