Secreted by the pituitary gland at the base of your brain, human growth hormone, or HGH, fuels growth during your childhood years and helps to maintain optimal function of tissues and organs throughout your life. The body’s production of HGH tends to slow as you age and can also decrease because of medical disorders and dietary deficiencies. No foods contain HGH, but including certain foods in your diet can stimulate your body to produce more of the hormone.
Elevated blood glucose levels suppress your body’s natural production of HGH, so sticking to foods that are low on the glycemic index promotes the secretion of HGH, according to Ben Greenfield, author of “100 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.” The index gauges the effect of various foods on blood glucose levels. Foods that cause a spike in blood sugar levels rank high on the index, while those that cause a more gradual rise and fall in blood sugar are lower on the index. Greenfield, a sports nutritionist and personal trainer, says that sticking to foods with a glycemic index of 50 or less can help to ensure that HGH production remains at optimal levels. Foods in this category include apples, bananas, carrots, corn, honey, mangoes, milk, oranges, pancakes, pasta, peaches, pears and strawberries.
The late Robert C. Atkins, the New York cardiologist who formulated the weight-loss diet that bears his name, pointed out in “Dr. Atkins’ Age-Defying Diet” that a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates stimulates HGH production in your body. Obesity, like advancing age, slows the output of HGH, so maintaining a healthy weight is also central to the maintenance of optimal body levels of HGH. The high levels of amino acids in protein-rich foods play a key role in triggering the natural production of HGH. Because some high-protein foods also contain significant levels of fat, choose only lean proteins to avoid the HGH-lowering effects of heavy fat consumption. Healthy protein food sources include lean beef, organic chicken, almonds, organic eggs, quinoa, tempeh, tuna, wild salmon, tuna, and plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style.
Eating foods with high levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, stimulates the pituitary gland to produce more HGH, according to Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D., author of “Thin Over 40.” Adding more foods high in GABA to your diet as you age can significantly counteract the HGH-lowering effects of advancing age. The added benefits of GABA-rich foods are many, according to Jantz, who is a certified eating disorders counselor. The amino acid, which also acts as a neurotransmitter, has a relaxing and calming effect and tends to inhibit pain and fear. GABA-rich foods include brewer’s yeast, eggs, nuts, seafood, seeds, soybeans and whole grains.
L-Arginine Rich Foods
In “Prevention of the Disease of Aging,” author Katherine Blanchette, M.D., recommends eating foods high in L-arginine, an amino acid that stimulates production of HGH. She points out that L-arginine’s promotion of increased HGH secretion helps to decrease total body fat. Foods high in L-arginine include animal products such as milk, beef, chicken, pork and turkey; seafood; cereals; chocolate; legumes, including chickpeas and soybeans; and nuts, including Brazil nuts, peanuts and walnuts.