Here's What To Eat At Every Step Of Your Cycle

Written by Caroline Muggia

Image by Javier Díez / Stocksy

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Keeping our hormones balanced is an essential component of our health as having too much or too little of certain hormones can lead to things like irregular periods, weight gain, and acne. Eating in a way that supports our hormone health can help keep our hormones in check. Nicole Jardim, women's health and functional nutrition coach, and Megan Hallett, nutrition and holistic health coach, are passionate about helping women take hold of their hormonal health. In their new cookbook Happy Balance, they share delicious plant-based recipes for each phase of your cycle so you can eat in a way that boosts your energy and supports better sleep. In this excerpt from their new book, they share how to eat and move at each stage of the cycle.

Follicular Phase

Energy levels start to peak post-menstruation, as do testosterone and estrogen levels, so use this time to get stuff done. Within your body, follicles in your ovaries that house your eggs will start to blossom once again, one of which will take the lead and release an egg at ovulation. This egg has the potential to be fertilized if it comes into contact with sperm once it has been released by the follicle. As the name suggests, this phase is all about nourishing those follicles that are vital for healthy ovulation.

What to eat

Pack in those follicle nourishing fats, folate, and vitamin E to help build and maintain a healthy lining in your uterus. Think an avocado a day and lots of homemade nut butter—in smoothies or spooned straight from the jar. Opt for foods that help promote estrogen metabolism, such as broccoli, sprouts, and cabbage.

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How to move

Use this surge of energy to head to that dance cardio class you've been eyeing all month, and get lifting those heavy weights. The high estrogen and testosterone circulating throughout your body are great for building muscle mass.

Ovulatory Phase

It's not uncommon to feel a little bloated and puffy during the ovulatory phase, and during the releasing of the egg, you might feel a slight lower abdominal cramp known as mittelschmerz, or "pain in the middle." At the same time, you're likely to be feeling a little more sociable during this time as estrogen levels peak, due to your body naturally wanting to partner up and reproduce.

What to eat

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Fermented and fiber-rich foods support healthy digestion and flush away excess estrogen. Support your liver by loading up on dark leafy greens and sipping on detoxifying herbal teas. Be extra mindful about drinking at least two liters of filtered water a day, and perhaps lay off the alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

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How to move

Combine long hikes with a good natter with your girlfriends. Fill your diary with group classes such as Pilates or a motivational spin class, a perfect way to merge that urge to be extra social with keeping fit.

Luteal Phase

If your egg hasn't been fertilized, then your body is in menstruation preparation mode once again, and as testosterone and estrogen levels drop, progesterone levels rise. Many women experience mood swings during this phase, but you can combat that by keeping your blood sugar stable.

What to eat

Now's the time for comfort food and dishes that will continue to support your liver: Think large stews full of lentils and leafy greens. If you're craving chocolate, enjoy until your heart's content—cacao is rich in magnesium, fabulous for combating fatigue, as are pumpkin seeds and spinach. Certain foods, including fermented foods, help the natural production of serotonin, which will help ease sudden shifts in mood, so pile your plate high with quinoa, buckwheat, and sauerkraut.

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How to move

Image by Sergey Filimonov / Stocksy

Fatigue is your body crying out for you to take it easy, so enjoy yoga and swimming, and find solace in long walks accompanied by happy-music playlists and hilarious podcasts.

Menstrual Phase

And finally, the menstrual phase, also known as "that time of the month." Progesterone levels drop, and this triggers the release of the uterine lining. Enjoy this time to kick back and let your body do its thing, then enjoy the surge of energy as you swing back around into your follicular stage.

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What to eat

Stock up on anti-inflammatory staples, incorporating them into your meals by sipping on golden milk and chai lattes and loading curries with wonderfully warming spices. Nourish yourself with stews, soups, and dahl. Reach for foods rich in iron—adding dried kombu or wakame into simmering saucepans of grains is a great way to do this.

How to move

Do restorative yoga, go for walks in nature and, toward the end of your period when you start feeling like your usual self again, a light jog will help with any cramping you might be experiencing. It’s OK to avoid hectic gyms and overcrowded classes at this time, as your typically social self may not be feeling up to it, so enjoy time alone if you so wish.

Based on excerpts from Happy Balance by Nicole Jardim and Megan Hallett with the permission of White Lion Publishing. Copyright © 2019.

And are you ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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