Discover delicious snacks that can help regulate hormones and support overall well-being. From nutrient-dense seeds to fruits, this article explores why each snack is beneficial for hormone balance.
You’ve got hormones—lots of them. Your endocrine, or hormonal, system is complex, hosting at least 50 hormones that affect everything from blood sugar balance, to fertility, energy production, and more. And, it’s become buzzy on social to take steps to correct a hormonal imbalance with hormone-balancing foods so your body can function at its best.
Certainly, an overall healthy diet is key, but it always helps to hone in on specific foods that support hormonal health. While you clearly have dozens of hormones coursing through your body, we’re specifically focused on female sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and androgens (such as testosterone) in this article.
When Hormones Get Whacky
When these hormones are out of whack, you may experience period problems, such as irregular cycles, PMS symptoms, headaches, mood changes, and breast tenderness that arises around your period, says Melissa Grobess Azzaro, RDN, founder of The Hormone Dietitian.
The thing is, “hormones don’t become imbalanced on their own,” says Azzaro. “Hormonal changes are caused by something going on upstream, which affects hormone levels downstream,” she explains. Those upstream factors include:
- Blood sugar imbalances and insulin dysregulation
- Excess stress
- Not enough sleep
- Under-eating for your activity level
- Environmental exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals
So, how to balance hormones? We’ve rounded up some delicious, nutrient-packed between-meal bites that deliver on that promise. These foods target many of the upstream factors that lead to hormonal issues. Here are the best snacks for hormone balance—hopefully you can enjoy one today.
Hormone-Balancing Snacks and Their Benefits
When you’re feeling snacky, you have a lot of options. But traditional choices—we’re looking at you chips, and pretzels—doesn’t really cut it when it comes to your hormones. The goal is to consume snacks that are made from whole, minimally processed foods that help manage your blood sugar, offer antioxidants to wipe the negative effects of inflammation, and may also impact sex hormones in direct ways.
These may include:
- Nuts and seeds make fantastic choices for supporting hormonal health, says Azzaro. “All are high in healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, which are needed to help support the body’s natural detox pathways,” she explains. Healthy fat and protein support steady blood sugar levels. In addition, minerals like magnesium and vitamins like the B vitamins help the body with hormone metabolism, she explains.
- Fruit provides antioxidants that decreases inflammation, a stressor on the body. Certain fruits can also aid in estrogen regulation and help increase progesterone levels.
- Other foods, such as full-fat yogurt, cruciferous vegetables, dark chocolate and more, which support fertility and proper estrogen levels, as well as provide specific nutrients that assist in insulin function.
Seed-Based Snacks for Hormone Balance
It’s a good idea to eat a variety of nuts and seeds regularly rather than focusing on one or two power players. That’s because they each provide slightly different nutrient profiles. For example:
- Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium, a mineral needed for thyroid function.
- Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, a mineral that one meta-analysis in the journal Nutrients shows that this nutrient can help quell period pain, and PCOS symptoms.
- Flaxseeds are “one that I recommend that most women eat every day from when they start their period in youth to menopause,” says Azzaro. Flax contains phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-like compounds in plants, which can help regulate estrogen levels. In addition, flax has soluble fiber that can bind to excess estrogen and help eliminate it, she explains. Choose ground flaxseeds, which are easier to digest. Flax can be sprinkled on yogurt or oatmeal or added as an ingredient to an energy ball.
Fruit-Based Snacks for Hormone Balance
Though all fruit is healthy, Azzaro specifically recommends those like berries and citrus fruit for hormone-balancing snacks.
- Berries are high in fiber and antioxidants, says Azzaro. Fiber helps the body eliminate excess estrogen while antioxidants help counteract inflammation.
- Citrus fruit is also high in antioxidants, but also vitamin C, a vitamin that may help increase progesterone levels, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
- Kiwi is not only bursting with vitamin C, but the fruit contains melatonin (a sleep-regulating hormone), serotonin (a feel-good hormone that also improves sleep, and antioxidants (to decrease inflammation), according to 2023 research.
- Avocado supplies a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. “We need enough calories and fat to make hormones in the first place,” says Azzaro. Avocado is a fruit, though one that’s rich in these fats. Smearing avocado on a piece of whole grain toast and topping with a whole egg is a really satisfying snack.
For traditional fruits (like berries and citrus), Azzaro recommends pairing your fruit with a source of protein. Fruit is a source of nutrient-rich carbohydrates, but for optimal blood sugar balance, “it’s not a good idea to eat carbohydrates alone, even if it is healthy like fruit,” she says. So, pair a fruit with a piece of cheese, some nuts, or yogurt.
Why? Blood sugar affects insulin, another hormone. When your blood sugar spikes, which can happen when you eat carbohydrates alone, your body interprets that rise and fall as a source of stress, which can tax your adrenal glands. Your adrenals are what pumps out stress hormones, like cortisol, as well as play a role in estrogen and testosterone production, notes the National Library of Medicine.
“When we talk about minimizing stress, this doesn’t just refer to psychological stress, but physical stressors as well, such as having imbalanced blood sugars or inflammation,” says Azzaro. “These internal sources of stress can throw your adrenal hormones off balance, which has downstream effects on your sex hormones,” she explains.
Other Nutrient-Dense Snacks for Hormone Balance
You don’t have to limit yourself to nuts, seeds, and fruit to give your hormones TLC. Here are four other snacks to eat:
- Yogurt, especially full-fat yogurt compared to non- or low-fat versions, has been shown to help support fertility, says Azzaro. In addition, yogurt also supplies a source of probiotics, which adds good bacteria to your gut. “Anything that supports gut health also supports hormone health,” she says. If you can’t do dairy, add some dairy-free kefir to your smoothie or go for a plant-based yogurt. One yummy idea? Top off Greek yogurt with berries and seeds for a nice crunchy texture.
- Cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, radishes, broccoli, and cauliflower are also rich in fiber. These veggies also contain compounds called glucosinolates, which may affect estrogen metabolism. This is one reason why some research suggests that eating cruciferous veggies is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. Dip pieces of raw veggie in hummus or guacamole.
- Salmon and olives are other sources of healthy fats that can be used in snacks, says Azzaro. In addition, salmon contains docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), a type of polyunsaturated fat associated with increases in progesterone production and proper ovulation, research shows. Pair a few olives with nuts and cheese. And don’t count out salmon when it comes to snacking. Azzaro likes a salmon snack made with a crisp bread smeared with hummus, topped with smoked salmon and cucumber.
- Dark chocolate, Not only supplies a wealth of flavonoids, plant compounds with antioxidant properties, but also magnesium. About one-quarter of women who have PCOS don’t get enough of this mineral, which is associated with insulin resistance. According to research in Current Developments in Nutrition. To turn dark chocolate into a snack, pair a couple of squares (of for at least 75% cacao) with raspberry tea, a sip that’s been used to soothe menstrual cramps.
There are so many wonderful hormone-balancing foods that make great snacks. Even better: You can combine many of these—a yogurt and berry bowl, a handful of pumpkin seeds and an orange—for a well-rounded, nutrient-dense snack that supports hormonal health. Isn’t it time for a snack by now?