Why your cycle needs protein, fat, & carbs
Updated: Sep 28
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People always ask me what the best diet is for menstrual health hoping for a name, a book, a philosophy, something with a hashtag that they can search on the internet.
But, the truth is that the best way of eating for menstrual health is one without a name. It has no best-selling book. It has no cult following. And, there’s no Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok hashtag with millions of posts to help you stick to it.
The best diet for menstrual health is a nutrient-dense diet. That means a diet that is loaded with nutrients, aka vitamins and minerals.
Right away you might jump to thinking that that means the best diet for menstrual health is primarily a vegetarian diet… and that would be wrong. Here’s why…
The menstrual cycle needs the healthy nutrients provided by plants, but it also needs the vital nutrients provided by protein, fats, and carbs.
Protein, specifically animal protein, provides us with nutrients that are crucial for menstrual health and fertility like essential amino acids, zinc, vitamin B12, and iron - all of which are low, poorly absorbed, or nonexistent in plant-based foods. When sourcing animal protein like meat and eggs be sure to invest in high quality items that are organic, small farm, pastured, grass-fed (when applicable), and if possible local. I recommend farmer's markets, local butchers, farm stands, & local co-ops. Food quality as important as food types! (source)
High quality fats like those in goat & sheep dairy, olive oil, and avocados provides us with the nutrients needed to make our sex hormones. Cholesterol is a precursor to our sex hormones, which means without it we can struggle to make healthy levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and more. (source)
Then there’s carbs - yes, our bodies need them, but they need the right ones. Complex, slow carbs like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and whole grains (think: quinoa, oats, brown rice) provide us with great nutrients and can help sustain our blood sugar levels and menstrual wellness.
So, you know what this means?
Keto, paleo, vegetarianism, veganism - they’re all likely less than ideal diets for optimal menstrual health because each lacks a key component of fat, carbs, and/or animal protein. Temporary low-carb diets can be helpful for folks struggling with insulin resistance, but that is a very unique scenario. (source)
You know what else is not so great for the menstrual cycle? Fasting.
Our menstrual cycle requires balanced blood sugar levels. Fasting, or going long periods of time without eating, can cause dramatic dips and spikes in blood sugar levels that can wreak havoc on the menstrual cycle. For menstrual health it is almost always recommended to eat within 1 hour of waking up and then at regular intervals throughout the day with a long stretch of time without eating while sleeping. All meals should include, at the least, protein and healthy fat. The only time longer fasting may be recommended is again for folks hoping to reverse insulin resistance. (source)
So what does a nutrient-dense diet look like? Let’s see…
Breakfast Idea #1 - Two eggs on whole grain toast or over skillet potatoes with grass-fed butter and goat cheese and a side of veggies
Protein = Eggs & cheese | Fat = butter, eggs, & cheese | Complex Carb = whole grain bread or potatoes
Breakfast Idea #2 - Organic oats with grass-fed butter, honey or fresh fruit for sweetness, cinnamon, and a side of sheep or goat yogurt topped with nuts & seeds
Protein = Yogurt and nuts & seeds | Fat = butter and yogurt | Complex Carb = organic oats
Lunch Idea #1 - Salad bowl with dark leafy greens, quinoa, roasted chicken, goat cheese, veggies of choice (tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, etc), and an olive oil based dressing
Protein = Chicken | Fat = goat cheese & olive oil | Complex Carb = quinoa
Lunch Ideal #2 - Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with goat/sheep cheese, condiment of choice, lettuce, tomato, onion with a side of apple slices and blanched broccoli
Protein = Roasted turkey (I recommend roasting your own turkey breasts rather than using deli meat) | Fat = cheese | Complex Carb = whole grain bread
Dinner Idea #1 - Coconut Chicken Curry with full-fat coconut milk, organic chicken, potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, over top of brown rice, seasoned with curry powder with a side of steamed veggies drizzled with olive oil
Protein = chicken | Fat = full-fat coconut milk & olive oil | Complex Carb = brown rice & potatoes
Dinner Idea #2 - Brown rice pasta with ground grass-fed beef and organic tomato pasta sauce with a side of steamed veggies drizzled with olive oil
Protein = grass-fed beef | Fat = grass-fed beef & olive oil | Complex Carb = brown rice pasta
Fun Fact - I eat at least four of these meals every week and my periods have never been lighter, shorter, or less painful!
One thing I help all of my clients with is how to rethink the way they eat so that it works WITH their menstrual cycles rather than against it. So often we think that only a pill or prescription can help us feel better, but when it comes to the menstrual cycle and our fertility, changing the way we eat is often even MORE impactful than just popping a pill or supplement.
In fact, module 9 of my Cycle Wisdom Wisdom Course is all about one thing - how to eat for better menstrual cycles. Module 10 is all about how to eat in your 30’s and 40’s for a better menopause experience in your 50’s. And, module 11 dives into how to eat for better fertility when trying to conceive.
If you want better cycles for whatever reason, you have to look at how you eat. Non-negotiable.
I’m not a doctor or dietician or nutritionist, but rather someone who is vastly knowledgeable about the unique needs of the menstrual cycle. That’s why many of the food-based suggestions of these very qualified professionals fall short - because they are not specifically trained in the needs of the menstrual cycle and as a result offer up generalized nutrition advice that may not take into consideration the specialized nutrient needs of the menstrual cycle.
I’m not a replacement for these wonderful professionals, but rather an important complement to their work that ensures that menstrual cycle needs are at the forefront of nutritional support for menstruating humans.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to eat your way to better periods, fertility, & menstrual health - I’d love to show you the way!
Disclaimer: Brandy Oswald, Sauvage Wellness LLC, and her employees are not doctors, nurses, physicians, psychotherapists, or in anyway licensed medical practitioners and information presented here is to serve as an educational resource and not to be interpreted as: (1) medical advice; (2) a 100% effective birth control or pregnancy achievement options or (3) nutrition or health guidelines. By reading this you acknowledge that you understand that as a specialized form of consulting, fertility awareness education is not the same as professional or licensed therapy or medical advice and intervention; and recognize that it is your responsibility to seek such services from a licensed professional. Brandy Oswald is not a medical provider and cannot give medical advice. All information provided by Sauvage Wellness LLC and Brandy Oswald is of a general nature and is intended only for educational purposes to help with your personal health improvement goals and should not be relied on as medical advice. Always consult a physician with any health concerns and prior to changing your diet, lifestyle, supplements, birth control, fitness, or prescription medicine routine. Should you choose to use the information provided by Brandy Oswald it is of your own volition and you recognize that neither Brandy nor Sauvage Wellness LLC is not held liable for any intended or unintended outcomes.
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