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Let us guess: Around the time of your period you can probably relate to the feeling that hormones are in control, driving what you want to eat, when, and how much. But what about the other way around? Can what we eat affect our hormone health too during different parts of our cycle?
According to Olivia Nealy, R.D., yes. In fact, as a functional fertility dietician and founder of Let’s Get Real RD, she spends most of her days helping women improve their hormone health through nutrition and lifestyle choices.
She often recommends that patients switch up their diet to align with the hormonal shifts that occur throughout the month. Here are the foods she says to eat before, during, and after your period.
What to eat before your period
This is the time to get serious about nutrition in an effort to decrease common PMS symptoms like mood swings, tender breasts, fatigue, and cravings. Unfortunately, that can be hard to do since as Neely explains, “progesterone is climbing so you will crave salty, sweet, or carby foods.”
You may also be hungrier than normal from days 16-28; it’s totally normal and you can adjust your eating patterns accordingly. “Start by avoiding going long periods of time without eating,” says Neely, who recommends focusing on healthy fats with complex carbs and clean proteins to avoid dizziness and binge eating during this time. “A loaded sweet potato with plenty of ghee, butter, or coconut oil along with some leftover ground chicken or tempeh topped with arugula would fit the bill,” she says.
What to eat during your period
You’ll likely be feeling bloated, crampy, and fatigued this week, but according to Neely, this is not the time to chug wine and fill up on chocolate and potato chips. “In fact, more than any other phase, this is the time to avoid too much sugar, fat, alcohol, and caffeine,” she says. You may have a smaller appetite this week from the rising estrogen, so listen to your body and stop when you feel full.
Neely recommends focusing on foods that are high in magnesium, which she says is great for cramps and mood stability, during your period. Luckily, cacao is a great source of this mineral, which means this non-dairy hot chocolate is the perfect treat. It’s one of Neely’s favorite recipes to make before snuggling up on the couch to watch Netflix.
Non-Dairy Raw Cacao Hot Chocolate
- 1 cup non dairy milk or raw milk
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder (like Navitas)
- 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup or honey (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of sea salt
- Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan over high heat, using a whisk to break up any clumps. Keep stirring until smooth and piping hot, then pour into a mug and serve warm.
What to eat after your period
You made it through the PMS and your period week, so you’re likely feeling good and not thinking as much about your hormones as much after your period. But according to Neely, that doesn’t mean you should neglect them altogether. “Your energy is still building from just finishing the menstrual phase,” she says. “Fill up on raw, sprouted, and fermented foods,” she continues.
Around three days after your period, “spring fever really kicks in,” says Neely. This is when you’ll be full of energy, optimism, and your cravings will subside. It’s likely you’ll be less hungry as well, but according to Neely, you’ll still need additional nutritional support to metabolize estrogen, which is rising during this time. “Enjoy 1/4 cup broccoli sprouts daily to help the liver detoxify the estrogen hormone,” she says.
By eating to match your cycle, you can promote a healthy mood, combat cramps, and reduce cravings. Your hormones will thank you.