Insulin and glucagon are two hormones in your body that are responsible for regulating your blood sugar levels. Insulin lowers your blood sugar whereas glucagon raises it. These hormones need to be balanced in order to maintain normal blood sugar levels and that’s where your food comes in. The most important part of the endocrine system for regulating blood sugar is the pancreas, which is also part of the digestive system, so you need to eat foods that balance hormones. Meals that include foods that are rich in Protein, good fats, and fiber are important for the regulation of blood glucose.
Protein can keep your blood sugar levels stable because it doesn’t affect them significantly. However, protein has been observed to induce fast gluconeogenesis, which is the production of glucose from sources other than carbohydrates, in people who have an insulin deficiency. (2) That’s why replacing carbohydrates with protein will not necessarily protect you from a blood sugar spike. In fact, some whole foods are rich in protein and carbohydrates and they won’t spike your blood sugar.
Proteins Manufacture Hormones
When you eat foods that contain protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids which are used by the various systems in your body including the endocrine system which uses amino acids to produce hormones.
Good Sources Of Protein
Protein should cover about 10% of your daily calories, which is about 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. (5)
Beans are packed with protein and they have 13 different types of protein. (4) Beans are very diverse and you can use them to make spreads and dips and even burgers.
Lentils are a valuable source of protein as 100 grams of uncooked lentils have about 20 to 30 grams of protein. Lentils are also full of antioxidants as well as minerals, vitamins, and amino acids that are essential for human nutrition. (6) Lentils are easy to add to many foods such as omelet, salad, soup, as well as burritos, tacos, and chili.
Spirulina is dried and powdered seaweed and you can find it in compact form such as pills or plain powder. Just one tablespoon of spirulina has 4 grams of protein, not to mention 40 grams of vitamin A and 95 grams of potassium. (8)
A diet that is high in processed and junk foods that contain unhealthy fats can contribute to insulin resistance, which happens when cells can’t respond to insulin. (2) A study measured the effects of a diet in which 1,703 participants ate as many whole foods with a low-fat content as they wanted for 7 days. Just by eating healthy sources of fat, the blood glucose and blood pressure of all participants was decreased in only one week. (3)
Hormones From Healthy Fat Let You Know When You’re Full
The fat you consume ends up in the adipose tissue and is kept there for storage. As part of the endocrine system, the adipose tissue creates, releases, and controls hormones such as leptin, the hormone that tells you when you are full and warns you to stop eating. (1)
Good Sources Of Fat
One avocado has about 29 grams of fat, which seems to be a lot, but it has absolutely no trans fat or cholesterol, almost no sugar, and very little sodium. (7) You can replace any fatty products such as mayo or butter with it, and it makes any food tasty, creamy, and filling.
Nuts And Nut Butters
Nuts are usually high-fat foods, but don’t let that discourage you from eating them. Cashews, for example, have tons of minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium and, like any other healthy source of fat, they are very low on sugar and sodium, and have no cholesterol. (9) Add some nuts in your oatmeal or salad and spread a tablespoon of nut butter on your toast. Make sure to buy natural nut butter with no added ingredients.
One tablespoon of ground flax seeds has 3 grams of fat, so it’s not as fatty as avocados or nuts, and it’s packed with minerals and very necessary omega-3 fatty acids. (10) Ground flax mixes very well with food so you can sprinkle it on every meal, although 1 to 2 tablespoons is enough.
Your glucose and insulin levels can spike after a meal, but eating foods rich in fiber can prevent these spikes. Fiber is digested more slowly than other nutrients, so it takes time to completely empty your stomach, which delays the absorption of glucose. (13)
Fiber Clears Excess Hormones
Fiber helps the body clear excess hormones, especially sex hormones. A study found that postmenopausal women who follow a high-fiber diet have lower levels of the hormone estradiol, a form of estrogen, in the blood. (Wayne)
Good Sources Of Fiber
Just one cup of raw green split peas has 50 grams of fiber. Green split peas are also bursting with potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamins A and K. Split peas are great in soups, and you can add them in lighter foods like salads to make them more filling. (11)
When you buy grains or grain products such as flour or pasta, always opt out for whole and brown grains and avoid white grains such as white rice or white pasta. The more refined and processed food is, the more of its natural fiber is stripped away.
Fruit is the fastest and easiest way to get fiber. You can get 24.5 grams of fiber from a cup of passion fruit, 13.5 grams from one avocado, and 8 grams from a cup of raspberries.
Food is very important for balancing your hormones, but remember that physical activity, mental health, and lifestyle also play a huge role.
(1) Coelho, M., Oliveira, T., & Fernandes, R. (2013). Biochemistry of adipose tissue: an endocrine organ, Archives of Medical Science, 9(2), 191–200.
(2) Franz, M. J. (1997). Protein: metabolism and effect on blood glucose levels. The Diabetes Educator, 23(6), 643-646, 648, 650-651.
(3) McDougall, J., Thomas, L., McDougall, C., Moloney, G., Saul, B., Finnell, J. S., & Petersen, K. M. (2014). Effects of 7 days on an ad libitum low-fat vegan diet: the McDougall Program cohort. Nutrition Journal, 13(99).
(4) Mojica, L., & de Mejía, E. G. (2015). Characterization and Comparison of Protein and Peptide Profiles and their Biological Activities of Improved Common Bean Cultivars (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) from Mexico and Brazil. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 70(2), 105-112.
(5) Tomovich Jacobsen, M. (2016). Protein: Are You Getting Enough?
(6) Urbano, G., Porres, J. M., Frías, J., & Vidal-Valverde, C. (2007). Nutritional Value. In S. S. Yadav, D. McNeil, S. C. Philip. (Eds.), Lentil.
(7) United States Department of Agriculture. (2016). Basic Report: 09037, Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties.
(8) United States Department of Agriculture. (2016). Basic Report: 11667, Seaweed, spirulina, dried.
(9) United States Department of Agriculture. (2016). Basic Report: 12087, Nuts, cashew nuts, raw.
(10) United States Department of Agriculture. (2016). Basic Report: 12220, Seeds, flaxseed.
(11) United States Department of Agriculture. (2016). Basic Report: 16085, Peas, green, split, mature seeds, raw.
(12) Wayne, S. J., Neuhouser, M. L., Ulrich, C. M., Koprowski, C., Baumgartner, K. B., Richard N., . . . Ballard-Barbash, R. (2008). Dietary fiber is associated with serum sex hormones and insulin-related peptides in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 112(1), 149–158.
(13) Yu, K., Ke, M. Y., Li, W. H., Zhang, S. Q., & Fang, X. C. (2014). The impact of soluble dietary fibre on gastric emptying, postprandial blood glucose and insulin in patients with type 2 diabetes. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 23(2), 210-218.