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Period Lowdown No.2 – Understand Your Hormones Through Food

Hormones are the love hate relationship we have with our body

Have you ever taken into consideration that during our cycle, our bodies need to be nourished differently?  I’m sure you’ve felt that craving for something sugary or salty just before and during your period.  There is a reason for that.  Hormones! Your stress hormone, cortisol increases and your feel good hormone, serotonin reduces.

The much awaited Part 2 of the Period Lowdown is here.  In Period Lowdown No 1 we discussed the phases and the all round things you can do to stay on top of feeling better during your cycle.

Today is about what we eat. What kind of food plan are you on right now? Are you following what you eat closely?

There are so many ways of eating these days.  Especially for those that experience reactions to food such as bloating, mood swings, back pain and diarrhoea. There are lifestyle diets such as Wholefoods, Paleo, Keto, FODMAP, Low Sugar, No Carb.  And these will continue to evolve as we learn more about what food is doing to our bodies.

Yum recipes for each week of your cycle

Reaching for those snacks that satisfy us only to make us come crashing down again. Below I’ve compiled a list of recipes and ideas to try during the phases of your cycle.  Taken from great cooks everywhere (some with a few tweaks of my own!).  Start viewing your monthly cycle diet as another step to getting control of your life.  Record your eating habits and moods and go back in three months time to see if these changes have helped you have that extra bounce in your step.  You’ll find that  the word diet is more about how you balance your eating habits and less about yoyo dieting.

Menstrual Phase – REFLECTIVE – REST

Everyone will be different in their monthly cycles. An approximate time for this phase will last 3 – 7 days
What you crave
  • Fries, burgers, processed foods, sugar, sweets. Oestrogen levels increase that make our hormones unstable, causing cramps and period pain along with mood swings.
What you should eat

  • Vegetables and whole grains with meat for increased iron absorption. But what kinds for this phase? Those high in calcium, magnesium and potassium. 
    • Kale and Basil Pesto – So diverse in its use.  Whether at work, school or home, pesto can be used in a sandwich, pasta, or with chopped up veggies for a tasty snack.
    • Gluten Free Rustic Loaf of Bread – This is my weekly go to but is perfect for this week and the recipe is so diverse you can play around with it and add a few more things.  Cut it up and stick it in the freezer for a daily meal. Instead of starting from scratch, you can also buy gluten free flour.  It turns out a lot fluffier if the whole grains don’t blend down enough.  I also like to include fennel, flax and cumin seeds in the mix. You choose what spices you like and create your own mix.
    • Slow Cooked Pork – Not only is this comfort food that soothes the soul, the leftover shredded meat is great in salads, wraps or a healthy pulled pork burger for the next night.  Serve with roast beets, parsnip and carrot for a sweet taste. Coming into summer, you can use fresh or pickled veg to help with easy digestion. Too much pork leftover (not in my house!!). Easy to freeze and use next cycle.
    • Snacks – Nuts, veggie sticks or try these awesome recipes for energy packed snack balls that will help eliminate the cravings. And they taste so good! Make a big batch, freeze them in snack sizes so that you don’t overindulge but have a healthy snack on hand all the time.

Follicular Phase – DYNAMIC – ENERGY

Approximate time 6 – 10 days
What you crave
  • Coffee. Our energy levels have increased, therefore our routines lend themselves to doing more. Drinking coffee increases the hormone cortisol.  I know it’s hard (believe me!) but cutting out coffee during certain parts of your cycle can have a big effect on mood swings.
What you should eat

  • Fermented Foods like pickled cucumbers.  One of my favourites now.  You can play around with the flavours by the herbs and spices added to the liquid.  Also try this Kimchi recipe. YUUUMMM! (This is said singing!)
  • Smashed Peas, Poached Eggs and Avocado. Eggs play a big role in our nutrition. And they taste so good.  Who says you have to eat this for breakfast?
  • My go to Dukkah with Pumpkin and Flax Seeds. Eat with bread dipped in Olive Oil for a yummy alternative to a cheese sandwich. Specifically designed using a seed rotation to help balance hormones

