Think of hormones as chemical messengers carrying information through your bloodstream to all the necessary recipients: the brain, ovaries and gonads, thyroid, bones, adrenals, even the intestines and liver where hormones are tagged for elimination. The endocrine system is a beautifully complex configuration that, when properly maintained, keeps our bodies running efficiently, on-time and with energy. If hormones are out of balance and we’re tired or irritable, we want to assist the messenger, not to shoot the messenger.
For many women, years of birth control pills have denied the body its natural capacity to generate, metabolize and balance hormones, all the while depleting the body of its supply of B vitamins and other nutrients. How can we influence healthy hormones every day and love doing it? Nay, not with pills or pharmaceuticals, but with hormonious greens of course (I just made up a new word!). Cruciferous vegetables, the Brassica family are widely researched for anti-cancer affects, antioxidant, detoxification, hormone regulation, depression and pain relief, insulin resistance, and brain and heart protection!
From the Mayo Clinic
Whole foods offer three main benefits over dietary supplements:
- Greater nutrition. Whole foods are complex, containing a variety of the micronutrients your body needs.
- Essential fiber. Whole foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, provide dietary fiber. As part of a healthy diet, fiber can help prevent certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and it can also help manage constipation.
- Protective substances. Many whole foods are also good sources of antioxidants — substances that slow down a natural process leading to cell and tissue damage. It isn’t clear that antioxidant supplements offer the same benefits as antioxidants in food. Some high-dose antioxidant supplements have been associated with health risks.
Cruciferous vegetables are packed with nutrients, low in calories, high in Vitamin C and high in soluble fibers, minerals such as Folate and Vitamin K, and a superior source for antioxidants, especially broccoli. There are almost 300 studies on PubMed researching these vegetables and phytonutrients.
How does it affect hormones?
A 2015 study of broccoli sprout extract was found highly effective in reducing of oxidative stress (cellular damage from toxins). This study observed benefits to healthy liver function.
Sulforaphane, a phytochemical abundant in cruciferous vegetables activates Nrf2, which is known to play a critical role in the metabolism and excretion of toxic substances, which is the liver’s primary function. In addition to clearing toxins, the liver also clears metabolized and excess hormones, preventing recirculation and its ensuing negative consequences. The hormones attach to the fiber and are removed through the GI tract along with other toxins.
Of particular interest to women with excess estrogen, cruciferous vegetables contain a phytonutrient called I3C (indole-3-carbinol), which converts to DIM (diindolylmethane). DIM lowers E1 (Estrone) and E2 (Estradiol) and promotes healthy estrogen metabolites. Excess estrogen levels may manifest as fibrous or tender breasts, heavy and/or irregular menstrual cycles, fluid retention, weight gain and irritability. A regular diet of cruciferous vegetables helps to reduce or prevent these symptoms.
Other health benefits
Not totally unrelated to hormone metabolism, because some cancers are estrogenic, the sulforaphane and anticarinogenic properties of cruciferous vegetables help to lower inflammation, the underlying precursor to many, if not all chronic conditions. Specifically, research indicates sulforaphane “possesses the capacity to intervene in multistage carcinogenesis” and “to be selectively toxic to malignant cells.” Yay!
Other research shows that sulforaphane helps with inflammation of the arterial walls, inhibits obesity, relieves hypertension and lowers levels of insulin resistance.
Yet other research (on mice) showed antidepressant and antianxiety results.
You could wait for more studies, but why? Google any of the cruciferous vegetables below to find yourself a good recipe or two or three.
Arugula, Bok choi, Broccoli, Broccoli rabe, Broccoli romanesco, Brussels sprout, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chinese broccoli, Chinese cabbage, Collard greens, Daikon, Garden cress, Horseradish, Kale, Kohlrabi, Komatsuna, Land cress, Mizuna, Mustard – seeds and greens, Pak choi, Radish, Rutabaga, Tatsoi, Turnips – root and greens, Wasabi, Watercress.