As promised, today we’re going to dive in to what drew me to WomanCode by Alisa Vitti in the first place — FOOD. The idea that our body benefits from different foods at different parts of our menstrual cycle made a lot of sense to me. Certainly I’ve seen how my body reacts to food differently (in a more negative sense — hi bloating!) throughout the month, but was there a way to use food to nourish my body and give it more of what it needed in each phase?
Vitti breaks down the science behind syncing your cycle with food and I thought it would be fun to explore ways to incorporate this cyclical approach to nutrition in our own lives. On a very surface level, without getting into any discussion of micronutrients and vitamin supplementation, we can start by looking at each phase of the cycle as a season —
Menstrual Phase = Winter
Follicular Phase = Spring
Ovulatory Phase = Summer
Luteal Phase = Fall
The way your eating shifts as the seasons change during a calendar year can be mirrored as you make your way through your cycle. Foods we often associate with a (northern hemisphere) Spring-time meal; like leafy lettuce, eggs, grapefruit, and split peas — are great for the Follicular Phase. While things like squash and sweet potato, brown rice, apples and dates, foods we associate with Autumn, are ingredients we might consider during the Luteal Phase. Thinking of these seasons occurring as you pass through your cycle’s phases is a great place to start when syncing your cycle nutritionally.
To learn more about foods for your cycle, I definitely recommend picking up a copy of WomanCode (if you haven’t already). Vitti goes in-depth on the topic in Chapter 5, and there’s a handy chart on pages 159-60 with all sorts of food ideas for each phase. Using this info as a jumping off point, I decided to “cook up” some meal inspiration for us!
(Note: As I’ve been trying to incorporate these nutritional changes in my own life, my approach has been focused on additions not subtractions. I find this to be the easiest and healthiest way to make lasting changes. I would never advocate for highly prescriptive and restrictive eating plans and, in my experience, completely changing your eating habits can lead to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, I’m looking for ways to introduce cycle-supporting foods along with the foods I already enjoy/know work well for my body.)
Ok, let’s get into the phases…
Foods for your Follicular Phase // Inner Spring
The Follicular Phase comes after menstruation and lasts 7-10 days. At the beginning of this phase your estrogen and progesterone levels are at the lowest and then estrogen begins to steadily rise. Along with that rise in estrogen comes a rise in energy and creativity. You might feel like you want to get out in the world and try new things! So, what foods can help us through this rising trajectory? Lighter foods and energy-building foods. Stuff like green smoothies, salads, foods with active cultures, oats, cashews, sprouts, etc. These foods are also high in Vitamins A & B which help with healthy egg maturation (lookin’ at you upcoming ovulation!).
Follicular Breakfast Ideas:
Oatmeal with cashew milk and cinnamon
Artichoke egg cups
Follicular Lunch Ideas:
Split pea soup with toast and a plum
Almond butter and sour jelly sandwich with an orange and a hard-boiled egg
Romaine lettuce salad topped with sprouts, avocado and lentils
Follicular Dinner Ideas:
Roast chicken with broccoli and zucchini
Breakfast for dinner — scrambled eggs, chicken sausage links, grapefruit & avocado
Chicken and Barley soup
Marinara sauce served over zucchini noodles
Follicular Snack Ideas:
Foods for your Ovulatory Phase // Inner Summer
Ovulation begins around day 14 and may present with some tell-tale signs: cervical mucus, a desire to be more social, and flirtiness (hint, hint). As you might imagine, your natural energy is at it’s peak in this phase and your mood is pretty stable due to that estrogen rise. As a result, you might want to stick to lighter grains, stay low on carbs, and focus on lighter preparation of vegetables (steamed or raw). You also want to make sure you metabolize and eliminate surplus estrogen and for that you need fiber-rich veggies. Foods like quinoa, nuts, bell peppers, brussel sprouts, strawberries, and salmon are all great during ovulation.
Ovulatory Breakfast Ideas:
Fruit Salad – cantaloupe, raspberry, and strawberries
Sliced banana topped with almond butter and shredded coconut
Smoothie made with coconut milk and frozen fruit
Ovulatory Lunch Ideas:
Tuna salad over spinach with dry-roasted almonds and raspberries on the side
Spinach salad topped with feta, strawberries, pistachios and fennel, served with balsamic dressing
Ovulatory Dinner Ideas:
Red Lentil Dal over quinoa or red lentil soup
Salmon served with asparagus and quinoa
Ovulatory Snack Ideas:
Pecan Pie Lara Bars
Chocolate covered strawberries
Foods for your Luteal Phase // Inner Autumn
During the Luteal Phase, progesterone starts to rise after ovulation. You may experience waning energy levels and near the end of the phase many women begin to notice PMS symptoms like mood swings, bloating, acne, and tender breasts. So in this phase you want to focus on foods that promote hormone health in a way that helps alleviate these symptoms. Foods like collard greens, spinach, and kale are rich in magnesium and help reduce bloating. Sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots help counteract irritability because they’re rich in B-Complex. And, similar to the ovulatory phase, you want to flush out excess estrogen (which can be the culprit of many PMS symptoms) with fiber; so brown rice, apples, dates, and root vegetables can all help decongest the large intestine.
Luteal Lunch Ideas:
Hummus and Veggie plate with pumpkin-zucchini-carrot bread
Turkey sandwich served with an apple and coleslaw
Beef hotdog with carrots/celery and hummus and a peach
Taco mixture (rice, ground beef/beans, veggies)in a collard wrap
Luteal Dinner Ideas:
Beef fried rice
Baked cod with collard greens and sweet potato
Sweet potato, parsnip, and kale soup
Luteal Snack Ideas:
Foods for your Menstrual Phase // Inner Winter
The menstrual phase begins on day 1 of your cycle aka when you get your period. So, when you’re in the menstrual phase you’re losing blood. Therefore, it’s important to eat foods during menstruation that contain trace minerals and iron as well as help build blood. Essentially, foods for your menstrual phase should be deeply restorative to the blood and kidneys. These can include seaweed, beets, beans, water-rich fruits, and miso. Because your body is involved in an intense elimination process during this phase, you want to ADD nutrients back into your body through your food.
Menstrual Breakfast Ideas:
Smoothie made with protein powder and blackberries/blueberries
Bacon, kale & mushroom fry-up
Buckwheat blueberry muffins
Menstrual Lunch Ideas:
Brown rice sushi rolls with seaweed salad and miso soup
Tomato soup with grilled cheese
3-Bean soup and side salad
Menstrual Dinner Ideas:
Catfish and chips
Crab cakes with warm beet salad
Roast duck with wild rice and cranberry sauce
Menstrual Snack Ideas:
What do you think? Will you try out some cycle-supporting foods in your coming phases // inner seasons? Let me know below!
Check out last week’s post for tons of cycle syncing resources.
Stay tuned for PART 4!!!
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