Ask a Nutritionist: What Should I Eat to Improve PMS and Have Better Periods?

Ask a Nutritionist: What Should I Eat to Improve PMS and Have Better Periods?

Hell hath no fury like a woman with imbalanced hormones.

Believe it or not, periods really shouldn’t be awful! A healthy cycle does come with some ups and downs, but you shouldn’t feel like the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Understanding your body is one of the most important aspects of managing your health. When it comes to your cycle there's a lot to learn, but it's so worth the effort to keep track of it.

Here is everything you need to know about syncing your diet and lifestyle to balance your hormones.*

*This is based on a ‘typical’ 28-day cycle. Your cycle length may vary slightly.

Getting started: if you aren’t already tracking your cycle, you can do so using a helpful smartphone app. There are many available but we like Clue because of its simple, gender neutral interface and options to input symptoms like moods, pain, cravings, sex drive, and more.

Day 1: Your Period

The first day of your period is the first day of your cycle. This is the point at which your hormones are lowest, triggering menstruation. During this time you’re likely to feel a little tired, and maybe a bit weak.

What to eat during your period:

  • Anti-inflammatory foods like pineapple and turmeric, to manage cramping.
  • Magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens and dark chocolate, to relax muscles.
  • High iron foods like beans, red meat and dark chocolate, to prevent anemia.

Lifestyle tips for during your period:

  • Keep track of your ideas in a journal, many women report feeling creative during their period.
  • Incorporate gentle movement like walking and yoga to ease cramps and boost energy levels.
  • Practice self-care by taking a bath or giving yourself a facial.

Days 2 to 13: Follicular Phase

During the follicular phase, your body is ramping up to release another egg for potential fertilization. Once your period begins, you have re-entered the follicular phase of your cycle. As your period ends, you should start feeling more energetic.

What to eat in the follicular phase:

  • Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, since they contain compounds that assist in estrogen detoxification.
  • Calcium-rich foods like tahini, fortified almond milk, collard greens, chia seeds and dairy, which play an important role in estrogen production.
  • Healthy fats like wild salmon, coconut, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, which contribute to healthy hormone production.
  • Ground flax, which helps the body deal with estrogen, and provides detoxifying fiber.

Lifestyle tips for your follicular phase:

  • Try a new workout. As your hormones ramp up, you feel stronger and more energetic.
  • Be social, since you’re more likely to crave human connection during this time.
  • Go shopping now, since you will feel sexier and more confident than in your luteal phase.
  • Go on dates! Since your fertility is ramping up, you will have a better intuition for choosing a partner.

Day 14: Ovulation

During ovulation you will likely feel your best. People will find you more appealing due to pheromones, and your energy levels should be high. As your body puts you in the mood for baby making, this is usually an amazing time to get stuff done!

What to eat during ovulation:

  • Keep eating follicular phase foods with an emphasis on plenty of fruits and veggies.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration while you’re being extra productive.

Lifestyle tips for ovulation:

  • Now is a good time to set a personal best in training, but be careful as elevated estrogen could increase your injury risk
  • Finish major projects to reduce your workload as much as possible during the next two weeks, when your energy might dip.

Days 15 to 28: Luteal Phase

Women who complain of PMS usually experience this during the luteal phase. During this time, it is particularly important to eat balanced, frequent meals as you’re more prone to blood sugar imbalances. If you feel hungrier, it’s because your metabolism is jacked up and you are burning more calories. So increase your food to match your appetite.

What to eat during your luteal phase:

  • Lean proteins, like chicken, turkey, and fish, will help your blood sugar stay balanced throughout the day.
  • Fresh herbs can add flavor instead of using salt, to ease water retention.
  • Zinc-rich foods like pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, and raw cacao help with progesterone production, which is important during your luteal phase.
  • Tons of veggies to help reduce cravings, thanks to high micronutrient content

Lifestyle tips for your luteal phase:

  • Meditate to help manage stress. You’re more likely to feel stressed out and overwhelmed during this time.
  • Reduce caffeine by halving your daily intake. If you’re a coffee drinker, stick to one cup maximum, or try to have coffee every other day.
  • Stay active to keep energy levels from plummeting. You won’t be at your peak performance, so don’t be critical of yourself
  • Wear yoga pants since you’re more prone to bloating and water retention. Don’t try to squeeze into tight clothes that will just bum you out.

Check out these recipes to make cycle-based meal planning easier!

Period Recipes:

Follicular Phase Recipes:

Luteal Phase Recipes:

Happy cycling!

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