Eating with your menstrual cycle
Did you know that your body actually has different needs depending on where you’re at in your cycle? It’s true! But don’t worry - you don’t have to spend hours curating the perfect cyclical diet. A few simple tweaks can help you support your body and your sense of balance.
The idea that certain food and lifestyle tweaks can regulate your cycle, decrease PMS symptoms, and optimize fertility is nothing new. In fact, it’s sometimes called cycle syncing and it has been around for years. We think it makes complete sense; as women, our hormones are constantly fluctuating throughout the month. Why wouldn’t we eat in a way that best protects that hormonal balance?
Today, we’re breaking down some of the foods to focus on during each phase of your cycle.
The Menstrual phase (~days 1-7)
What’s happening: At the beginning of the menstrual phase, energy is low and hormone levels are at an all-time low, too. Gradually, estrogen starts to increase.
What to eat: Opt for warm, nourishing foods. Think stews and soups, plus iron-rich foods like leafy greens or grass-fed meat. Also aim to get omega-3 fats (from flax, pumpkin seeds, or wild-caught fish) to help improve PMS symptoms. Flax seeds and pumpkin seeds also naturally increase estrogen levels (a good thing in this case!).
The Follicular phase (~days 8-14)
What’s happening: Estrogen and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) continue to rise, which means your energy increases too. Yippee!
What to eat: Aim to keep your estrogen levels in check with protein, healthy fats, and vegetables. Foods high in vitamin E like sweet potatoes and leafy greens will support the growing follicles (follicles are small sacs of fluid in the ovaries which each hold an egg).
The Ovulatory phase (~days 15-21)
What’s happening: Estrogen levels peak, which means your energy and motivation peak too. It’s important to support your liver during this phase, since it’s helping to flush out toxins, including excess estrogen.
What to eat: Focus on anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidants - foods like broccoli, spinach, pasture-raised eggs, cauliflower, and bok choy. Magnesium-rich foods like spinach and dark chocolate (sign us up!) are also great for this time of the month as they help balance estrogen and progesterone. And don’t forget about zinc (found in sesame seeds!) and vitamin E (found in sunflower seeds) which help to stimulate progesterone production.
The Luteal Phase (~days 22-28)
What’s happening: Progesterone levels are at their peak and estrogen levels hold steady for most of this phase, only starting to decrease in the last few days. During this phase, your insulin sensitivity may decrease, which means your cells may not be quite as good at taking up blood sugar. You may find that you’re more hungry, with stronger cravings. Your caloric needs might also increase during this time - about 5-10% - meaning you’ll naturally need a bit more food, too.
What to eat: vitamin C supports healthy progesterone production and estrogen elimination. Opt for foods like sweet potatoes, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Continue focusing on foods like kale, carrots, and healthy fats, too.
The bottom line
If you’re just getting started on your healthy hormone journey, start with the basics. Eat plenty of vegetables, protein, and healthy fats (like avocado, nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut, olives, and more), along with legumes and whole grains if you tolerate them. Combine this nourishing diet with lifestyle behaviors like getting optimal sleep, moving your body as you’re able, and practicing stress management.