Remember when midwife and integrative medicine doctor Aviva Romm, M.D., gave us a hormone-balancing grocery list on the mindbodygreen podcast? While you can fill your plate with healthy, antioxidant-rich staples no matter your age, she does offer up a few star players for each decade. See, you experience quite a few hormonal shifts throughout your lifetime (puberty, pregnancy, and menopause tend to be the Big Three, although there are others), so it can be helpful to identify specific foods to help you at each milestone.
That said, here’s the one food she recommends you focus on in your 40s and 50s: a nutrient-dense sweet potato. Below, Romm explains what makes the superfood a hormone-friendly staple.
Why sweet potatoes are A+ in your 40s and 50s.
Here’s the thing: When your estrogen and progesterone levels start to drop (which starts to happen sometime within the two decades), digestion often becomes more difficult. Of course, everyone’s body is different, but Romm notes that generally, “grains become not easy to digest.”
Sweet potatoes, however, can help you get your fill of healthy, whole carbs: “Sweet potatoes are great for your digestion [and] your elimination,” says Romm. “They’re easy to digest.”
That’s because the root veggie is remarkably high in resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that’s particularly beneficial for gut health: They travel through the small intestine without fully digesting, and by the time resistant starches reach the colon, they ferment and serve as a prebiotic. (Hot tip: To skyrocket the resistant starch content, toss your sweet potato in the fridge overnight and reheat it before digging in.)
And to top off the health benefits, sweet potatoes are also full of antioxidants and minerals—which, Romm notes, are even more important to pay attention to once you hit 40. Think vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium.
Allow us to emphasize: You can eat sweet potatoes at any age—and if you can digest grains with no qualms whatsoever, we’re not going to stop you! In fact, whole grains (like brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat) are wonderful for keeping you full and satiated. But if you do have trouble with digestion as your hormone levels drop off, Romm says starchy sweet potatoes may be able to help you along the way.