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Eating for each phase of your menstrual cycle

Jessica Pinel shares the foods to eat during each phase of the menstrual cycle, to help with help support menstrual health.

Attention all menstruators, mothers, fathers, brothers, family members, friends, and carers of a menstruating individual. YOU need to hear this! EVERYBODY needs to hear this!

A menstrual cycle is much more than an inconvenient monthly bleed; it's a woman's 5th vital sign, providing important insight into her health. A menstrual irregularity could mean something is wrong, such as a hormonal imbalance, gynaecological disease or infection.

Did you know that 1 in 10 girls and women take time off work or school almost every menstrual cycle? Also, 1 in 3 women feel that their menstrual cycle affects their day-to-day life.

While it's a natural process, it's 'not' normal to suffer through those pesky period symptoms. But don't threat. Science has shown that we can use nutrition to support menstrual health. So, let's dive into each phase of the menstrual cycle and learn what to eat to not just survive but thrive throughout!

Nutrition for Menstrual Phase

Menstruation, also known as a period, marks the beginning of the menstrual cycle and lasts 2 to 7 days. Oestrogen and progesterone levels decrease rapidly in the absence of a pregnancy, leading to the shedding of blood and mucosal tissue from the uterine lining. Losing about 1 to 5 tablespoons (20 to 90ml) of blood during menstruation is normal. Some women bleed more heavily than this, potentially increasing their risk of fatigue and weakness and even leading to iron deficiency anaemia. Therefore, It is important to include iron-rich foods in your diet, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, leafy greens and dark chocolate. Pairing these iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources like citrus fruits or bell peppers further enhances iron absorption.

Nutrition for Follicular Phase

The follicular phase starts from day 1 of menstruation to day 14. During this period, oestrogen levels gradually rise, leading to the thickening of the uterine lining in preparation for a potential pregnancy. The ovaries also prepare to release an egg. Nutrition is key during this stage as it supplies the necessary energy for the upcoming release of the egg. At this stage, the body leans towards carbohydrates as its primary energy source rather than fat or protein. This can result in increased cravings for foods such as bread and pasta. It's important to listen to your body's signals and slightly boost your carbohydrate intake. When choosing carbs, opt for complex carbohydrates like fruits, whole grains, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes.

Nutrition for Ovulatory Phase

This occurs for about 3 to 4 days in the middle of the cycle. During this phase, there is a rapid increase in oestrogen. This surge triggers the release of an egg from the ovaries. You may notice a rise in your body temperature and a dull pain on one side of your tummy, known as ovulation pain.

It is common for women to experience bloating at this phase of their cycle due to the rise in oestrogen. Bloating can be bothersome, dictating outfit choices, but with smart nutrition, relief is within reach! Reducing salt intake can help curb bloating. Opt for low-sodium options and limit processed foods. Include more potassium-rich foods such as bananas, spinach, and sweet potatoes to help balance sodium levels and reduce bloating. Incorporate Diuretic Foods such as cucumbers, watermelon, and asparagus to aid in water elimination.

Nutrition for Luteal Phase

The luteal phase encompasses the 10 to 14 days preceding the next menstrual bleed. Here, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone reach their peak levels before gradually declining, completing the cycle.

During the luteal phase, the resting metabolic rate is significantly higher as your body is busy working to prepare for a potential pregnancy. As a result, you tend to use more fat for energy and protein is broken down at a higher rate. This means that it is important to load up healthy fats from foods such as nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado and good quality protein like lean meats, eggs, and plant-based sources. As insulin sensitivity is low during this phase, opt for complex carbohydrates and pair with protein and fat.

The luteal phase can be characterised by premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the symptoms women can experience in the weeks before their period. These can include acne, tender breasts, bloating, feeling tired, irritability, and mood changes. Premenstrual syndrome can be a combination of these symptoms. Did you know around 20 to 30% of women experience PMS? Magnesium can potentially support PMS. Foods rich in magnesium include bananas, avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate.

Nutrition and the menstrual cycle

In the grand scheme of things, nutrition can considerably influence your menstrual cycle's impact. Specific foods offer advantages during particular phases, and others help keep pesky period symptoms at bay. It's important to acknowledge that even though someone may have a menstrual cycle, they are still an individual!

Are you feeling that pre-period dread and struggling with cycle symptoms? contact Jessica Pinel to book in for a free 15 minute discovery call via the booking page on her website or email


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