I am a true believer that “food is medicine,” and often prescribe functional foods like sesame seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds to help women optimize hormone levels throughout their cycle. There’s an ancient technique is called seed rotation, or seed cycling, which can be used to naturally boost estrogen levels in the first part of the female reproductive cycle and progesterone levels in the second half. While there’s yet to be a placebo-controlled trial on the use of nuts and seeds to boost hormone productive (which pharmaceutical company would fund that study?), it’s still a food therapy I often use as an adjunct to personalized herbal or bio-identical hormonal treatments since it’s safe, easy and my patients really do feel like it makes a difference in their overall hormonal health.
Sesame seeds contain high amounts of compounds called lignans, which modulate your body’s natural hormone levels. Lignans down regulate binding at estrogen receptors by competing with estriol at estrogen binding sites ERa and ERb. When estrogen levels are too high, these lignans attach to your estrogen receptors, reducing the activity of your body’s natural estrogen hormones. Estrogen should be predominant in the first 2 weeks of your monthly cycle, known as the follicular phase, while progesterone should be higher in the second half, or luteal phase. In a study from the the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism eating lignans from foods like sesame seeds resulted in an improve progesterone to estrogen ratio. Women who ate foods containing lignans were also found to have longer luteal phases, which is often associated with a healthier hormonal cycle and regular ovulation.
This recipe was inspired by a recent dinner at Little Sito and has become one of my go-to recipes for patients looking to incorporate more hormone-balancing sesame seeds into their diet. Women on a seed cycling protocol are advised to eat 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds daily during their luteal phase and this sweet treat is a delicious way to get those sesame seeds in.
Sweet Tahini Dip
Women on a seed cycling protocol are advised to eat 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds daily during their luteal phase and this sweet treat is a delicious way to get those sesame seeds in.
- 1 cup tahini (sesame seed paste found in the nut butter section of grocery stores)
- 2 tbs local organic honey
- 2 tbs walnuts, chopped
This recipe could not be simpler; mix the tahini paste with the honey until well incorporated and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Serve with cut up fruit for dipping - sliced honey crisp apple is my favourite way to dig in!