How to Eat for Your Menstrual Cycle: Nutritionist-Approved Tips

How to Eat for Your Menstrual Cycle: Nutritionist-Approved Tips


How to Eat for Your Menstrual Cycle: Nutritionist-Approved Tips

Have you ever wondered why some days you're craving chocolate and other days a fresh, green salad feels simply perfect? Your menstrual cycle could be playing a big part in those food choices. Eating in sync with your cycle isn't just about indulging cravings; it's about understanding your body's changing needs throughout the month. In this article, we'll dive into how you can nourish yourself better, boost energy levels, and even balance moods by tailoring your diet to the different phases of your cycle. 

“Listening to your body and giving it what it needs can transform how you feel physically and emotionally throughout the month.”

The Connection Between Nutrition and Your Cycle

Understanding the connection between nutrition and your menstrual cycle can revolutionise the way you feel throughout the month. It's not just about *what* you eat, but also *when* you eat it. Every phase of the menstrual cycle—from menstruation to the luteal phase—has unique nutritional needs and understanding these can lead to better overall health.

The menstruation phase

The menstruation phase marks the beginning of your menstrual cycle. It typically lasts between 3 to 7 days and is characterized by the shedding of the uterine lining. This phase can often come with symptoms like cramps, fatigue, and mood swings. That’s where good nutrition steps in to be your ally. 

During menstruation, your body loses blood and with it, essential minerals like iron. This can lead to feelings of fatigue and weakness. To combat this, integrating iron-rich foods into your diet is crucial. Think leafy greens like spinach and kale, lean meats, and legumes like chickpeas and lentils. Pair these with vitamin C-rich foods like oranges, strawberries, and bell peppers to enhance iron absorption. 

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Hydration is another key factor during the menstruation phase. Staying well-hydrated helps manage bloating and alleviates cramps. Water should be your go-to, but herbal teas like chamomile or ginger can also provide soothing effects. 

Magnesium is another nutrient that can make a significant difference. It assists in reducing cramps by relaxing muscle tissue and is found in foods like almonds, bananas, and dark chocolate. A square of dark chocolate can actually be beneficial! 

Magnesium is also called "the mighty mineral" because the cells in our body depends on magnesium in regulating day-to-day metabolic reactions to help in the process of cell division and protein synthesis, to facilitate proper muscle and nerve function, and in maintenance of normal bones and teeth. Claims substantiated by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority).

Additionally, being mindful of what foods make your body, heart, and mind feel good is essential. This will not only support you during the menstruation phase but also set a positive tone for the entire month. Listen to your body and adjust your diet based on what gives you energy and well-being.

The follicular phase

The follicular phase marks the first half of your menstrual cycle, beginning on the first day of your period and lasting until ovulation. This phase is crucial as your body prepares for potential fertilization by maturing the follicles in your ovaries. During this phase, estrogen levels steadily rise, leading to an increase in energy and general well-being. 

Eating for the follicular phase focuses on nutrient-dense foods that support estrogen production and provide the energy needed for this part of your cycle. Here are some key foods and nutrients to consider: 

  • Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, and swiss chard are packed with iron, magnesium, and B vitamins, which help in the production of red blood cells and support energy levels.
  • Healthy Fats: Avocado, nuts, and seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that support hormonal balance and reduce inflammation.
  • Lean Proteins: Chicken, turkey, and legumes provide the essential amino acids necessary for the repair and growth of body tissues.
  • Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, and oats supply steady energy levels with their complex carbohydrates.
  • Antioxidant-rich Fruits: Berries, oranges, and pomegranates are loaded with antioxidants that combat oxidative stress and inflammation.

“Focusing on high-quality, nutrient-dense foods during the follicular phase can enhance energy levels and overall well-being. It's essential to support the body as it prepares for ovulation.”

The ovulation phase

Ovulation is the midpoint of your menstrual cycle, typically occurring around day 14 in a 28-day cycle. During this phase, an egg is released from the ovary and is ready for fertilisation. Your body's nutritional needs shift slightly, emphasising the importance of foods that balance oestrogen and support overall health. 

Focus on incorporating carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables. These foods help maintain stable blood sugar levels, providing you with sustained energy. Essential fatty acids are also crucial during this time; think about incorporating sources like avocados, nuts, and seeds. 

Our Omega 3 supplement provides maximum strength 660mg of EPA & 440mg of DHA. Which both contribute to maintenance of various body functions, most importantly in the normal function of the heart. DHA, on the other hand, supports the maintenance of normal brain function and normal vision All claims are substantiated by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority).

Antioxidants found in fruits like berries, and vitamins such as Vitamin D and folic acid, support cell function and overall reproductive health. Including leafy greens, eggs, and fortified cereals can help meet these nutritional needs.

The luteal phase

The luteal phase is a key part of your menstrual cycle, beginning right after ovulation and lasting until the start of menstruation, typically around 14 days. During this phase, your body is gearing up to possibly support a pregnancy. Progesterone levels rise, which can lead to symptoms like bloating, mood swings, and fatigue. But did you know that what you eat can significantly affect how you feel during this time? 

Nutritional intake during the luteal phase can help mitigate some of these less-than-pleasant symptoms and support your body's increased nutritional needs. Here’s what to focus on: 

  • Complex Carbohydrates: These can help stabilise mood swings and provide sustained energy. Think whole grains, sweet potatoes, and legumes.
  • Magnesium-Rich Foods: Magnesium can help reduce bloating and improve mood. Find it in leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate.
  • Vitamin B6: This nutrient plays a role in serotonin production, which can aid in reducing PMS symptoms. Foods rich in B6 include bananas, turkey, and chickpeas.
  • Iron: Your body’s iron needs increase during this phase to prepare for potential blood loss. Spinach, red meat, and lentils are excellent sources.

“Eating a balanced diet tailored to the luteal phase can make a significant difference in not only your physical symptoms but also how you feel emotionally and mentally” says our expert nutritionist.

The key takeaway? By focusing on the right foods, you can better support your body through the luteal phase, making it a little easier to handle the ups and downs.

For those looking to bridge any nutritional gaps during their cycle, supplements can be incredibly beneficial. Incorporating supplements such as magnesium, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids can help support your body’s changing needs throughout the menstrual cycle. Magnesium can ease cramps and improve sleep, while B vitamins are essential for energy production and mood stabilisation. Omega-3s, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Collectively, they can help you feel energised and focused throughout your cycle.

Written by Riya Lakhani-Kanji MSc ANutr

Riya Lakhani-Kanji MSc ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer. Equipped with a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Human Nutrition, Riya leverages her scientific knowledge to create engaging content that empowers people to embrace the power of plants.