Your menstrual cycle, like most things, is not one dimensional. It requires that you work with it in all ways, including in the kitchen.
And when you focus on eating the right foods at the right time of the month, you’ll be able to see endless benefits: less PMS, more energy, better mood and so much more.
This Q&A with Registered Dietician Vanessa Rissetto addresses all the benefits of a menstrual cycle diet and how the P.volve Method and Phase & Function help guide what’s on your plate throughout every phase of your cycle.
Table of Contents
Menstrual Cycle Diet Tips
Q: Let's start at the beginning: How are food and hormones connected?
A: Food affects how hormones are secreted. For example, overeating sugar will cause a release of insulin and perhaps an over production which, if constant, can lead to weight gain.
Q: Why is it important to eat according to your cycle?
A: Eating according to your cycle can help to mitigate symptoms that cause bloating, discomfort, fatigue and distress. The magic of Phase & Function is that it helps you navigate your cycle and eat foods that can help nourish you and give you energy during a time when many women don't necessarily feel their best.
Q: How come so many women don't know about the benefits of eating according to your cycle?
A: Likely because women don't often complain. I find that women are superheroes and take a lot in stride. I hear stories of women telling their doctors about symptoms and are often told “it is what it is”. We normalize feeling bad and that shouldn't be the case.
How to eat for each stage of your menstrual cycle
Q: If someone were to make one small nutritional change that has the biggest impact, what would you recommend?
A: Try not to make big changes all at once. Small changes can have long lasting effects and help you feel motivated. If you drink juice everyday, try every other day, and once you can do that, build upon it.
Q: Can you still eat according to your cycle if you have dietary restrictions or follow another diet?
A: Of course! First off, this is a guide—it's loaded with science, ideas and behavior changes. Take what resonates with you and leave the rest. This program is personalized for you. You know your body best.
Q: How does movement play a role in eating for your cycle, and why is doing both so important?
A: When we exercise we deplete the muscles of glycogen which naturally brings our hunger levels up. Moving in a way that works best for you and how you feel is key, while also making sure you are nourishing yourself and repleting what you need.
Q: What is the connection between the two?
A: Never try to restrict yourself because you've eaten something you don't deem as "good". We want to honor our food choices and our movement choices. It's the best way for us to have success.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about cravings and PMS? (Also, should we really eat chocolate on our periods?)
A: Of course you can eat chocolate during your period! If you're following Phase & Function, you'll see that certain foods can help you feel better throughout the phases and also be more understanding of your cravings which will help you navigate the best options for you.
Foods to eat during the menstrual phase
During your bleed, foods should help mitigate inflammation, replenish nutrients and encourage balance as your hormones reach their lowest levels.
Each meal should include a protein to get you sufficient amino acids necessary for hormone production. Focus on energizing carbs, healthy fats and low glycemic fruits and veggies. You might find that you’re craving more warm foods like soups and stews this week. As always, pay attention to your appetite. You may feel less hungry, but it’s still important to properly fuel.
Foods to eat during the follicular phase
After your bleed, prioritize foods that match the energy of your rising hormone levels. Estrogen and insulin sensitivity are increasing, so keep fueling with carbohydrate-forward foods (grains, potatoes, fruit) while your body is able to utilize them properly and maintain blood sugar stability.
Fresh, steamed and sautéed ingredients will feel best during this phase. It’s also crucial to support gut health with fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi and detox the body with cruciferous greens like broccoli.
Foods to eat during the ovulatory phase
During ovulation, be sure to eat foods that set you up for success as energy and workout intensity hits its peak. As estrogen drops after ovulation and progesterone begins to rise, so will insulin resistance which means your body is less able to metabolize carbohydrates well.
Replace some of those simple carbohydrates from the follicular phase with healthy fat such as fatty fish, nuts and seeds. Make sure you take in enough nutrients for workout recovery here, especially protein. Focusing on non-starchy carbohydrates like veggies and lean protein are great for weight loss if that’s a goal. As always, keep that water bottle nearby and prioritize hydration.
Foods to eat during the luteal phase
Prioritize foods that satisfy cravings and provide essential nutrients to prepare the body for what’s to come with the menstrual phase. As progesterone continues its rise, continue to focus on fat for fuel, giving the body what it can use best and setting yourself up for fewer PMS symptoms and a cramp-free period.
Listen to what your body is asking for, like magnesium-rich foods. Focus on sweet root vegetables and healthy fats to curb the desire for sugary desserts. If you have a sweet tooth, try some dark chocolate and a couple of dates and see how satisfied you feel.
Get access to our clinically backed phase-specific food lists and recipes in Phase & Function, now on demand.