Experiencing food cravings, that feel almost uncontrollable, is something that I hear so often as an issue with my clients. A powerful desire for food, or feeling like you just can’t get over your cravings is very common. It can feel stressful and overwhelming and you may feel these cravings dictate many of your food choices, or that that they are preventing you from working on a certain health goal.
Cravings can be very normal, and I think it is super important to enjoy your food and eat what you crave. However, I think it is also important to think about your relationship with those cravings. Do they feel like an everyday occurrence? Do you feel you have to exert willpower all throughout the day? Does food, or your cravings, take up a lot of mental energy and space? If this is the case, there may be something else going on, and these tips may be helpful for you!
The #1 reason we crave foods is because we are hungry! If you are hungry you are way more likely to experience cravings, and eat whatever food you are craving. This is often baked goods, fries or chips. Whenever you are experiencing a craving, first think about when the last time you ate was and just ask yourself if you are simply hungry. You can also take note of when you generally experience cravings and see if it corresponds with general lulls in meal times.
If you are experiencing cravings but know that you are just hungry, my tip is to eat a meal first before eating the food that you are craving. No food is off limit at all, but making food choices from a more cognizant place and with intention, as opposed to pure starvation mode is likely going to be more in line with your health goals and help you feel better.
Another big tip for these types of cravings is to prevent hunger. A little bit of planning goes a long way when we are trying to prevent hunger. Bringing protein-rich snacks with you throughout the day can be super helpful for this!
Along with being hungry, cravings can come from being too thirsty. If you are not hungry, and know you ate recently, think about whether or not you are thirsty.
Hydrating our bodies adequately throughout the day is vital and sometimes we can feel hungry when we are really thirsty. Before eating whatever it is you are craving, drink a big glass of water and see if that helps.
A Balanced Plate
If you frequently find you are craving food, but not hungry or thirsty, the next step would be to look at your plate and ensure it is well balanced. A balanced meal will keep you full but also satiated. There is a difference between fullness and satiation, which I often discuss in my practice. Fullness is a physical feeling of fullness, while satiation is a chemical/hormonal reaction that basically tells your body you ate and you can move on to the next activity. If you ate a meal and feel like you need a little something extra, think about whether or not you satiated from your meal. Here are three components to include at every meal:
Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for promoting optimal health, and to help keep us full and satiated. Fibre allows food to move through our system slowly, and for sugar to be released in our blood stream at a slow pace. This can prevent blood sugar spikes and thus hunger and cravings. High fibre foods are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans/legumes and seeds.
Proteins are an essential macronutrient, and helps improve fullness, as well as regulating our blood sugar. Healthy protein choices are chicken, meat, fish, nuts, plant seeds, legumes like beans and lentils, eggs, and dairy.
Healthy fat can help you manage your cravings and promote the feeling of fullness and satiety. Many people limit their fat intake when trying to lose weight, which can decrease fullness, satiety and can in itself lead to constant cravings. Healthy fat sources include olive oil, nuts like almonds and walnuts, avocados, seeds, such as hemps seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds, and fish like salmon or mackerel.
The Salty and Sweet Back-And-Forth
Craving something sweet at the end of a meal is also very common. Again, this is A-okay! I often feel like dessert after lunch or dinner and I think it is great if it makes you feel good. However, if you feel overwhelmed by a constant sweet craving after dinner, or in the afternoon, it may be something to look into. Now, enjoying enough fibre, protein and fat throughout the day can be helpful here, excessive salt can also cause sugar cravings. From a taste perspective, the extreme in salt and sweet can cause a craving for the other. Therefore, I think it is important to think about your salt intake, if you experience regular sugar cravings.
If you ate a salty meal, try drinking a glass or water and enjoy tea with a bit of milk/plant milk with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Sometimes this is enough to curb those post-meal sugar cravings, when you don’t want dessert.
Aerobic exercise, or cardio, is a type of exercise that pumps your heart rate up. Studies have shown that those who engage in 30 minutes of cardio in the morning have higher satiety levels throughout the day. Going for a run, a swim or dancing around your living room can help you feel good, but also help with your cravings throughout the day.
Eating our favourite food is definitely encouraged around here, and can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, if we feel out of control, or that you have cravings that take over your life, it may be something to look into further. We experience cravings for many other reasons that I did not talk about in this article, this is simply a starting point. One common reason for women is due to hormonal changes around their period or at different types in their hormonal cycle. Another reason may be out of habit or routine. I hope this post is helpful and I hope that you approach your cravings with curiosity, kindness and patience with yourself. Please let me know if these tips have been helpful, and if you need extra nutrition support or coaching, please do not hesitate to reach out!
NUTRITION VERSUS DIET CULTURE
‘Diet culture’ versus actual nutrition/nutrition advice is something that I’ve wanted to discuss on my blog for a while. In my experience, the two are so intertwined and often confused. I will start by saying I love nutrition. As you probably know, I think food is super cool and I really think it can make you feel great, and is a component of a total healthcare system. However, food is majorly complex. How, what, when, where and why we eat is influenced by so many factors; availability, access, education, personal preferences, culture, economics, societal pressures, mental health and more. The study and practice of nutrition is vast, but in practice much of it takes into consideration these various factors, influences and the individualized nature to eating. Many practicing nutritionists often know that food is not simple.
