The Best Foods For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle

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Eating for each phase of my menstrual cycle has drastically increased my well-being. Women’s bodies fluctuate between four hormonal cycles. These hormonal fluctuations influence a range of physiological processes throughout the body, including energy availability. Choosing to eat different foods throughout each stage of our cycle helps to support our bodies through these changes. Here are the best foods for each phase of your menstrual cycle.

As a reminder: I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be! Any claims in this article about the best foods for each phase of your menstrual cycle are based on personal experience and research. Please read my full medical disclaimer before engaging with my content or anecdotes. This post may contain affiliate links to certain products. I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) if you make a purchase based off of my suggestions. 

The Best Foods For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle

A Brief Overview of the Four Menstrual Phases

If you’re interested in learning a more about the menstrual cycle, fertility and reproductive health: I highly recommend checking out Learn Body Literacy. I have learned so much from Nicole, the fertility awareness educator and illustrator behind Learn Body Literacy!

Each woman’s body is different. But, generally, the entire menstrual cycle ranges from 21-35 days. The menstrual cycle is regulated by fluctuations and interactions of different hormones. These hormones are luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Before we learn about the best foods for each phase of your menstrual cycle – lets dig into the menstrual cycle. Here is a description of each of the menstrual phases and an overview of the hormonal fluctuations.

Menstrual Phase

The follicle-stimulating hormone begins to increase in the menstrual phase. This activates the development of several follicles in the ovaries. Follicles are sacs filled with fluid. Each follicle contains an egg. Our estrogen and progesterone levels are low during the menstrual phase.

Follicular Phase

During the follicular phase the follicle-stimulating hormone level begins to decrease. Typically, only one follicle will continue on to maturity. This follicle produces estrogen. As such, estrogen levels increase steadily in the follicular phase.

Ovulatory Phase

The ovulation phase starts with an increase in both the luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. The luteinizing hormone stimulates ovulation. The estrogen level decreases during the increase of luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones. Lastly, progesterone level starts to increase during the ovulatory phase.

Luteal Phase

During the luteal phase, our hormones are putting in overtime. Progesterone peaks during the luteal phase and we produce more estrogen. We also produce leptin, a hormone that helps to regulate long-term energy balance. Lastly, we also experience a decrease in serotonin, the feel-good hormone. This combo of hormone fluctuations can influence our mood, sleep, and appetite.

Warming red meat and peppers (above left) is a great food to eat in the luteal and menstrual phases. Cod (fish), potatoes and tomatoes (above right) is a great balanced meal for the follicular phase.

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The Best Foods For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle

The Importance of Eating Different Foods Each Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle

As our hormones fluctuate, our moods fluctuate and our energy fluctuates. Our nutritional intake can help to balance out the fluctuations! Shifting my diet with each phase of my cycle has helped my cycle (and my life, overall) to become easier. Eating to support my cycle helped to alleviate a lot of the “less than ideal” aspects of the menstrual cycle.

I used to get really bad PMS symptoms (in the luteal phase). Some of the symptoms I encountered were:
•hormonal acne
•energy crashes
•the moodiest (read: bitchiest) mood swings
•breast tenderness that borderlined breast pain
•anxiousness and irritability
•headaches
•bloating
•dry, dull skin

Aligning our nutritional intake with each phase of our menstrual cycle can help to alleviate some of those PMS symptoms. Managing our hormone fluctuations with different foods throughout the menstrual cycle can also help to positively influence our mood, sleep, and appetite.

Potato gnocchi with a tomato sauce and some whole-milk mozzarella cheese (above left) is a great go-to in the luteal phase. Fresh scallops, lightly seared in raw butter, paired with a mango, peach, red onion salad (above right) is a great balance of complex-carbs and seafood for the ovulatory phase.

The Best Foods For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle

Changes I’ve Seen Since Eating Different Foods For Each Phase of My Menstrual Cycle

Since changing my diet with each phase of my cycle I no longer experience the majority of the symptoms listed above. I sometimes still feel a bit more irritable than usual in my luteal phase. However, now I’m much less likely to snap in a bitch-fit the way I used to.

