Understanding our menstrual cycle and knowing which foods to eat when you hit specific times in your cycle is something that we learn as we go, so to speak.
As many of us are keen to learn and understand our bodies natural rhythms, what we nourish our bodies with plays a big part of that understanding.
The food we choose at different points in our cycles can help us to gain more energy and support us where and when we need it most. Many women who come to me to understand their eating habits, haven’t made the connection to their hormonal cycles, so therefore I wanted to share a list of foods and vitamins that are proven to help you feel your best at each phase of your cycle.
DAYS 1-5 (SHEDDING YOUR UTERUS LINING – YOUR PERIOD)
After losing blood through menstruating your Iron is low so eat read meat, poultry, fish, lentils, nuts, seeds and dark leafy greens
To assist the absorption of iron, top up your vitamin C, it will really help your absorption of non-animal forms of iron, and iron is really needed at this point! So go for lemon juice, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and citrus fruits – vitamin C also helps with inflammation, so double win!
B12, this makes more red blood cells which carry oxygen, so the more red blood cells the more perky you feel and as you’re very low in both oestrogen and progesterone at this point B12 is very important. so go for cheese, eggs, milk, fish or fortified products if vegan/ veggie
Omega 3 – if like me you’re dealing with PMS then this is key, as omega 3 can help combat the pain – for this try flaxseeds, oily fish and walnuts.
Zinc helps with refreshing your blood and so reintroducing minerals, beef, seaweed and peanut butter are your best options.
Vitamin B – you do need carbs! So, try quinoa, oats, sweet potato, lentils or brown rice.
And to combat inflammation try ginger, basil, garlic, parsley, coriander, and turmeric.
Last but not least, in this phase its best to avoid alcohol spicy foods and coffee.
Caffeine may contribute to a heavier bleed and therefore more iron loss.
DAYS 6-11, ONCE YOUR PERIOD HAS ENDED
This is the time when oestrogen increases as your body gets ready to release an egg during ovulation.
To keep rising oestrogen levels stable now is the time to eat flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds. Also, hummus, berries, grains, spinach, garlic, and alfalfa sprouts which all aid the regulation of oestrogen.
Your body craves fibre in this phase – the type of carb that keeps your oestrogen balanced and you ‘regular’. Fibre rich foods include brown rice, lentils, nuts, seeds, oats and berries.
High levels of oxidative stress have been linked to high oestrogen levels, you can even lose vitamin C just before ovulation so load up on colourful vibrant foods like strawberries, broccoli sweet potato and citrus fruits.
If your stomach has been upset during your period, then it’s time to repair with gut healing foods like natural yoghurt and fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut
Increasing healthy fats in this stage is a great idea as it will fuel healthy hormone production. Go for olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.
Oestrogen and testosterone are in the rise during this phase as your brain power and mood begin to improve.
Climbing levels of oestrogen can suppress your appetite at the end of this phase, this can explain the feeling of being less focused on food.
OVULATION, DAYS 12-14 (HALFWAY POINT)
At this point your body releases an egg and your hormones have boosted. It’s time to choose quality over quantity when it comes to nutrition.
Gut health is crucial to striking the right hormonal balance. It’s your gut bacteria that decides the levels of hormones needed for harmony. In this stage opt for less filling fibre rich foods like quinoa, couscous, and berries.
Liver health is key to gut health so go for sprouts, peppers, spinach, asparagus, onions, garlic and spring onions.
Zinc helps your cells stay in tip top condition, sources include pumpkin seeds, oats, quinoa and figs. To get ahead of the inevitable magnesium dip during ovulation add flaxseed, tofu, almonds and barley.
PRE MENSTRUAL PHASE
Your body is preparing for your next period, you have high amounts of progesterone and testosterone is very low
Water is even more important in this phase to combat bloat. Elevated oestrogen and progesterone levels cause you to retain more water and disrupt sodium regulation, so drink up!
Expect low energy but be prepared with natural sweets like peanut butter yoghurt, honey, fresh fruit and smoothies to give your brain that quick energy boost.
Cramps are more likely going to hit you in this phase, so to lessen them try lavender, sage and marjoram oils massaged into the skin. Include herbs and spices in food such as ginger, garlic, basil, turmeric, cinnamon and parsley.
To replace your uterine lining, more energy is needed from nutrients and food, you will also be at your hungriest because of this and crave more fat and carbs.
This is the best time to eat small frequent meals throughout the day to curb cravings and stabilise blood sugar.
Feel good foods in this phase are essential so focus in omega 3 dense foods such as salmon, walnuts, olive oil and flaxseeds to ward off mood swings.
Reduce fruit juice, alcohol, and any sugary soft drinks as they all can make PMS worse. Eat antioxidant filled carbs like sweet potato, butternut squash and parsnips.
Finally, I give you permission to eat AT LEAST one square of dark chocolate per day to help boost your mood and lessen any anxiety.
That said, I hope that all the above hints and tips, help to alleviate your symptoms and leave you feeling recharged and in flow.