Foods That Can Affect Your Hormones (Steer Clear of These Foods if You’ve Been Diagnosed With a Hormone Imbalance)

Eating a well-balanced diet is essential to maintaining good health. A varied diet ensures that someone receives essential nutrients, helps them maintain a healthy weight, and helps regulate hormone balance. Hormones are special molecules that control many actions in the body, including digestion, the immune system, and even breathing. 

Just as eating a well-balanced diet helps regulate hormones, certain foods can also negatively affect hormone levels. Below are some foods that can affect the normal balance of hormones. 

Processed Foods

Processed foods are natural foods, like vegetables and grains, that have been modified by adding sugar, salt, or oil before being packaged. Examples of processed foods include canned vegetables, fruits, and legumes; cheese; and salted and cured meats. There is also a category of foods that are considered to be ultra-processed. The majority of ingredients found in ultra-processed foods are industrial chemical ingredients that do not include natural foods or their derivatives. Examples of ultra-processed foods include:

  • Soft drinks
  • Packaged snacks (like chips and candy)
  • Frozen meals 
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Energy bars

Foods that are processed and ultra-processed are lower in nutrients compared to foods in their natural state. One study found that people who eat ultra-processed foods have less hormone-suppressing hormones, which means they are hungry more often than people who eat whole foods. It may also mean that they need to eat more ultra-processed food to feel full, compared to people who eat whole foods.

Coffee and Other Caffeinated Beverages

Caffeine increases cortisol levels in the body. Habitual caffeine intake may cause long-term elevated cortisol levels, which is synonymous with chronic stress. Stress triggers the body to release certain hormones, including growth hormone, and inhibits the production of thyroid hormones.

A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health revealed that caffeine is linked to changes in estradiol levels (a type of estrogen) in women of childbearing age. This study found that moderate caffeine intake reduced estradiol levels in white women, but increased estradiol levels in all other races.

Research also shows that caffeine affects how well the body uses insulin (the hormone that regulates the absorption of sugar from the bloodstream and is associated with diabetes). One study observed the effects of caffeine intake over four weeks. The results showed increased insulin levels in participants who consumed caffeine compared to participants who did not consume caffeine. These results suggest that caffeine intake decreases insulin sensitivity, and therefore results in an increase in insulin production. 


Studies show that chronic alcohol use is associated with increased estrogen levels in women (both pre- and post-menopausal). In men, chronic alcohol consumption is linked to elevated follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and estrogen levels as well as a significant decrease in testosterone and progesterone.

Hormone disruptions caused by chronic alcohol use can cause further health complications later on in life. For example, estrogen levels that are higher than normal for long periods can increase the risk of certain types of cancer, like breast cancer.  

Foods That Support Hormone Balance

A diet that helps support hormone balance includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Avoid processed foods: think packaged, convenient, and fast. Consider working with a registered dietitian to create a meal plan that supports your individual dietary needs.