what to eat during each phase of the menstrual cycle

Although hormonal fluctuations are a natural part of the menstrual cycle, they can wreak havoc on your health and quality of life. While symptoms like mood swings, breakouts, bloating, cramps or a heavy flow, are very common, it doesn’t have to be that way.

You can have a struggle-free period and cycle.

So, in this guide we’re going to look at one of the most impactful things you can use to support your cycle: food.

More specifically, we will dive into what to eat during each phase of the menstrual cycle (aka cycle syncing).

As you go through this guide, please keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to figure out the specific foods that work for you.

Yes, there are general food categories that are great for each phase, but you will have to listen to your body.

For example, brown rice and quinoa are both healthy grains. But you may find that one makes you bloated or tired. Respect the signals that your body sends you and adapt your food choices accordingly.

Now, let’s get into the details of what to eat for your cycle.


what to eat during the follicular phase

The follicular phase starts on day 1 of your period and ends just before ovulation occurs. 

Generally, this phase lasts anywhere from 12 to 14 days, although it can be shorter or longer for some women, depending on things like lifestyle, current health status, stress and more (source).

Within the follicular phase, there are two sub-phases:

  • Menstrual phase.
  • Proliferative phase.

1. Menstrual Phase

The menstrual phase starts on day 1 of bleeding and ends when your period stops.

During this phase:

  • progesterone drops significantly, causing the uterine lining to shed.
  • estrogen starts out low.
  • you can feel physically and emotionally drained due to the amount of blood you’re losing.


Focus on whole, nutrient-dense and easy-to-digest foods. More specifically:

  • Iron-rich foods, especially if you have a heavy flow.
  • Warm soups to give you the sensation of comfort, which is much needed during this time. Using ingredients like root vegetables can be very grounding.
  • Buddha bowls.
  • Fruits and veggies.
  • Fresh-pressed juices.
  • Smoothies (avoid protein powders and reach for whole food protein like hemp seeds).
  • Whole grains.
  • Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans).
  • Easier-to-digest animal foods like fatty fish and eggs.
  • Raw nuts and seeds. If you’re following the seed cycling protocol, then prioritize flax seeds and pumpkin seeds.
  • Fermented veggies.
  • Herbal teas like chamomile, nettle leaf, red raspberry leaf or ginger to soothe cramps, heavy bleeding and bloating.


Avoid foods that put added stress on the body, such as:

  • Heavily processed foods or fast foods.
  • Artificial ingredients: dyes, artificial flavors (usually labeled as “natural flavors”), artificial additives and preservatives.
  • Alcohol.
  • Coffee.
  • Pro-inflammatory foods and common allergens: dairy, corn, soy, gluten, peanuts and nightshade foods (for some people these are pro-inflammatory).

2. Proliferative Phase

Once bleeding has ceased, you’re now in the proliferative phase of the menstrual cycle.

During this phase:

  • the endometrium starts to thicken.
  • follicles are growing in preparation for the eventual release of an egg during ovulation.
  • estrogen levels steadily rise (while progesterone remains relatively lower).

From an energetic standpoint, this is a time when you’re more likely to feel vibrant, driven, confident and strong (physically and mentally).


  • Continue prioritizing the same whole foods from the menstrual phase.
  • Since estrogen is higher here, consume foods that support the liver and help to metabolize estrogen (such as cruciferous veggies).
  • If you normally eat heavier meats – like beef, chicken or turkey – this is a good time to enjoy them.
  • Enjoy some of your favorite treats (in moderation, of course!).


The same foods to avoid during the menstrual phase apply here also.


Lasting just 16 to 32 hours, the ovulatory phase is the shortest phase of the menstrual cycle (source).

This phase is characterized by a peak in estrogen levels as well as a surge in LH (luteinizing hormone). 

About 10 to 12 hours after the increase in LH occurs, an egg is released. 

Once the egg is released, the ovulatory phase is officially over.


This phase is basically a transition out of the follicular phase and into the luteal phase.

Since it has a very short duration, it’s generally easier to just continue eating many of the same foods from the follicular phase:

  • whole, nutrient-dense foods: fruits, veggies, nuts, grains and seeds.
  • Fresh-pressed juice.
  • Smoothies.
  • Liver-friendly foods and foods to metabolize estrogen.
  • Sweet and salty treats in moderation.


The same foods to avoid during the follicular phase apply here also.


eating during the luteal phase

During the luteal phase, your body is preparing for one of two potential outcomes:

  • Pregnancy.
  • Another period.

During this phase:

  • progesterone starts to rise and eventually peaks.
  • estrogen is lower.
  • the endometrium stops thickening and starts preparing for the potential attachment of a fertilized egg.

If fertilization of the egg doesn’t occur, estrogen and progesterone both drop, leading to the start of a new period.


The luteal phase is progesterone-driven. So if your progesterone levels are low, you might experience premenstrual symptoms (source).

In addition, progesterone has a calming effect and having low progesterone could contribute to mood-related symptoms.

So, during this phase, it’s a good idea to prioritize foods that support progesterone production, such as:

  • Magnesium-rich foods: for example spinach, legumes, brown rice, dark chocolate, nuts and blackstrap molasses.
  • Zinc-rich foods: for example beans, nuts, whole grains, chia seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Foods rich in B-vitamins: for example beans, leafy greens, eggs, seafood.
  • Foods rich in essential fatty acids: for example nuts and seeds, If you are seed cycling then, this is the time to eat mainly sesame and sunflower seeds.

In addition, since progesterone and estrogen keep each other in check, you want to ensure that your body is able to eliminate excess estrogen. In this case, cruciferous veggies and fermented foods can be helpful.

Lastly, if you have strong cravings for sweets, reach for healthier options like:

  • Fresh fruit.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Semi-sweet (about 50% cacao) or bittersweet (about 70% cacao) dark chocolate.


The same foods to avoid from the previous phases apply here as well.

Follicular Phase– Whole foods that are easy to digest and rich in iron.
– Seed cycle with flax and pumpkin seeds.
– Add in heavier meats after your period ends.
– Enjoy treats in moderation after period ends.
Ovulatory PhaseSimilar to follicular phase.
Luteal Phase– Prioritize nutrients that support progesterone production.
– Seed cycle with sesame and sunflowers seeds.
– Support estrogen metabolism with cruciferous veggies, and fermented veggies.
– Soothe sugar cravings with fruits, sweet vegetables and dark chocolate.
This table shows what to eat during each phase of the menstrual cycle.


As you can see, eating for your menstrual cycle really boils down to just eating more whole foods throughout the month.

The goal is to find more balance in your diet. More balance in your diet means more balance in your hormones.

Also, please note that just because a particular food isn’t listed in the guidelines above, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid it completely.

This article is simply highlighting what to prioritize.

As always, practice moderation. And most of all, take the time to listen to your body so that you can make the proper adjustments for your needs.

pin image of smoothie bowl for what to eat during each phase of the menstrual cycle

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