In addition to controlling things like appetite and weight, our hormones play a pivotal role in the aging process. But as functional medicine doctor Taz Bhatia, MD, explains on MindBodyGreen, "our capacity and understanding of how to slow the aging process and harness our chemistry has left us with an opportunity to live vital and active lives far past those of our ancestors," she writes.
More specifically, by understanding the five hormones that influence aging, we can lead healthier, more balanced lives. "After seeing more than 12,000 patients, I've come to the conclusion that … each of these hormones works together in a delicate symphony, balancing energy, mood, weight, and more." Read up on the five hormones that influence aging and what you can eat to balance them.
Bhatia describes estrogen as the "beauty hormone," as it influences our skin, hair, breast tenderness, and bones. "Too little estrogen, and then our hair falls out, our bones become weak, and our skin loses elasticity," she writes. "Maintaining estrogen levels in balance is an anti-aging strategy that works."
What to eat to balance estrogen: Foods high in healthy fats, like avocados, ghee, or nut butters.
Known as the "brain hormone," progesterone keeps our minds sharp and helps us get restful sleep. "So many women suffer from restless sleep or trouble focusing without realizing that unbalanced progesterone may be at the root," she explains. If you find yourself exhausted around your period, you may have low progesterone.
What to eat to balance progesterone: Foods high in magnesium like pumpkin seeds and black beans.
Insulin influences weight and can give rise to the belly fat commonly associated with aging. "As our metabolism slows, insulin gets more stubborn, requiring fewer calories and more help with the digestive process," she explains.
What to eat to balance insulin: Take it easy on the sugars, refined carbs, and salt; they all play a role in weight gain and belly fat.
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, can "accelerate aging faster than any of the hormones listed so far," she explains. This is because the large swings in cortisol that accompany stress or anxiety can put the body into "inflammatory mode." "Inflammation then becomes the trigger for so many different diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune illnesses," she explains.
What to eat to balance cortisol: Healthy fats, lean protein, and leafy greens rich in vitamin B and iron keep your energy balanced; avoid excess caffeine and sugar.
"Your thyroid controls your metabolic rate, hair, skin, and mood," she explains. Needless to say, shifts in this hormone can wreak havoc in multiple areas. "Monitoring thyroid levels a few times a year and finding the right level for you is key."
What to eat to balance your thyroid: Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which protects the thyroid glands. Add in iron-rich red meat once or twice a week to balance an underactive thyroid.