The biggest shift came with the disappearance of my physical PMS symptoms. I no longer get bloated in my luteal phase. I don’t experience breast tenderness and pain anymore. I don’t suffer from afternoon energy crashes anymore. And most importantly: I no longer get PMS headaches. I used to crave processed simple carbs, sugars and starches in my luteal phase. Now, I crave red meat, complex carbs such as beans, potatoes and rice.

Changing the foods I eat during each phase of my menstrual cycle alleviated some of the painful, difficult symptoms. It also helped to amplify some of the positive aspects of the menstrual cycle! Now, I am much more sociable and outgoing in my follicular and ovulatory phases. My mind is so clear and sharp in those phases, as well. No more brain fog! I no longer drink coffee but experience high levels of energy during my follicular and ovulatory phases. I’m able to accomplish more, with less effort.

I also chose to align my business efforts with my menstrual cycle. Flowing with the phases of my menstrual cycle in business has helped me to produce more with less effort. (Talk about a win/win!) You can read more about How to Make Your Menstrual Cycle Work for You as A Female Business Owner here.

But the best shift that I’ve seen since aligning the foods I eat with my menstrual cycle is that I’m happier. I wake up with energy and generally in a good mood and I feel better in my body than I ever have.

Oysters are high in proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, nutrients, and vitamins like magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin D and *so much more* making it a perfect addition to your diet in the menstrual phase.

The Best Foods For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle

The Best Foods to Eat During the Menstrual Phase

In the menstrual phase we begin to lose blood as we shed our uterine lining. We need to focus on nutrients for replenishment. Ideally we want to reach for foods high in vitamin C, B vitamins, and iron to help promote red blood cell production. We also want to focus on ingesting foods with zinc and magnesium. Lastly, we want to incorporate warming herbs and spices into our diet during the menstrual phase.

Best Animal Products to Eat During the Menstrual Phase: Grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Grass fed/grass-finished bison. Grass-fed/grass-finished liver. Full-fat dairy milk, yogurt, cheese (I prefer raw, unpasteurized dairy).

Best Fruits/Veggies/Legumes to Eat During the Menstrual Phase: Bananas, beans, beets, blackberries, blueberries, carrots, grapes, mushrooms, sea veggies (seaweed, kelp), sweet potatoes, root veggies.

Best Teas/Herbs/Spices to Eat During the Menstrual Phase: Red-raspberry leaf, dandelion root, nettle leaf, licorice root, ginger root, cayenne, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, black pepper, turmeric.

Best Nuts/Grains/Seeds to Eat During the Menstrual Phase: Buckwheat, flax seeds, chestnuts, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, quinoa, wild rice.

Foods to Avoid During the Menstrual Phase

In the menstrual cycle you want to avoid caffeinated beverages, sugar and highly processed foods (which can increase inflammation). Monitor your sodium (salt) intake and steer clear of processed meats.

The Best Foods For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle

The Best Foods to Eat During the Follicular Phase

When switching into our follicular phase we want to focus on anti-inflammatory foods. Our bodies love a simple, well-balanced diet during these days. Think: complex carbs like fruit, whole grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes. As our energy levels rise we want to focus on probiotics, fermented foods and foods high in fiber.

Best Animal Products to Eat During the Follicular Phase: Wild-caught fish. Pasture raised chicken. Pasture raised turkey. Pasture raised poultry eggs. Butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir (I prefer raw, unpasteurized dairy).

Best Fruits/Veggies/Legumes to Eat During the Follicular Phase: Artichokes, avocado, carrots, cherries, grapefruit, green beans, lemons, lima beans, limes, kimchi, mung beans, olives, orange, pomegranate, pickles, sauerkraut, split peas, string beans, zucchini.

Best Teas/Herbs/Spices to Eat During the Follicular Phase: Red-raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, holy basil, burdock root.

Best Nuts/Grains/Seeds to Eat During the Follicular Phase:  Barley, Brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats, rye.

Foods to Avoid During the Follicular Phase

Avoiding alcohol (especially if you’re trying to get pregnant!) is important in the follicular phase. Steer clear of simple carbs at this time. Generally speaking you want to avoid processed or artificial foods in the follicular phase, as well.

The Best Foods For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle

The Best Foods to Eat During the Ovulatory Phase

You may notice a boost of energy and/or libido during this phase, but it can also boost your sugar cravings. Be prepared with healthy sweet foods like fruit, dates, apple chips, and dark chocolate. Research points to the need for carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidant-rich foods, high-fiber foods and foods with vitamin D and folic acid during our ovulatory phase.

