About a year ago, Lori Rose wrote an incredible series on women’s wellness helping us align our lives with each phase of our menstrual cycle. She challenged us to quit PMS symptoms, balance our blood sugar and adrenals, and learn to live in “Flow” with our cycles. It’s been an epiphany for many in the KS audience, most especially yours truly.
Lori is a Ph.D., college bio, and nutrition professor and certified holistic nutrition consultant, so she really knows her stuff (find her here). Through this series, I found the book Woman Code and am working through it. But by far the most helpful takeaway from the whole series, although I probably didn’t do all the steps of healing my body/cycle perfectly, has been the printable my team made for the last post in the series, the one about aligning your life with your feminine cycle.
Best Foods for Women’s Cycle
I DID actually print that list, and it’s been bopping around my office for most of the last year. I look at it regularly, almost every time I switch phases in my cycle. (I always know where I am because we use the Creighton/Billings method of NFP to chart cycles.) It’s sooooo very helpful for me as I make decisions about what to snack on, what veggies to serve for dinner, when to grab an olive or some sauerkraut, and when to focus on green juices and cilantro pesto instead of kombucha and Caesar dressing.
I realized that an even better way to be on top of the food changes throughout the month, and that’s by categorizing the food list into WHEN I actually eat those things and WHERE they are in my kitchen. Rather than studying a long list of foods that fit my cycle phase at the moment while trying to figure out a side veggie for dinner, I can look at a short list.
That’s kind of why I wanted to write this post, because I wanted you to have my quick little printable lists, too. I think they bring a complicated subject right back into the realm of “doable for busy moms.” Your lists might not be exactly the same as mine as far as when/where you make these food choices, but I hope you can grab a little piece of scrap paper and make your own, then tape it to the inside of the appropriate cupboard.
Here are my lists for my cycle:
Meat & Proteins to Eat for your Cycle
- Menstruation: meat, seafood, lentils, beans (high iron)
- Follicular Phase: eggs, fish, grass-fed beef (high omega 3s) and other meats for amino acids (Butcher Box can help you access grass-fed beef (use the code KS10 for free bacon)
- Ovulation: red lentils
- Luteal Phase: beef, turkey, chicken, cod, flounder, halibut, chickpea, navy bean (B vitamins)
So I might choose a hamburger or steak meal during menstruation, vegetarian fare during the 3-4 days of ovulation, and chickpea wraps with turkey the next night in the luteal phase. To round out the meal, I check out the next list…
Vegetables to Eat for your Cycle
- Menstruation: tomatoes, beets, mushrooms, peas, string beans, all the greens including beet greens, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, collards
- Follicular Phase: red onions, peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, cabbage, carrots, fennel, summer squash, mushrooms, celery, bell peppers, cauliflower, greens including beet greens, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, bok choy (cooked in lots of healthy saturated fats (going for quercetin, potassium, and B6)
- Ovulation: carrots, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, LOTS of veggies for fiber, especially orange, yellow and white ones (unique to this phase: artichokes, dandelion, eggplant, endive, escarole, okra, scallions)
- Luteal Phase: sea veggies, all the green leafy veggies, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, daikon, onions, parsnips, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, artichoke, jicama, beets, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, asparagus (going for B-vitamins, fiber, liver support) – this is the time to have roasted root veggies.
You can see how I might choose slightly different greens to add to my eggs and mix up varied side veggie dishes for dinner, paired with the following spices (or whatever sounds good; you can’t do it all, all the time!).
Spices to Choose During Each Phase
- Menstruation: parsley, tamari, miso, comfort foods
- Follicular Phase: capers, Real Salt, garlic, sesame oil, lemon and lime juice and zest
- Ovulation: chives
- Luteal Phase: parsley, garlic, ginger, caraway, dill, citrus peel/zest, horseradish, cilantro, black pepper, turmeric
Not a ton of direction here until the last phase, which is often the longest. We’re working on detoxing and supporting the liver to excrete all the hormones from ovulating at this point, and it’s probably the most important phase to eat for your cycle to reduce PMS symptoms and icky periods, just my experience and observation and reading.
During this last phase, I’ll use a wonderful cilantro pesto we learned via Gut Thrive in 5 on my salads and add cilantro to my eggs in the morning, and I can try to plan soups like this delicious and warming Chicken Turmeric Soup – it also has cabbage, cauliflower, and potatoes, which according to my side veg list, I should swap for turnips in this phase. I can also make our favorite cabbage dill salad with extra garlic on mine. In the follicular phase, I might switch that up to still use cabbage but more lemon, like this version. Easy peasy!
Best Salad Toppings/Parts for My Cycle
- Menstruation: spinach, peas, kale, tomatoes, mushrooms
- Follicular Phase: butterhead lettuce, cabbage, kale, apples, red onion, avocado, bok choy, mushrooms, bell peppers, sunflower seeds, celery, olives, fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles with egg-based dressing like homemade Caesar with plenty of garlic.
