Hormones are the chemical messengers of the human body and influence every process, including growth, weight, energy levels, sleep and fertility. Balanced hormones help combat stress and anxiety, relieve depression and optimise health.
Most women live under the influence of hormones changing on a monthly cycle. The foods we choose to eat during these cycles can support healthy hormone balance that can lead to increased energy, better moods and healthy weight maintenance.
Try eating with your cycle for three months and assess your mood, health and energy.
During your period: Day one until the end of bleeding
This is a time when many women feel hormonally imbalanced, and tired, crampy, bloated or moody as a result. During this stage, blood loss requires lots of iron-rich and vitamin C foods to restore your depleted stores.
Excellent food sources of iron include red meat, asparagus, chard, spinach, thyme, turmeric and cumin seeds. Vitamin C helps to increase the absorption of iron and keep the blood vessels strong – good choices include red capsicum, broccoli, strawberries, kiwi fruit, tomatoes and citrus.
Time to hit the veggie aisle of the supermarket. (Image: iStock)
Liver-friendly foods for hormonal support are essential during this time. Bulk up on broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, garlic, cabbage and spinach while avoiding caffeine, sugar and alcohol - these will only add to the load your liver has to process, and we need it in top working condition. It is important to opt for organic fruit and veg to give your liver a break.
Anti-inflammatory foods can help to reduce any pain and inflammation. Increase your intake of oily fish like wild caught salmon and sardines, add turmeric and ginger to smoothies, curries and soups (sprinkle grated turmeric and ginger into your morning omelette for an easy boost) and increase your intake of berries and cherries when in season.
Cheat’s Tips: Include red meat, asparagus, turmeric, broccoli, spinach and salmon. Minimise caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
Watch: Words we use as euphemisms for our period. Post continues after video.)
Preparing for ovulation: The follicular phase
When your period finishes, you are usually feeling pretty good as oestrogen levels rise in preparation for ovulation. Good fats are essential for hormone production, so adding more good fats such as avocado, wild salmon, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, coconut oil and fresh (100 per cent) almond milk is a great idea. Avoid processed fats, fried foods and trans fats.
Increase alkalising foods such as leafy greens and sprouts. Calcium is essential for oestrogen production and healthy ovulation so bulk up on full fat Greek yoghurt, unhulled tahini, hummus, chia seeds, almonds, figs, sardines, spinach, broccoli, parsley and watercress.
Cheat’s Tips: include avocado, walnuts, chia seeds, coconut oil, unhulled tahini and sprouts. Drink plenty of water. (Post continues after gallery.)
The luteal phase: Ovulation until the next period
The first half of this phase, which usually takes around 14 days, is when oestrogen declines and your body starts increasing progesterone production.
Increase progesterone-friendly foods such as those containing vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc and vitamin C. Think leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds and tomatoes.
Reduce salt in your diet to ease fluid retention, and increase your intake of vegetables. An easy way to achieve this is to double your (vegetable-rich) dinner and take for it lunch the following day. Consider carrot, celery and cucumber sticks with hummus for your afternoon snack attack.
The second half of the luteal phase is when many women will begin feeling irritable. Keep your blood sugar levels and mood stable by eating protein with each meal. Snack regularly and make sure that you don't leave long gaps between meals.
Cheat’s Tips: pumpkin seeds, pistachios, tomatoes, carrot and cucumber. Eat little and often.
Does your diet change when you're on your period?
Featured image: iStock.