Cycle syncing is when you align your daily activities such as nutrition, exercise, meetings etc, with the different phases of the menstrual cycle. It has been gaining more and more attention as it incentivizes and promotes a better understanding of ourselves and how hormones impact us throughout the cycle. A significant part of cycle syncing involves tailoring your diet to support the hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout the menstrual cycle.
In this article, we provide a comprehensive guide on what foods may be beneficial during each phase of your menstrual cycle.
Understanding the Phases of the Menstrual Cycle:
The menstrual cycle has four distinct phases: early follicular (menstruation), late follicular (before ovulation), mid-luteal (after ovulation), and late luteal phase (PMS). Each phase is characterized by different hormonal changes that can affect your body and mood. In this article, we will also include recommendations around Ovulation. Here's a brief overview:
- Ealy Follicular (menstruation) phase: This phase marks the start of the menstrual cycle where menstruation occurs.
- Late Follicular phase: The body prepares for ovulation during this phase by maturing follicles in the ovaries.
- Ovulation: A surge in luteinizing hormone triggers the release of an egg from the ovary. Estrogen drops.
- Mid-Luteal phase: After ovulation, the body prepares for a potential pregnancy or the next menstrual cycle. Progesterone starts to rise.
- Late Luteal phase: Progesterone and Estrogen both start to drop. This is when most people experience PMS.
For more detail on the different phases of the menstrual cycle, check out our article on "The Menstrual Cycle Phases"
Cycle Syncing Food Chart
Tailoring your diet according to the phases of your menstrual cycle can be a game changer in managing symptoms and promoting overall well-being. Below is a simplified chart to guide you on what foods to incorporate during each phase. Remember, everyone's body responds differently to foods, so it's essential to listen to your body and adjust accordingly.
Menstrual Phase Foods:
During the menstrual phase, it's crucial to replenish the nutrients lost through bleeding. Iron-rich foods can help prevent anemia, and B vitamins may support energy levels.
Iron-rich Foods: to replenish iron lost during menstruation and prevent anemia
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Lean meats such as beef or turkey
- Legumes like lentils and chickpeas
B Vitamin-rich Foods: to support energy levels and mood
- Whole grains like quinoa or whole wheat bread
- Dairy products like milk and cheese
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: to help with menstrual cramping and inflammation
- Fatty fish like salmon or mackerel
- Nuts, especially walnuts
- Seeds like chia seeds and flaxseeds
Magnesium-rich Foods: to help with menstrual cramping and sleep
- Dark chocolate
Fiber-rich Foods (to support digestive health):
- Whole grains
- Vegetables like broccoli and carrots
- Fruits like berries and apples
Sample Recipe: Warm Lentil and Spinach Salad
Menstrual Phase Recipe:
Warm Lentil and Spinach Salad: Serves: 4
- Lentils (1 cup): Lentils are a great source of iron, which can help replenish iron stores that may be depleted during menstruation. They are also rich in protein and fiber, supporting energy levels and digestive health.
- Fresh Spinach (4 cups): Spinach is another excellent source of iron and is also rich in Vitamin B which can help boost energy and mood.
- Olive Oil (2 tablespoons): Healthy fats like olive oil can help with hormone production and balance, which is crucial during the menstrual phase.
- Garlic (2 cloves, minced): Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties which can help with menstrual cramps.
- Lemon Juice (2 tablespoons): Vitamin C from lemon juice enhances the absorption of non-heme iron from plant-based sources, making it a great addition to help boost iron levels.
- Grilled Peaches (2 peaches, sliced): Grilled peaches are also rich in vitamin C and potassium, which is beneficial for alleviating cramping during menstruation.
- Salt and Pepper (to taste): For seasoning.
- Optional: Feta Cheese (1/4 cup crumbled): Cheese can provide some additional B vitamins and calcium.
- Rinse the lentils thoroughly under cold water. Place them in a medium-sized pot and cover with water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
- While lentils are cooking, wash and dry spinach leaves. If desired, chop into smaller pieces for easier eating.
- Preheat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Lightly oil the peach slices and grill them for 2-3 minutes on each side until they have grill marks and are slightly caramelized. Set aside.
- In a the same skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add cooked lentils and spinach to the skillet, stirring well to combine. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until spinach is wilted and then add the peaches.
- Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- If using, sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top before serving.
Serve warm, enjoy!
Late Follicular Phase Foods
In the follicular phase, a balanced diet that supports hormonal balance and egg maturation is beneficial. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can provide the necessary nutrients.
- Balanced Diet Foods: Quinoa, lean chicken, turkey, fresh vegetables like broccoli and carrots, and fruits like berries and apples.
- Sample Recipe: Grilled Chicken and Quinoa Bowl with Fresh Veggies
For more information on what to eat during the follicular phase check our in-depth article: What to Eat During the Follicular Phase
Late Follicular Phase Recipe
Grilled Chicken and Quinoa Bowl with Fresh Veggies - Serves: 4
- Chicken Breast (4 pieces): Lean protein like chicken supports hormone balance and egg maturation by providing essential amino acids.
- Quinoa (1 cup): A complete protein and complex carbohydrate that supports energy and hormone balance.
- Mixed Vegetables (4 cups, e.g., broccoli, carrots, red onion, bell peppers): Fresh veggies provide essential vitamins and minerals to support hormonal balance and overall nutrition.
- Olive Oil (for grilling): Healthy fats are crucial for hormone production.
