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Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage, contain high amounts of phytonutrients called isothiocyanates, including indole-3-carbinol, which helps break down a harmful and potent estrogen metabolite that promotes tumor growth, especially in estrogen-sensitive breast cells. In 2008, researchers at the University of California—Berkeley showed that indole-3-carbinol halts the growth of breast cancer cells and may also offer protection against the spread of cancer.
Dose details: Just 2½ cups of broccoli a week is all you need to reduce your risk of several cancers, particularly those of the breast and prostate.
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Flaxseed is full of lignans, phytoestrogenic compounds that have been proven to help protect us against certain kinds of cancers, especially breast, prostate, and colon.
Dose details: Adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of flaxseed to your smoothies, oatmeal, salads, or cereals daily can reduce your cancer risk and also provide a dose of fiber and essential fatty acids.
Bonus tip: The oils in flaxseed can go rancid quickly, so be sure to purchase ground flaxseed in a vacuum-sealed package and store it in the freezer. Better yet, you can grind your own daily.
3. GREEN TEA
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A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that green tea extract could significantly increase metabolism and fat burning. While caffeine does provide an energizing boost, the tea also offers calming effects because it contains theanine, a natural compound that blocks the release of cortisol—great for conquering belly fat.
Dose details: Drink 4 cups of this tasty tea daily, and you can enjoy weight loss, possibly even without a change in diet and exercise.
4. RED WINE
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The antioxidant polyphenols found in the skins and seeds of grapes, especially catechins and resveratrol, aid heart health, inhibit inflammation, and help prevent the development of certain cancers. According to researchers from Northwestern University Medical School, many benefits of resveratrol in wine are in fact due to its estrogenic properties. When consumed with or after a meal, red wine is also a good digestive aid.
Dose details: Healthy individuals should limit wine intake to 2 to 3 glasses a week. University of California-Davis researchers found cabernet sauvignon, petit syrah, and pinot noir boasted the highest levels of disease-fighting flavonoids.
5. EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
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When we include them in our daily diet, monounsaturated fats such as those in olive oil encourage the release of our appetite-suppressing hormone leptin. Olive oil, in particular, has also been shown to improve our sensitivity to insulin. Another perk? In a 2003 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, rats fed an olive oil-rich diet broke down more fat cells compared to the group fed soybean oil. (Soybean oil actually hindered healthy hormone production.)
Dose details: Avoid industrial fats like margarine and use organic extra-virgin olive oil instead.
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Avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance shown to significantly lower blood cholesterol levels. That same compound also helps to balance the stress hormone cortisol, and it may help restore low DHEA (a hormone produced by the adrenal gland) and decrease the inflammation typically associated with the stress of intense exercise.
Dose details: Enjoy a quarter of an avocado per serving.
7. ORGANIC APPLES
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Apples contain quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant and natural antihistamine. Like many other flavonoids, quercetin also has phytoestrogenic properties. A large Finnish study following more than 10,000 people for more than 30 years found eating a daily apple reduced the risk of almost every chronic disease associated with aging, including osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Dose details: Just like the old saying, try to eat an organic apple a day to keep the doctor away!
8. CHIA SEEDS
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Chia seed is a gluten-free ancient grain that can be added to just about any food. On a per-gram basis, chia seed is touted to be the highest source of omega-3s in nature and also the highest source of fiber. Chia’s hormonal benefits include stabilizing blood sugar, improved insulin sensitivity, and easing metabolic syndrome symptoms like blood pressure and blood sugar spikes.
Dose details: Just 3½ ounces of chia seed offer an amazing 20 grams of omega-3s, which is equal to the amount in 1¾ pounds of Atlantic salmon.
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Dehydration increases the release of hormones, which stimulates our appetite. Sufficient water is crucial for preventing joint stiffness, weight gain, headaches, decreased athletic performance, and poor recovery after exercise.
Dose details: In general, the 8-cups-a-day guideline is sufficient, but you should definitely drink more when you exercise or spend time in the sun.