- Ovulation: spinach, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, avocado, apples, scallions (green onions), bell peppers
- Luteal Phase: kale, spinach, cabbage, cucumbers, daikon radishes, chickpeas, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, celery, radishes, jicama, carrots, dandelion
We eat a LOT of salads here, and they often look the same every day. We really should have a wide variety of vegetables, not only many different ones in each day but varied off and on throughout a week (or a month!). Now with this list, I can seek more variety, and I can see myself focusing on one group at a time to buy some new items at the store, too.
Anyone have other recommendations for dressings that fit phase 1, 2 or 3?
Best Grains to Eat for my Cycle
Note: Lori doesn’t recommend a ton of grains, and I agree. They tend to be inflammatory and cause more problems for more people, but if your body is good with grains, let’s learn to give it the right kind. This really does help me plan my meals!
- Menstruation: wild rice or other low-glycemic foods (avoiding grains during this phase – try Nori sheets for “sandwich” wraps)
- Follicular Phase: buckwheat and oats (or other energy-sustaining grains – maybe all whole grains?)
- Ovulation: light, gluten-free grains: amaranth, organic corn, quinoa
- Luteal Phase: complex carbs (whole grains like brown rice)
Since I love our whole grain, gluten-free flatbread, AND it’s a great way to get more healthy fats (butter!) and salt on top, I’m hoping the brown rice in there will count as energy-sustaining for the follicular phase. And Mexican night with corn chips during ovulation?!
Cycle Syncing Diet Snacks: Nuts and Dried Fruit
- Menstruation: figs, apricots, prunes, dates, raisins, seaweed snacks (also found at Thrive Market)
- Follicular Phase: , , generally nuts and seeds; dried apricots for potassium (also figs, peaches, or raisins)
- Ovulation: figs, coconut chips (unsweetened of course) or coconut butter, almonds, pistachios, pecans, dark chocolate Use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off those coconut products!
- Luteal Phase: walnuts, pumpkin seeds, , sunflower seeds, almonds
Who else thinks it’s awful that dark chocolate is in the 3-4 day phase!!?? I see we need iron in phase 1 and magnesium in the last phase, so shouldn’t we add dark chocolate to those, too?
On a serious note, this really can help direct snacking in my opinion, and the fewer decisions we have to make about things that don’t really matter (“What nuts and dried fruit shall I grab when I’m hungry at 3 p.m.?”) the more decision-making power we’ll have left for things that do (“Should I let my daughter win the homework battle or make her sit down immediately and focus?”).
Fruits to Choose During Each Cycle Phase
- Menstruation: apricots, plus high water foods like blackberries, blueberries, grapes, cranberries
- Follicular Phase: blueberries, grapefruits, oranges, plums, pomegranates, sour cherries (for anti-oxidants, deep colors great too)
- Ovulation: apples, apricots, cantaloupe, other melons, guava, persimmons, raspberries, strawberries (orange, yellow and white fruits)
- Luteal Phase: apples, pears, oranges, tangerines
Since apples are easy to obtain and inexpensive, I’m happy to see those on multiple lists. Remember that you don’t HAVE to eat these foods; if fruit is too sugary for you, go back to the phase-by-phase lists and see what nutrients are recommended, then make sure you’re covering all your bases with foods that make your body feel good.
We make green smoothies as often as we can to get a boost of nutrients and especially mid-afternoon. They often include very similar things, but we make a few tweaks depending on my cycle needs:
- Menstruation: sea veggies (I use powdered kelp, also good source of iodine), spinach, beet greens, collards, kale, chard, berries
- Follicular Phase: blueberries, cacao, avocado, beet greens, Swiss chard, spinach, bok choy, kale, turnip greens, lemon or lime juice, extra omega-3 fats like chia seeds (use the code STEWADSHIP for 10%!) and hemp seeds for potassium and sodium
- Ovulation: spinach, avocado, coconut
- Luteal Phase: any green leafies including beet greens, sea veggies (I use powdered kelp), sesame seeds, pumpkin or sweet potato, spirulina, chlorella, citrus peels, dandelion
The luteal phase is important for detoxing, so we really do have spirulina and chlorella on hand just for that phase. You can get it powdered at those links or a combo version. Use the code KS10 for 10% off any of them, which CAN be stacked with the 25% off for ordering 3 or more Perfect brand products!
There are a lot of healthy smoothie recipes on KS in case you’re not used to just throwing a bunch of stuff in a blender!
Cycle-Supporting Teas and Hot Drinks
Same goes for hot drinks – especially in the winter, my husband drinks a lot of green tea, and my stand-by has been Dandy Blend. But I know that I could switch it up to “go with my flow” better, I just can never remember what to grab! This is the kind of info I don’t want to skim for, so I’m taping this list on the inside cupboard door where we keep our tea.
- Menstruation: Replacing fluids important, drink a lot! Raspberry leaf, nettle, burdock, mullein, rose hips. I purchased this “Healthy Cycle” tea blend from Traditional Medicinals in bags rather than making my own. #cheater #whocares The ingredients aren’t listed on Amazon, but they are: raspberry leaf, licorice root, strawberry leaf, stinging nettle leaf, angelica root, blessed thistle herb, cramp bark, spearmint leaf, rose hip, lemon verbena leaf, West Indian lemongrass leaf, ginger rhizome, chamomile flower. 3 of the 5 Lori recommends, good enough for me for now! You can also get a straight red raspberry leaf tea from Earth Mama Organics.
