Calendario menstrual

Nutrition according to the female hormonal cycle, myth or reality?

Women are cyclical, that is a reality. We experience hormonal fluctuations and physiological changes throughout our entire menstrual cycle. And that means that the needs of the organism are different depending on the moment, and I am not referring only to food. Adapting training planning and rest management in each phase of the cycle would be ideal, but that is another topic that we could talk about at another time.

Returning to the subject of nutrition, food can help us control hormonal fluctuations. Maintaining the correct hormonal balance of each phase and thus avoiding possible symptoms that may appear . These can be caused by hormonal imbalances or incorrect intakes with energy deficiencies and/or nutrient shortages (fatigue, mood swings, menstrual cramps, fluid retention, anemia...).

Today we are very clear that there is a direct relationship between food and hormonal health. We know the physiological and hormonal changes that occur during the cycle. We also know the impact that food has on the body's hormonal response, why not benefit from it? After all, food is information for our hormones, we just have to think about what we want to transmit to it and the body will act accordingly.

Nutrition and hormonal cycle: myth or reality

Today we have various studies in which we can observe a clear relationship between the hormonal cycle and nutrition.

These studies indicate that food intake and selection vary during the menstrual cycle. In addition, significant differences are observed between women who have natural menstrual cycles, compared to women who take the contraceptive pill.

In a study carried out by 27 healthy regularly menstruating women not using oral contraceptives , their daily food intake was recorded ad libitum specifying the different nutrients and the respective amounts. And a lower intake of carbohydrates and fats was observed during the follicular phase with respect to the luteal phase. In addition, it could be shown that the subjective perception of "sweetness" varied with the phases of the cycle, increasing the desire to eat sweet and high-fat foods in the luteal phase. In another different study, it is observed how the use of oral contraceptives seems to eliminate those fluctuations in caloric intake that normally occur during a natural menstrual cycle.

There are also studies where we can observe how the motivational priorities and sexual desire of women change according to the day of the cycle.

In conclusion, we can say that hormones regulate our emotional state as well as our appetite and desires.

Phases of the hormonal cycle and feeding to prioritize

The foods we eat can positively or negatively affect our menstrual cycle. But it is not the only thing, rest, stress, the environment or the toxins to which we are exposed also do it.

Let's see what happens in each phase of the cycle and what foods to prioritize. If you are interested in finding out more about the subject, visit the entry "How the menstrual cycle works" .

1. Follicular phase

In this first phase , the levels of FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) increase . There is an increase in estrogen and, as a consequence, sensitivity to insulin and leptin increases, as well as levels of serotonin (happiness hormone). With all this , during this phase we find ourselves happier and more active, we do not suffer from recurring cravings and we keep hunger at bay.

What foods to prioritize?
  • It is a good time to introduce quality carbohydrates . We enjoy greater insulin sensitivity and our muscles will have an easier time using carbohydrates (tubers, whole grains, pseudocereals, legumes and fruits).
  • Foods that promote estrogen detoxification. If we do not correctly eliminate the estrogens generated during this phase from the body, we will suffer its consequences with menstrual pain, heavy bleeding, fibroids, etc… Regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) help in detoxification processes.

2. Ovulation

During this phase the estrogen level peaks and testosterone levels rise. As a consequence we feel plethoric and stronger.

What foods to prioritize?

Similar to the follicular phase, with the increase in foods that favor the release of progesterone (linseeds, green leafy vegetables, legumes).

3. Luteal phase (premenstrual phase)

The follicle becomes the corpus luteum and begins to produce progesterone. This will cause the maturation of the endometrium for a possible pregnancy, if this does not happen, the hormonal levels plummet (premenstrual phase). Estrogen levels drop dramatically and we become more resistant to insulin and leptin. Serotonin levels also drop. As a consequence, cravings and appetite increase, we have less energy and we are more emotionally sensitive.

What foods to prioritize?
  • Increasing the intake of healthy fats (avocado, olives, coconut oil, nuts, etc.) while reducing the intake of carbohydrates is a good strategy. The main energy substrate in this phase is fat, it will also provide us with greater satiety and will be useful to combat cravings and appetite that is increased during this phase.
  • For cravings and the desire for sweet we can resort to fruit and dark chocolate (minimum 85%).
  • The drop in serotonin can make it difficult to fall asleep , this is a precursor of melatonin (sleep hormone). Increasing the consumption of foods rich in vitamin B6 (poultry, fish, avocados...) increases serotonin. Also foods rich in magnesium (green leafy vegetables, chocolate, seeds and nuts...) can help us in this regard, reduce stress and increase GABA (neurotransmitter that promotes sleep).

4. Menstruation

Desquamation of the endometrium occurs , the bleeding that we see with menstruation.

What foods to prioritize?
  • With menstruation a natural physiological inflammation occurs. Providing foods rich in omega 3 will help us with this inflammation (blue fish, seeds, nuts...), as well as providing anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric or ginger.
  • Include foods rich in iron, with menstruation part of this mineral is lost (meat, fish, shellfish, legumes).


Hormones and diet are closely related. One influences the other, that is clear to us. But we cannot forget that there are other factors that also affect hormonal behavior, not everything is about food. Stress, rest, environmental factors or physical exercise directly affect the behavior of our hormones.

Food is only one leg of the table, we must address all "legs" to find balance.

Fem Balance



-Danker-Hopfe H, et al. (nineteen ninety five). Regulation of food intake during the menstrual cycle. Accessed April 12, 2020; 53:231-238. Available at:

-Tucci S, et al. (2009). Influence of premenstrual syndrome and the use of oral contraceptives on food selection during the follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle. Accessed April 12, 2020. 56(4):170-5. Available at: Roney, J. and Simmons, Z. (2017).

-Ovarian hormone fluctuations predict within-cycle shifts in women's food intake. Accessed April 25, 2020. rev. Hormones and Behavior (90) 8-14 .

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