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Blueberries may help lower blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, as researchers in Canada have found. In a small study, overweight men at risk of heart disease and diabetes drank 1 cup of wild blueberry juice every day for three weeks. Their blood sugar dropped by roughly 10%, and their insulin resistance also fell compared with that of control-group participants who drank a placebo. The benefits may come from the effect of the fruits’ high levels of anthocyanins on the pancreas, which regulates blood sugar by producing insulin.
Dose details: Don’t be afraid to add exotic berries into the mix, too. Researchers at the University of Florida have recently shown tropical açaí berries to be even higher in antioxidants than blueberries. Organic goji berries are high in fiber, antioxidants, and even protein. A tablespoon or two mixed with organic low-fat cottage cheese is a fantastic snack.
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Cinnamon offers wonderful insulin-balancing effects. A study published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that ceylon cinnamon could cause muscle and liver cells to respond more readily to insulin. Better response to insulin means better blood sugar balance and, therefore, less insulin in your body.
Dose details: Add ceylon cinnamon to your food and hot drinks (including coffee) as often as possible. Just ½ teaspoon a day for 30 days is enough to significantly improve your insulin response and trim your waistline.
12. OAT BRAN
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Oats are a good source of many nutrients including vitamin E, zinc, selenium, copper, iron, manganese, and magnesium. They’re also packed with protein and fiber, which can help balance blood sugar and insulin while reducing cholesterol and heart disease risk. According to the American Cancer Society, the phytochemicals in oats may also have cancer-fighting properties.
Dose details: Oat bran makes a nice, comfy hot cereal snack. You can easily sneak oatmeal into many recipes, too.
13. ORGANIC PLAIN YOGURT
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As a natural source of probiotics, yogurt promotes good digestion, restores healthy bacterial balance in the gut, aids the metabolism of estrogen, and supports healthy immunity. Yogurt may also help trim your waistline by encouraging weight loss; as you’re eating it, plain yogurt sends a strong message to your brain that you’re full. (If you are lactose intolerant or have other sensitivities to dairy, however, you should leave this one out of your diet.)
Dose details: Studies have shown that just ½ cup a day can lessen the frequency and severity of colds and flu.
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Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have shown that pomegranate extract has anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that are effective in suppressing cancer of the skin, breast, and colon. The most powerful estrogen in the body, estradiol, plays an important role in the origin and development of breast cancers, most of which are hormone dependent in their early stages. Pomegranates possess natural compounds that inhibit the enzyme in women’s bodies that converts the weak estrogen, estrone, into its most potent metabolite, estradiol.
Dose details: Pure pomegranate juices or seeds are a great way to enjoy the healthy benefits of this tasty ruby-red fruit
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Herbs and spices certainly add more than zesty flavor to our meals—many offer hormone-balancing effects, too. Garlic, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, ginger, cumin, curry, and cayenne pepper are particularly beneficial. Turmeric (also called curcumin) is a favorite because it naturally reduces inflammation, pain, and swelling.
Dose details: Be sure to add black pepper with turmeric—it biosynthesizes to create an even more potent effect.
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Ginger is another fabulous seasoning proven to prevent and treat nausea from motion sickness, pregnancy, and chemotherapy. It’s a potent antioxidant that works by blocking the potentially nauseating effects of serotonin on the gut.
Dose details: Add fresh or powdered ginger to smoothies or look for nausea-easing, organic ginger lozenges.
17. DARK CHOCOLATE
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A Finnish study found babies born to women who had eaten chocolate daily during pregnancy smiled and laughed more and were more active. Even the babies of stressed women who had regularly consumed chocolate during pregnancy showed less fear of new situations than babies of stressed moms-to-be who abstained. Dark chocolate boosts our endorphins and also contains tryptophan (a building block of serotonin) and the brain chemical phenylethylamine, known to promote our feelings of attraction, excitement, and love.
Dose details: Eat one 1-inch block of dark chocolate a day. Look for organic versions that feature at least 70% cocoa.