Once upon a time I thought that my periods didn't really affect what I ate. I cruised though my cycle (as much as one can "cruise" through the most inconvenient and uncomfortable 3-7 days of EVERY MONTH) eating pretty much the same as what I would usually eat. I didn't really subscribe to the belief that periods equalled cravings. Oh, what I ate by the way, was a diet high in sugar, saturated fat, carbs and weekend alcohol binges. No wonder I didn't crave a darn thing: I was already well in comfort-food credit.
These-a-days, with a late thirties head on my shoulders and a late thirties uterus in my abdomen, it's a different ball game. Processed foods in my diet are limited, vegetables are unlimited, my main source of caffeine is from green tea and my water intake gets 5 gold stars.
That's all well and good for 24 out of every 28 days.
The other four days, I am
seeking storming through the kitchen like a possessed woman searching for something rich, warm, comforting and generally chocolate-y (maybe I just need to have Dwayne Johnson on speed dial?).
I know it isn't just coincidence, because the days that I feel a little outta control with my eating is the same days every single cycle. I can almost tell what is going on with my baby maker by what I am looking for in the pantry.
I wanted to get some confirmation that this indeed is a thing and not some female mind trickery. And if it is due to those bloody hormones whipping around our bodies like crazed flies at a BBQ, gain some pointers on how to tame them a little. So, I asked local naturopath Annabel Mason from Blossom Wellbeing for her take on it. This is what Annabel had to tell me.
"What you're eating throughout the entire month will potentially influence how you feel during the different phases of your cycle.
Many women experience food cravings during the different phases of their cycle, most commonly around ovulation and during the luteal (premenstrual phase) of their cycle. Cravings for sugar, chocolate or other carbohydrate rich foods are common at these times due to the declining oestrogen levels. Your blood sugar levels are more sensitive to swings at these times too.
Making sure that you include plenty of high quality protein foods, along with healthy fats (avocado is great for hormone balance. Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds are also helpful). Naturally sweet vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots or squash can provide natural sweetness (roasting vegetables also brings out their natural sweetness).
A few squares of high quality dark chocolate will provide some magnesium and chromium which also support blood sugar balance.
It is normal to experience lower energy at this time, so also check in with yourself as to whether you are wanting to eat out of true hunger or fatigue. As your hormones drop premenstrually, you may feel a little more emotionally sensitive, so also be mindful of not using food to manage this. Choose healthy, nourishing comfort foods like soups or root vegetable based stews and consider other ways non-food ways which provide you with a sense of comfort.
All throughout your cycle, aim to be minimising processed sugar and processed foods and include plenty of fibre rich wholefoods, greens (especially bitter greens such as rocket lettuce) and vegetables (especially the brassica family vegetables) will aid hormonal balance all through your cycle."
Ok, so phew. I'm not just using my cycle as an excuse. It really is a marvellous (sonnofabish) combination of hormones, blood sugar and fatigue.
At the helm of it all is Oestrogen (who really, we should all know is a little cray-cray. Sometimes she starts with an O - which make zero sense - and sometimes she starts with an E - more sense).
Despite challenging internal circumstances, it isn’t really the ideal time to throw all the good eating habits down the drain. Plant foods can come to our rescue maybe a little more than a block of chocolate. Or Dwayne Johnson.
(PS: I recently used this recipe from my good friend Bianca at Wholefood Simply. It doesn't entirely fit into Annabel's recommendations, but it was a pretty good compromise. And the smallest amount put O-E-strogen back in her box for a while).