How to eat according to your period

Cycle comprehension: how to boost energy and mood throughout each stage of your menstrual cycle

Posted by for Nutrition

Pinterest has noticed a boom in people searching for cycle literacy and recipes to support the menstrual cycle. So we’re here to share a few simple recipes and nutritional tips to get you through each week of your cycle – whether you experience symptoms or not.

Despite the fact that a lot of us have them, many of us don’t really know that much about our periods. At least, that’s according to new research that suggests a quarter of people don’t understand their menstrual cycle. It’s not like we don’t want to know, however: 60% really want to know more (going up to 80% for Gen Z-ers).

Maybe that explains why Pinterest is experiencing a massive boom in searches for cycle comprehension. There’s been a 95% surge in people searching for menstrual cycle charts, a 70% increase in luteal phase recipes and more searches for new eco–friendly products

We want to have a better period experience, and for many of us, what we eat can impact how we feel, move and function at certain parts of our cycle. Le’Nise Brothers, menstrual cycle specialist and author of You Can Have A Better Period calls the menstrual cycle “our fifth vital sign”. 

“Framing our menstrual health in this way empowers us to educate ourselves about our personal experience of the fifth vital sign, the four phases and our moods, energy, cognition, symptoms and more,” she says.

“All of this is culminating in the rise of mindful menstruation, a shift from periods being thought of as a taboo subject and something we have to suffer through. We’re now moving towards an understanding that it is possible to embrace and harness the powers of our menstrual cycle and have a better period.” 

How to eat to boost energy and mood all cycle long

Menstrual phase

You’re bleeding. You’re bloated. You might spend the first few days lying on the sofa feeling rotten – or you’re just relieved that your period has finally come and are celebrating in your best period pants. Either way, you want to make sure that you’re topping up your iron and protein intake. While a couple of cups of chamomile tea may make you feel more relaxed and cosy, you really want to make sure that each meal is packed with plant power.

Satisfy your cravings with a block of dark chocolate. A 2010 study found that magnesium reduced the severity of PMS symptoms – and 70% dark chocolate contains 58% of your recommended daily intake of the mineral. 

Before you tuck into a bar of Green & Blacks, how about having a chickpea salad lunch? This recipe packs in around 30g of protein, is full of fibre and contains a good dose of iron from the edamame and kidney beans, chickpeas, quinoa and spinach.

Follicular phase

The longest stage of the menstrual cycle, this is when your oestrogren rises as an egg prepares to be released. It’s thanks to that burst of hormones that you feel more energised, optimistic, more seuxally driven and your skin could experience a glow up.

We’re becoming more obsessed with gut health than ever before, with sauerkraut and kimchi being available at every supermarket and mid-level cafe, but kimchi is also great for helping your body to break down and metabolise oestrogen.

Have a go at Eric Kim’s Korean American caramelised-kimchi baked potatoes for a dose of fermented goodness and carby energy.

Ovulation phase

Ovulation usually happens around day 14 of our cycle, a day or two after the body releases a surge of luteinising hormone. And it’s during this period that your breasts might get tender or you experience ovary pain (usually on one side of the abdomen).

At this stage, you want to flood your body with fresh fruit and veggies, so now might be the week to try eating 30 different plants. Not only will you support your body as it goes through a hormonal shift, but you’ll also boost your gut health and immune system (70% of your immune system lives in your gut).

Luteal phase

The final stage of your cycle is usually when those pesky PMS symptoms kick in. Once an egg’s been released, your levels of oestrogen and progesterone fall and that causes the onset of bleeding.

During the luteal phase, you need to make sure that you’ve got enough energy to support your body as it prepares to bleed. So, you want to consume foods that are filling, satisfying and full of slow-release energy. No wonder that Pinterest has seen a 55% increase in people searching for luteal overnight oat recipes.

We love this pumpkin overnight oats number. It’s the perfect post-workout meal, breakfast, pudding or mid-arvo snack. Remember, soaking oats releases more beta-glucan, a type of fibre that reduces cholesterol. And this particular recipe has pumpkin puree (vitamin C), chia seeds (protein) and apple (high in copper).

For more period health tips, visit the Strong Women Training Club.

Images: Getty

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Miranda Larbi

Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.