Best Animal Products to Eat During the Ovulatory Phase: Wild-caught salmon, wild-caught tuna, fresh seafood, organic lamb, pasture raised poultry eggs. Full-fat dairy: milk, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir (I prefer raw, unpasteurized dairy).

Best Fruits/Veggies/Legumes to Eat During the Ovulatory Phase: Apricot, asparagus, bell peppers, cabbage, cantaloupe, celery, chives, coconut, cucumber, eggplant, fig, onion, raspberries, scallions, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon.

Best Teas/Herbs/Spices to Eat During the Ovulatory Phase: Maca root, dandelion root, red raspberry leaf, caffeinated teas/coffee (not too much!)

Best Nuts/Grains/Seeds to Eat During the Ovulatory Phase:  Amaranth, almond, pistachio, pecan, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds.

Foods to Avoid During the Ovulatory Phase

While it’s okay to have some caffeinated tea or coffee at this time – avoid excess caffeine. Steer clear of low-fat dairy, high-glycemic carbs (pasta, rice, bread, cakes, most pre-packaged cereals, etc). Avoid processed foods, processed meats, trans fats and processed sugar.

The Best Foods For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle

The Best Foods to Eat During the Luteal Phase

In the luteal phase you may notice difficulty sleeping as the menstruation phase approaches. Add magnesium-rich foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, and bananas to get a natural sleep boost. Avoiding salty and processed foods can naturally decrease bloating that is common in this phase. In the luteal phase we begin to prepare our bodies for either pregnancy or menstruation. If we are preparing for menstruation – we may notice an increase in starchy-sugary carb cravings. These cravings are a natural response to the decrease in serotonin at this time. Prepare yourself with dried/dehydrated fruits and organic dark chocolate.

Best Animal Products to Eat During the Luteal Phase: Wild-caught fish (cod, halibut, flounder), grass-fed/grass finished beef. Full-fat dairy milk, yogurt, cheese (I prefer raw, unpasteurized dairy).

Best Fruits/Veggies/Legumes to Eat During the Luteal Phase: Apples, celery, collard, chickpeas, cucumber, daikon, dates, garlic, ginger, leeks, onion, peaches, pears, potatoes, pumpkin, radish, raisins, squashes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.

Best Teas/Herbs/Spices to Eat During the Luteal Phase: Burdock root, dandelion root, ginger, red-raspberry leaf, rosemary, spirulina.

Best Nuts/Grains/Seeds to Eat During the Luteal Phase:  Brown rice, pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts,

Foods to Avoid During the Luteal Phase

We want to support our body slowing down as best as possible. Reduce excess and processed sugar, processed carbs, reduce caffeine intake and avoid excess sodium intake.

The Best Foods For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle

Seed Cycling with Each Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle

Seed cycling is another way that you can support your hormones throughout your menstrual cycle. Seed cycling uses two sets of seeds throughout the menstrual cycle. You consume 1-2 tablespoons each of pumpkin and flax seeds in the first half (menstrual and follicular phases) of your cycle. Then in the second half (ovulatory and luteal phases) of your cycle you consume 1-2 tablespoons each of sesame and sunflower seeds.

The pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which help to support production of progesterone. Flax seeds contain lignans which have heaps of medical benefits such as reduction of cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, autoimmune and neurological disorders. In addition to this they can also bind to excess estrogen. Combined with the pumpkin seeds they help keep estrogen levels regulated.

Sesame seeds are also high in zinc which help to support the production of progesterone. The selenium in sunflower seeds can help to break down excess estrogen. And the vitamin E in sunflower seeds can help to support progesterone production.

These seed pairings throughout the cycle can help to support our hormone production as well as to regulate any excess or hormonal imbalances.

The Best Foods For Each Phase Of Your Menstrual Cycle - seed cycling to balance hormones

Changing up the foods I eat for each phase of my menstrual cycle has had so many positive impacts on my health and overall well-being. I hope my round up of the best foods for each phase of your menstrual cycle has given you some insight! Do you change up the foods you eat with the phases of your menstrual cycle? I’d love you to share some of your experience below!

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