What we eat every day has a direct impact on our hormones. Normally, a healthy lifestyle a healthy diet will optimize the body’s hormones and balance them out naturally, but due to stress, health factors, ages in life, or genetics, sometimes our hormones can still become imbalanced. When this occurs, the body undergoes excessive amounts of internal stress that causes certain hormones such as cortisol, insulin, and adrenaline to operate at unhealthy levels.
Cortisol is your fight or flight hormone that increases when your blood sugar drops and the body senses panic, or when you’re in an actual state of panic. It can also increase from too much caffeine and certain prescription drugs. Insulin increases when your blood sugar is too high because the cells can’t efficiently use insulin from your food and the excess ends up in the bloodstream. This can cause everything from stress to fatigue shortly after, increased cravings (because the cells can’t use the sugars) and weight gain. Adrenaline is excreted from the adrenal glands and is also pumped out when the body is in stress mode. If they consistently do this, you may suffer adrenal fatigue or burnout, which can lead to multiple different health issues such as fatigue, digestion problems, insomnia, heart problems, and a poor ability to manage stress.
While all of this sounds incredibly complicated, the important take away is that you can greatly optimize your hormones and even heal hormonal imbalances all by what you eat each day. Different foods create a different effect in the body; this is a principle of Ayurveda that many people live by—and benefit from— today. Foods can heal or destruct depending on what we choose to eat. Certain foods also create a different affect whether eaten cooked or raw, especially root veggies.
Nature’s Best Foods to Bring Balance and How
When we hear the term “root vegetables” we should immediately think of grounding properties. Sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, potatoes, parsnips, daikon radishes, red radishes, jicama, turnips, gourds (butternut squash, pumpkin, and other winter squash types) and other root veggies are strongly rooted in the soil, which is believed to help ground us as a result. The way a food grows can actually greatly affect us. Though it’s a typical belief in Ayurveda and macrobiotics, it’s very true when you consider how you feel when you eat certain foods and how they grow.
For example, consider how fruits that grow from trees in the birth of spring bring us a renewed sense of energy, and how starchy veggies are eaten in the winter to provide comfort and warmth. Root vegetables have a grounding nature to us that is passed on when we eat them. When we’re overly stress, they are especially healing and balancing to the body. But you won’t get this same effect when they’re eaten raw; they must be cooked to experience the full effect. Cooking foods brings rest to the body while raw foods bring energy. Though we need energy during the day, someone who is overly stressed and whose hormones are out of balance will need help with relaxation. Your diet can greatly affect your ability to rest, relax, and manage stress.
Take a look at these hormonal benefits of cooked root vegetables to to see how they can help you:
Magnesium helps relax the nervous system which reduces stress hormones and can help the body rest while providing a balanced focus, energy, and sense of peace. Root vegetables are abundant in magnesium and though not as high as many other foods (nuts, seeds, beans), they still contain large amounts. They’re also very easy to digest, therefore the body can possibly use them better than foods it can’t digest as easily. Magnesium doesn’t increase whether eaten cooked or raw, but when the body can break down nutrients more easily, you’ll also absorb them more easily. Try eating your root vegetables with some leafy greens to include additional magnesium and other hormonal benefits.
Vitamin C also helps the body fight stress on all levels. It cares for your immune system by fighting harmful invaders that enter the body, but it also helps the mind fight stress from excessive stress hormones as well. It even helps your muscles fight stress to assist with workout recovery. Vitamin C is abundant in all root vegetables and very easy for the body to use since it’s a water soluble vitamin. Cooking your vegetables will not deplete the vitamin C; some vegetables nutrient content even increases when cooking with root veggies being one of those.
Potassium is rich in blood pressure benefits. It reduces high blood pressure that can occur after high amounts of stress; it also works with magnesium to regulate heart beat for healthy blood pressure function too. This results in balanced hormones that make you feel even keel, reducing the state of internal panic and anxiety in the body. Root vegetables are some of the highest sources of potassium in the veggie kingdom, so enjoy them and feel the tension melt away!
Complex Carbs and Serotonin
Complex carbs produce serotonin in the body, the happy hormone that our body uses to lower stress. Be sure not to confuse complex carbs with refined carbs or quick sources of sugar; they are very different in terms of their effects on the body’s stress hormones. Sugar increases stress hormones, despite causing an initial (very short-lived) relaxed feeling. Complex carbs from whole foods (such as carrots, beets, sweet potatoes and even oats and quinoa) help lower stress hormones by producing serotonin without a sugar rush or insulin fatigue experienced by sweets. Root vegetables are some of the most healthy complex carbs you can eat, especially if you suffer digestion problems and don’t tolerate whole grains or pseudograins.
Lastly, cooked root vegetables provide the ultimate healthy comfort food dish; they can be such a treat at the end of a long day! They also help you sleep soundly without waking up, can optimize your mood the next morning, and you’ll notice a sustained energy the next day versus a tired feeling when you eat sweets and unhealthy comfort foods. Comfort food is meant to bring comfort and balance the body, and root vegetables are the best foods to bring that balance when you need it the most.
They Counteract Harmful Estrogens
Estrogen overload can also increase internal stress load in the body. Carrots, beets, and other root vegetables also help excrete excess estrogens from our body that we encounter through animal foods with added hormones, the environment, or we because we are naturally prone to estrogen dominance. At the same time, these vegetables also support testosterone production in the body, which makes them a top food for athletes, men, or those looking to increase their energy, sense of focus, and drive (which testosterone does naturally). If you suffer estrogen dominance, emphasize root vegetables over all other sources of carbs to see how they can benefit you.
Remember, nature gave us grounding foods such as root vegetables for a reason … to ground us when we need a little healing and balance. Let’s use them to our full advantage; they’re easy to cook with and truly taste delicious!
Lead Image Source: Flickr