- Salt and Pepper (to taste): For seasoning.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil.
- Place chicken on the grill and cook for about 6-7 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
- While the chicken is grilling, rinse quinoa under cold water. Place in a medium pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil (I personally like to add a bit of curry and turmeric powder to give the quinoa a flavour boost). Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until quinoa is cooked and water is absorbed.
- Steam and lightly sauté mixed vegetables until tender-crisp. Start with the onions and the bell peppers (I like to add a touch of honey and chilli flakes to give it a sweet and spicy flavour), then add the brocollis and carrots and sauté for an additional 3 minutes.
- Divide quinoa among four bowls, and top with grilled chicken and mixed vegetables.
- Drizzle with a little extra olive oil if desired, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm and enjoy!
Ovulatory Phase Foods
A surge in fertility and energy characterizes the ovulatory phase, thanks to the peak in estrogen and the release of an egg. Foods rich in fiber and antioxidants can support ovulation and overall reproductive health.
- High-Fiber Foods: Vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa.
- Antioxidant-Rich Foods: Berries, nuts, and seeds.
- Sample Recipe: Berry Nut Salad with Grilled Chicken
Ovulatory Phase Recipe
Berry Nut Salad with Grilled Chicken - Serves: 4
- Chicken Breast (4 pieces): Lean protein supports energy levels during this high-energy phase.
- Mixed Berries (2 cups, e.g., strawberries, blueberries, raspberries): Antioxidant-rich berries support ovulation and overall reproductive health.
- Mixed Nuts (1/2 cup, e.g., almonds, walnuts): Nuts are a good source of healthy fats and protein.
- Mixed Greens (4 cups): Provides essential vitamins and minerals.
- Balsamic Vinaigrette: A light and tangy dressing to complement the salad.
- Follow the grilling instructions for chicken from the previous recipe.
- In a large bowl, toss mixed greens, mixed berries, and mixed nuts.
- Slice grilled chicken into thin strips and place on top of the salad.
- Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette to taste.
- Toss gently to combine, then serve immediately.
Mid-Luteal Phase Foods
During the mid-luteal phase, progesterone levels peak. Focus on nutrient-dense foods that support progesterone levels and manage symptoms such as bloating and mood swings. Foods rich in B vitamins and healthy fats can support mood and hormonal balance.
- Healthy Fats: Avocados, nuts, and seeds.
- B Vitamins: Leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Sample Recipe: Avocado and Nut Salad
For more information on what to eat during the luteal phase check our in-depth article: What to Eat During the Luteal Phase
Mid-luteal Phase Recipe
Salmon Sushi Bowl: Serves: 2
- Salmon (8 ounces, sashimi-grade): Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health and have anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3s also support brain function and overall well-being.
- Brown Rice (2 cups, cooked): Brown rice provides sustained energy levels due to its complex carbohydrates, making it a great base for this sushi bowl.
- Seaweed (2 sheets, roasted nori seaweed): Seaweed is another source of omega-3 fatty acids and adds a delightful umami flavor to the bowl.
- Avocado (1 ripe, sliced): Avocado provides healthy fats, including monounsaturated fats, which are excellent for heart health and skin hydration.
- Strawberries (1 cup, sliced): Strawberries are rich in antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, which helps protect cells and supports a healthy immune system.
- Begin by preparing the salmon. Slice it into thin strips or cubes, as per your preference. Set aside.
- Rinse the brown rice thoroughly and cook it according to the package instructions. Once cooked, let it cool slightly before assembling the sushi bowl.
- While the rice is cooking, prepare the seaweed. Cut the roasted nori seaweed into thin strips or squares. Set aside.
- Slice the ripe avocado and strawberries.
- To assemble the sushi bowl, divide the cooked brown rice evenly between two bowls and finish it off with all of your prepared toppings.
- Optionally, you can serve the sushi bowl with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger for extra flavour.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Late Luteal Phase Recipe
Beef and Lentil Stew - Serves: 4
- Lean Beef (1 lb, cubed): Beef is a great source of iron which can help prepare for menstrual bleeding.
- Lentils (1 cup): Lentils provide iron and fiber.
- Vegetable Broth (4 cups): Provides a nutritious and flavorful base for the stew.
- Carrots, Celery, and Onion (diced): Additional nutrients and flavor.
- Garlic (2 cloves, minced): Anti-inflammatory properties to help manage cramping.
- Salt and Pepper (to taste): For seasoning.
- In a large pot, heat a bit of olive oil over medium heat. Add beef cubes and brown on all sides. Remove beef and set aside.
- In the same pot, add a bit more olive oil if necessary, and sauté the diced carrots, celery, and onion until tender.
- Add minced garlic and sauté for an additional minute.
- Return beef to the pot, add lentils and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for about 25-30 minutes until beef and lentils are tender.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.
Tips for Successful Cycle Syncing
- Track Your Cycle: Use a menstrual cycle tracking app to understand the phases of your menstrual cycle.
- Plan Ahead: Plan your meals ahead of time to ensure you have the right foods available for each phase.
- Listen to Your Body: Everyone is different. Pay attention to how your body responds to different foods and adjust your cycle-syncing approach accordingly.
Cycle syncing can be a powerful tool for supporting your hormonal health and overall well-being. By tailoring your diet to each phase of your menstrual cycle, you may find a greater sense of balance and harmony within your body. Remember, the journey is personal, and what works well for one person may not work for another. So, experiment with different foods, listen to your body, and find what works best for you.