Even though it’s not well known, hormone imbalances contribute to a variety of health problems, ranging from breast cancer and prostate cancer to diabetes and depression.

Good news: A plant-based diet focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes can significantly improve the body’s hormonal balance, according to an increasing body of scientific evidence.

For a sampling of delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes that incorporate these foods, try the following for…

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BREAKFAST        

Green Smoothie Muffins
2 cups flour
½ cup brown or raw sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
Zest of 1 lemon
1½ cups (8 ounces) pineapple chunks (fresh or frozen)
2 cups fresh spinach
1-2 very ripe bananas
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ cup plain soy or almond milk

Preheat oven to 375°F and line a muffin pan with paper liners or silicone cups, or use a nonstick pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and lemon zest. Set aside. In a blender, combine pineapple, spinach, bananas, vanilla and milk. Blend until creamy. Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients and stir until just combined. If the batter is dry, add 2-4 tablespoons milk. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before serving.

Makes 12 muffins. Per muffin: 124 calories…3 g protein…27 g carbohydrates…10 g sugar…0.5 g total fat…2% calories from fat…1 g fiber…113 mg sodium.

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SANDWICH OR WRAP

BBQ Bean Tortas
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas or 4 hamburger buns
1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup barbecue sauce
½ cup chopped pineapple
1 cup fresh salsa (or diced tomato)
Guacamole (optional)

If using tortillas, preheat oven to 375°F. Bake corn tortillas for 5-10 minutes or until crisp. If using hamburger buns, toast in oven.

Warm beans with barbecue sauce. Spoon onto tortillas or buns and top with pineapple, salsa and guacamole, if desired.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 293 calories…9 g protein…61 g carbohydrate…18 g sugar…2 g total fat…6% calories from fat…11 g fiber…579 mg sodium.

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MAIN DISH

Butternut Pasta
3-4 cups diced butternut squash (about 1 medium squash)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1½ cups uncooked pasta
4 chopped dry-pack sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup canned low-sodium chickpeas (or navy beans), drained and rinsed
2 cups fresh arugula (or spinach)
¼ cup fat-free balsamic vinaigrette
Vegan parmesan (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place squash cubes in a single layer in the pan. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until fork tender and browning at the edges, turning halfway. Add mushrooms to the pan halfway through roasting the squash.

Cook pasta as directed on package, adding sun-dried tomatoes and chickpeas (or navy beans) to the water with the pasta. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Immediately add roasted squash and mushrooms and toss. Serve over (or mix in) arugula (or spinach) and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. Sprinkle with vegan parmesan, if desired.

Makes 2 servings. Per serving: 642 calories…25 g protein…126 g carbohydrate…13 g sugar…6 g total fat…7% calories from fat…17 g fiber…351 mg sodium.

Source: Excerpted from the book Your Body in Balance: The New Science of Food, Hormones, and Health by Neal D. Barnard, MD, FACC, with Menus and Recipes by Lindsay S. Nixon. Copyright © 2020 by Neal D. Barnard, MD. Recipe text copyright © 2020 by Lindsay S. Nixon. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.