Let’s face it — most menstruating women have likely experienced the insatiable food cravings that arise around that time of the month. If we were to ask you how to eat for your menstrual cycle, it would come as no surprise to learn about a hidden chocolate stash waiting and ready to comfort even the moodiest of days (we’ve all been there). But are your go-to comfort foods really supporting your cycle?
While we’re all in favor of that piece of dark chocolate, there may be better options to support your hormonal needs. In fact, certain foods and cravings not only impact the week of your cycle but the weeks leading up to it, too! Studies even show how eating for your menstrual cycle could play a role in weight loss! So, why not incorporate foods that support your hormones throughout the month?
How to eat based on your menstrual cycle is known as the cyclical diet or cycle-syncing, and we’re here to spill all of the expert-approved details. Trust us — you won’t want to miss this girl talk!
The Role of Food & The Menstrual Cycle
Until recently, food was primarily thought of as a means of comfort for menstruating women before and during their period. Luckily, research has come a long way. Science and experts now agree: certain foods can benefit each phase of the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle consists of four phases: the follicular phase, the ovulation phase, the luteal phase, and the menstrual (or bleeding) phase. And, having your diet in sync with these cycles could prove beneficial for both your hormones and your overall health.
So, if you want to hack your hormones with your diet, we’ll show you how. We asked Menstrual Cycle Specialist, Nutritionist, and Exercise Physiologist Omega Zumpano of Fitness Flow Method how to eat based on your menstrual cycle, and here’s what you need to know.
Foods to Eat For Each Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle
Let’s start with how to eat during the follicular phase. The follicular phase is unique in that it overlaps with the menstrual phase — it starts on the first day of your period and ends at the beginning of ovulation. During this time, the body signals the pituitary gland to produce Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). FSH then triggers the ovaries to produce follicles (fluid-filled sacs containing immature eggs) in preparation for an egg. While your body is hard at work developing a dominant follicle, estrogen levels peak!
This phase may sound taxing, but women actually feel their strongest, sexiest, and most confident during this time of the month! So, download the FitOn App and channel that fiery energy — this is a great time to crush a HIIT workout!
Of course, nourishment is essential during this time — so, here’s how to eat for your menstrual cycle. To support the extra surge in energy, you’ll need energizing nutrients like complex carbs — ideally, fiber-rich carbs, says Zumpano. As estrogen levels rise, it’s important to support your detox pathways with fiber-rich nutrients to ensure healthy elimination and to help maintain hormone balance.
Here’s how to eat for your menstrual cycle during the follicular phase:
Prioritize Complex Carbs: Incorporate carb-rich foods such as black beans, wild rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes.
Eat Plenty of Fiber-rich Fruits and Veggies: Such as citrus, broccoli, apples, avocado, berries, kiwi, artichokes, and fermented foods.
Sustain Your Energy With Protein-rich Food Sources: Such as nuts, seeds, bone broth, chicken, cod, and eggs.
The ovulation phase occurs mid-cycle, where the body produces an egg (thanks to the increase in both estrogen and luteinizing hormone). So, if you’re planning on getting pregnant, now would be the time!
Testosterone levels spike during the ovulation phase too meaning energy is still going strong (a great time for a strength workout). But, with so many hormones shifting, it’s important to maintain a healthy balance. Understanding how to eat based on your menstrual cycle can help regulate energy levels while ridding the body of excess toxins.
This is a great time to prioritize foods rich in zinc, says Zumpano. Zinc-rich foods like oysters and pumpkin seeds can help restore mineral balance as testosterone levels rise.
But don’t forget to balance the rest of your diet, too! Energy may be peaking, but don’t be surprised if hunger levels subside. That’s why nutrient-dense foods like lean proteins and healthy fats are especially important during the ovulation phase — these foods help keep the body satiated while supporting follicle development.
Here’s how to eat for your menstrual cycle during the ovulation phase:
Load up on Zinc-rich Foods: Such as oysters, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds.
Fill up on Healthy Fats: Foods such as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, tahini.
Stay Satiated With Lean Proteins: Such as oysters, salmon, eggs, and chickpeas.
You may know this phase by another name — the premenstrual phase. If you’ve experienced PMS, you know this is that time of the month where emotions run high, and cramps come on strong. During this phase (the week before your menstrual cycle), the egg transforms into the corpus luteum, a structure that releases progesterone.
This is the time to load up on mood-boosting foods, says Zumpano — that’s why knowing how to eat for your menstrual cycle is crucial! Nutrients like magnesium, vitamin D, and B vitamins can support healthy progesterone levels and prevent estrogen from dominating (leading to PMS).
Here’s how to eat for your menstrual cycle during the luteal phase:
Reduce Menstrual-related Pain With Magnesium: Incorporate foods such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, mushrooms, seafood, asparagus.
Be Mindful of B Vitamins: Whole grains, legumes, dark leafy veggies like kale and collard greens, citrus fruits, banana, avocado.
Ensure Adequate Vitamin D: Incorporate mushrooms, dairy, or fortified plant milk, eggs, (plus, sunshine!)
The menstrual phase is a time to be gentle with yourself and prioritize self-care. Once the body realizes it’s not pregnant, progesterone and estrogen rapidly decline, and the uterine lining begins to shed. Fluctuating hormone levels can cause period-related pain and cramping, leading to discomfort and fatigue. Take it easy on your body and rest up! If your body is calling for it, try some light movement such as restorative yoga or stretching.
When it comes to your diet, knowing how to eat for your menstrual cycle can help alleviate period-related pain and inflammation. Try incorporating anti-inflammatory nutrients such as Omega-3s! Plus, mineral-rich foods can help support the loss of blood if your cycle is heavy.
Here’s how to eat for your menstrual cycle during the menstrual phase:
Bulk up on Omega 3’s: Incorporate foods like salmon, cod liver oil, pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds.
Fight Inflammation With Anti-inflammatory Nutrients: Such as berries, broccoli, and kale.
Focus on Mineral-rich Foods to Support Blood Loss: With foods like beets, red meat, sea veggies and seafood, dark leafy greens, and legumes.
Give Your Digestive System a Break: Incorporate easy-to-digest foods like oats and mineral-based soups.
Support Your Cycle All Month Long
Understanding how to eat for your menstrual cycle can give you some insight on how to give your body some extra love and support.
As you can see, your body is hard at work all month long! With so many hormonal changes taking place, being mindful of where you’re at in your menstrual cycle can help you properly nourish your body and feel your best. As always, it’s important to listen to your body and remember: there’s no one-size-fits-all approach!
Try giving cycle-syncing a try by referring to our guide, but always do what feels intuitive for you and your needs.