Hormone levels in women play a key role in many biological processes. Sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone control breast growth, ovulation, menstruation and pregnancy, whereas other hormones like insulin control the continued health of other tissues. The foods a woman eats can affect her body's overall health, and consuming certain foods can affect the hormone levels in her body.
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Candy and Sweets
Some foods, such as those containing concentrated sugars, can affect the levels of metabolic hormones in women. Candies and other sweets tend to have very high levels of sucrose, or table sugar. Once ingested, this sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, triggering the release of insulin from the pancreas. As a result, women who eat candy or sweets on a regular basis develop unusually high levels of insulin in their bloodstream, leading to insulin sensitivity—a decreased effectiveness of insulin in the body—and even diabetes. Vanderbilt University recommends eating foods that are lower on the gylcemic index, such as vegetables or whole grains, to help restore insulin to normal levels. The glycemic index is a measure of how foods affect blood sugar levels.
Soy products, such as tofu, soymilk or tempeh, can also affect hormones in a woman's body. Soy beans contain high levels of chemicals called isoflavones, which are similar to human estrogen, explains the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Soy products can affect perceived hormone levels by mimicking estrogen in the body, so tissues within the body perceive a higher level of estrogen in the blood than is actually present. The perceived increase in estrogen can then affect the levels of other hormones in the body, such as progesterone. Although moderate intake of soy products is generally safe, no scientific studies to date have investigated the long-term safety of high isoflavone consumption.
If consumed in very high quantities, broccoli contains compounds that may affect hormone levels in women. The Linus Pauling Institute indicates that broccoli is high in compounds called glucosinolates—chemicals that help with the metabolism and processing of other molecules in cells. Specifically, glucosinolates play a role in converting one form of estrogen into a more active form called 16aOHE1. As a result, women who consume large amounts of glucosinolates from broccoli may experience a change in estrogen levels and estrogen signaling in their bodies. To receive the nutritional benefits of broccoli without overconsuming estrogen-affecting chemicals, the Linus Pauling Institute recommends around five servings of broccoli or related vegetables—such as cabbage or cauliflower—per week.