Processed foods may be convenient and easy during busy times, but did you know they can affect your hormones? We are looking at why your hormones hate highly processed foods.
‘Ready to go’ food items such as microwave meals and on-the-go snacks foods all fall under the processed food umbrella. Not all processed foods are necessarily unhealthy (for example, readily chopped vegetables). But, many processed foods contain high salt and sugar levels which are linked with health concerns. That’s not all. These foods can also disrupt hormonal balance!
Tipping the balance
Throughout your cycle, hormone levels naturally fluctuate, but there are additional factors that can affect the balance. In this blog we’re pointing the finger at processed foods. Here’s what you need to know about why your hormones hate processed food:
It wouldn’t be a post about hormones if we didn’t mention the S word – sugar. But before we go on a rant about sugar, it’s important to note that there’s a difference. Our favourite Nutritional Therapist, Angelique Panagos, explains this perfectly: “There’s nothing wrong with ‘intrinsic sugars’, that is naturally occurring sugars in fruit and vegetables. The problem is ‘extrinsic sugar’, like those added to processed foods. It’s the sheer amount of the latter in our modern diets that’s such a health threat. Added sugars, like sucrose or fructose syrups, are in too many foods that we have regularly.”
So, what does this mean for your hormones? Well, sugar disrupts the insulin hormone which in turn can lead to other hormonal imbalances in the body, such as an estrogen imbalance. High insulin levels can also worsen symptoms if you suffer from PCOS
It’s therefore so important to keep your sugar levels in check. This will not only benefit hormones but overall health. A diet high in processed foods could lead to increased sugar levels, so it’s definitely one to watch out for.
Plastic and BPAs
Many processed foods are designed for convenience. This means they are often wrapped in plastic. This is no doubt bad for the environment, but can also be linked to health concerns. This again is another material that can affect your hormones.
BPA, found in many plastics, mimics the body’s hormone production which can interfere with the production, secretion, transport, action, function, and elimination of natural hormones. These plastic-packaged processed foods, therefore, increase your exposure to BPA. But that’s not all! These plastics can also have traces of phthalates. These are another EDC (endocrine disrupting chemical), which can disrupt a number of hormones in the body. There is very little research on phthalates, but when it comes to BPA, recent findings have led to this being more closely regulated in the EU.
Other artificial additives
Many processed foods contain artificial ingredients to ‘improve’ the overall product (look and taste). Artificial additives include colouring, artificial flavours and preservatives. These are linked to hormone disruption and hormone-mimicking. Alongside known additives, there are some artificial additives that creep into foods during the production process. Whilst this is not limited to processed foods, many GMO ingredients find their way into processed snacks. GMOs are linked to estrogen imbalance and several health concerns.
How can you reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet?
Now, if you’re sat there worrying that you’ve been sending your hormones into despair then the good news is you can take control. As mentioned above, not all processed foods are bad. Minimally processed foods such as pre-cut fruits/veg, canned tuna, chopped tomatoes and frozen fruit/veg still contain nutritional goodness. To get started, focus on reducing the overly processed foods. This includes ready meals, grab and go snacks (crisps, cake bars etc), instant foods (soups, noodles), sugary sodas/drinks and pre-packaged bread.
Generally, always look for fresh alternatives (bonus if they do not have plastic packaging), cook recipes from scratch using fresh ingredients and shop organic where you can.
Simple swaps include trading a morning cereal bar fix with fresh fruit or berries, replacing sodas with water or herbal teas and switching processed grains for whole grains. To break the need for convenience foods, it’s also a clever idea to plan meals in advance. Make a weekly plan, buy ingredients in fresh and prepare at home in advance.
And there you have it! Leave us a comment below if you have some extra tips to share on this topic. For more nutritional tips, check out this blog in collab with Angelique Panagos talking about nutrients that can ease cramps.
Photo cred: Courtney Prather