- Follicular Phase: red clover, rose hips, nettle, oatstraw, alfalfa, hawthorn berry and/or leaf. I haven’t found a blend that has all these, but you can get straight red clover tea, this caffeine-free rooibos immune boosting blend has the rose hips plus lemon and orange peel (also listed for this phase), and this skin detox green tea blend from Yogi has rose, red clover, and orange peel. If you’re drinking tea like these anyway, might as well have ones that fit your cycle at least sort of, right?
- Ovulation: hawthorn berry and/or leaf or arjuna, rose hips, linden, alfalfa, violet, and nettle, hibiscus, peppermint, elderberry, and/or cranberry. Anti-oxidant spices like cinnamon, clove, ginger, vanilla. Sounds like we get to drink chai tea in this phase, yummy, plus I found a hawthorn & hibiscus tea from Traditional Medicinals. Here’s also one with alfalfa and peppermint. My dandy blend fits here too, as it has chicory and dandelion, listed under “fiber” for ovulation foods.
- Luteal Phase: Big detox phase: burdock and dandelion root, raspberry leaf, nettle, oatstraw, linden, violet, mullein, dandelion leaf, alfalfa, marshmallow, peppermint, chamomile, and skullcap. Dandy Blend works here too. This Cleanse and Detox Tea for Women is the best I could find with a few of these options.
Don’t worry, the printable for this category isn’t nearly so chatty. We also made printables of Lori’s “herbal infusion” recipes for each phase for the DIYers among you. It’s a good someday goal for me personally.
And please remember that these lists aren’t here to stress you out, make you think, “Oh my goodness, I have to go buy 20 boxes of tea and rotate them perfectly every day,” or give you guilt. It’s not about GETTING every single one of these foods into your body at the right time, it’s about making choices with foods you already eat and switching it up just a little to fit your cycle better, baby step by baby step.
Does that make sense?
We’re not adding to your list, we’re just making some choices for you that you have to make anyway.
Supplement Tweaks for My Cycle
- Menstruation: I always take dessicated liver capsules, but I add 1 or 2 during menstruation. I also increase Vitamin K because I have very heavy periods. (I have this one and this one.)
- Follicular Phase: Double any fish oil supplement you take; possibly look for an alfalfa supplement
- Ovulation: Possibly look for an alfalfa and/or glutathione supplement
- Luteal Phase: Add spirulina and chlorella in supplement form along with or instead of in your smoothies, combo version here. This liver detox cap includes a lot of the luteal phase needs.
How to Adapt for Yourself
First, download the long printable from the first button above or HERE on the cycle alignment post.
Next, look at the list while standing in your kitchen. Think about when YOU eat certain foods and what categories fit you.
Try living with the list on your fridge for a week or two, and your categories will quickly become clear to you.
For example, I was always trying to remember which nuts or dried fruit would be best for a quick snack and which nut butter to use in certain phases, so that’s why I have a “snacking cupboard: nuts and dried fruit” list. We also have a cupboard where a bunch of our smoothie supplements live, and hot drinks are something we drink often in the winter while working, so I wanted to know what best to support my cycle in that cupboard too.
I hope my lists are helpful for you or a good jumping off point!
Are There Perfect Activities During Phases of your Cycle?
I have experimented a little bit with trying to plan work tasks that fit the “feminine superpowers” Lori explains, but I’m just terrible about sticking to a schedule. I try to notice if I DO feel more social and able to tackle hard conversations when I’m near ovulation or if I’m more introspective and able to set goals and plan during menstruation or the following phase. I’m not sure, but I’ll tell you what – the “nesting” instinct of just trying to get all the little things done and clean up is VERY strong in the luteal phase for me (between ovulation and menstruation). So that one is for real!
I’ll try to tick things off my list as quickly as possible in that phase and find myself cleaning on accident.
Here’s the “cycle friendly” schedule I’ve considered if I could ever follow a schedule:
- Phase 1 – between menstruation and ovulation, aka follicular phase (this would be the end of phase 1 and into 2 in NFP typically): learning via professional development courses I never get around to, making an editorial calendar and marketing plans, sketching out plans for videos, creative work.
- Phase 2 – ovulation (this is the end of phase 2 around “peak day” in NFP): doing social stuff like making a bunch of videos in a batch (that I planned out during phase 1), writing PR pitches and getting through the emails I don’t want to answer.
- Phase 3 – luteal phase: all the little things, moving photos, assigning little tasks to team, working on Facebook ads, and also doing big, difficult edits.
- Phase 4 – menstruation: writing posts, evaluating goals and studying stats, making plans.
IF I have a healthy enough cycle, IF I could stick to those categories, and IF the Woman Code book and Lori Rose are right, then I’d be more productive than ever because I’d be working in my strengths for that time of the month. What a joyful and positive perspective on our cycles that we don’t see a lot in today’s culture!!!
Most “productivity” guides are written as if every morning, we feel the same. Men do if sleep is the same.
But we’re not men – so maybe we need a different system!