Ovulatory Phase – EXPRESSIVE – GIVING

Approximate time 3 – 4 days
What you crave
  • Oestrogen levels are back on the rise. The more oestrogen, the higher chances of having PMS.  Reducing sugar, caffeine and red meat (especially high in hormone injection) intake will help reduce mood swings and reduce the PMS. These foods include sweets and sodas and farmed red meat. Sugar is prevalent in many of the foods we eat however there are “empty sugars” that we eat that provide zero benefit to our health.  More information can be found here⇐.
What you should eat

  • Cruciferous vegetables. WHAT??!!! I agree.  What on earth are they? They are green veggies that we all love to hate.  Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale.  But you don’t have to eat them alone.  Yes, without the love of the food, they are honestly disgusting.  But try these recipes out once and you will view the dreaded greens in a different way:
  • Kale roasted with Coconut Oil.
    • INGREDIENTS
      • Bunch Kale
      • 1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
      • Salt & Pepper to taste
    • METHOD:
    • Set Oven to 160 degrees
    • Grab a bunch of kale.  Strip the middle hard parts from the kale and cut into bite size pieces.
    • Melt coconut oil until liquid form (if used in summer, coconut oil liquifies at 22 degrees, so that is the level you need.  Don’t overheat!)
    • Rub the Kale and Coconut Oil until Bruised.  Season with salt and pepper.
    • Place on a roasting tray and cook for 15 minutes or until crisp.
    • Try different tastes with different spices and seeds, such as sesame and cumin (as you know, I love fennel, so try rubbing this in with the coconut oil).
  • Brussel sprouts with Bacon. Omit the onion to reduce bloating if susceptible and use fermented garlic to ease gassy episodes!
  • Slaw with the easiest Cashew Mayonnaise.
    • INGREDIENTS:
      • 1/2 x Cabbage (savoy, purple, green)
      • 3 x Carrot
      • 1/4 Bulb Fennel (optional)
      • 1/2 Cup Cashews
      • 1/2 Cup Water
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • Juice 1/2 lemon
    • METHOD:
    • Cut Cabbage, Carrot and Fennel into thin slices
    • Blend Cashews, Water, Garlic and Lemon until smooth.
    • Combine all ingredients in a bowl until sauce is mixed through.

Serve with salmon, pork chops or pork ribs.  A great entertainer dish, but great for this time of your cycle.

Luteal Phase – CREATIVE – YOU

Approximate time 10 – 14 days
What you crave
  • Once again, the balance of oestrogen and progesterone are very important in this phase.  The more oestrogen, the higher the PMS.  Not enough progesterone can cause swings in moods leading to an unhappy you. You want chocolate and you will go through anyone to get it! Sugar is prevalent in many of the foods we eat however there are “empty sugars” that we eat that provide zero benefit to our health.  More information can be found here⇐.
  • You want to find
What you should eat

  • Good Quality Dark Chocolate.  Try to wean off the milk chocolate and try dark chocolate that is higher than 70% cocoa or even better, cacao.  It is full of magnesium, iron and manganese to name a few.  Try making you own chocolate from Raw Cacao (this recipe even shows you how to make your own Ice Magic!!)
  • My go to Dukkah with Sesame and Sunflower Seeds. Eat with bread dipped in Olive Oil for a yummy alternative to a cheese sandwich. Specifically designed using a seed rotation to help balance hormones
  • Salmon (skin on).  Serve with my slaw and cashew mayo or steam some broccoli, asparagus and lightly flavour with lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Basic, yum and full of the nutrients and minerals needed to assist in keeping the hormone levels balanced.

These are only some of the recipes you can try out.  Having intolerances means testing what works well for you. The internet is full of great ideas and obviously lots of different opinions. Try testing it for yourself.  Give up coffee during the Follicular Phase.  It doesn’t mean that you have to give it up forever. It means that your body is functioning in a different way during that time, therefore needs more of one thing and less of another.

Don’t react to your body thinking that it should be able to operate the same way every day. Give it some respect and it will show you respect back.  Once we are in tune with ourselves, our lives are opened up to so much more.  It has taken me far too long to figure this out!

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