In comes ‘diet culture’. Caring about nutrition, talking about nutrition and advocating for proper nutrition can often be confused with dieting and ‘diet culture’. Nutrition education and information, especially what we see through media, is also heavily influenced by ‘diet culture’. But what is ‘diet culture’?
From my understanding, ‘diet culture’ is a culture in which dieting, or eating a certain way is seen as morally better than other ways of eating. Diet culture values thinness as the ideal, and is unsupportive of all body sizes. Diet culture is literally everywhere, and constantly sending us the message (through magazines and advertisements etc.) that we are not enough – that we need to look a certain way and be a certain way to be “better”.
Many things fall under the category of ‘diet culture’. For instance, wanting to lose weight is often influenced by diet culture. Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t lose weight if you want to, but truly think about why you feel that way and what is influencing you. The language we use when we talk about food also falls under ‘diet culture’. Using language like “good” and “bad”, or “falling off the bandwagon” is all connecting a certain morality to food- you are good if you eat a certain way and bad if you do not. When we use language like this we are often comparing ourselves to some non-existent ideal of a perfect diet, that simply does not exist.
To offer their insight and to help us understand a nutritionist’s approach a bit better, I asked some of my nutritionist friends and colleagues to include their thoughts.
“As a nutritionist, I like to offer a realistic approach to eating that honours the mind and body. The body knows best when it comes to food, eating, nutrition, movement, rest, weight and self-care. Encouraging someone to follow a restrictive diet leaves that person isolated from society and unable to honour their natural hunger cues or cravings. It promotes a disordered mindset that can lead to food guilt, food anxiety and feelings of unworthiness. The moment you let go of food being “good” or “bad” is when you find that all food has it place. Some foods make your body feel amazing and some foods nourish your soul. It’s all about honouring how you feel in your body, living in balance and letting go of guilt and negative feelings around food.”
Holistic Nutritionist and Skin Therapist
“As a nutritionist, I strongly believe in taking small steps towards making lasting changes to your eating habits rather than jumping into extreme, restrictive, and often dangerous short-term diets. A big issue with fad diets is they are too generalized and claim to work for everyone. We are all distinct beings with individual genetics, from different cultures, with unique lifestyles and specific health concerns. These variances are crucial in determining nutritional needs from one person to the next. One size doesn’t fit all! That’s why I believe in slowly incorporating better eating habits. Incremental nutritional adjustments and lifestyle changes are habit forming and offer lasting results. It becomes less stressful on the body and better for one’s overall mental health. This slower adaptation to healthier eating choices wins every time. It lessens food cravings due to fewer restrictions and, as a bonus, you have less guilt when treating yourself to a favourite dessert every so often. Slow and steady wins the race!”
-Marina O’Connor, CNP
“Diet culture can create unhealthy patterns in your life, not just through what you’re eating. There is usually a desire to look a certain way and a sense of wanting to belong. Because of this, people become fixated on everything they put into their mouths, which is like a form of disordered eating. You begin to categorize foods into “good” vs. “bad” and when you have a “slip” and eat a “bad” food, you are hard on yourself. This creates negative relationships with food. My philosophy relies heavily on a “non-diet” approach. Your body is very intuitive and knows what it needs. This can mean eating when you’re hungry instead of forcing yourself to eat at specific times. It means eating whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, quality fats like avocados and olive oil, quality protein like grass-fed chicken, beef, turkey, etc. It means nourishing your body with foods that make you feel good! And lastly, this means eating a burger because you feel like it!”
Constantina Gravalos, Hon.B.A., CNP, RNCP/ROHP
“Part of nutrition is being intentional with the food you eat. Ask yourself (without judgement): “What is this particular food serving me right now?”
It’s connecting to what your body, mind and soul need right now while letting go of all the food rules we been taught throughout our lifetime that have distanced ourselves from our own intuitive senses.”
Thank you for reading! As always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or privately!
Today I invited my friend Kara to the blog, who is the founder of Living Apothecary. Living Apothecary is a small-batch herbal tea company. Kara makes amazing blends, and I fell in love with her teas at first sip! I carry them in my office, and my clients love them, too! Kara is here to talk about her company, and also provided us with a tea infusion. Oh, and at the end of the post I am including a link to our upcoming workshop in Toronto! For now, here is Kara!
Let’s start right at the beginning. During my time studying naturopathic medicine, I was introduced to botanical medicine and taught how different botanicals could help ease anxiety, insomnia, and painful periods. Ailments that I had been struggling with for years. Was this finally the answer I had been craving? I had then started experimenting with different botanicals and creating my own herbal tea to target my personal ailments. I liked that these botanicals were gentle enough to be consumed everyday, so it truly became a ritual I leaned into. I started to feel that shift. I started to have consistent restful nightsof sleep, my stress lessened, and my periods weren’t so debilitating month after month.
Through years of experimenting with different botanicals and herbal teas, I was looking for a brand that essentially would take the work off me blending my personal concoctions. When I came up with nothing, I decided to launch Living Apothecary. A brand of herbal tea that is high quality, therapeutic, and really encompasses a self-care lifestyle for us modern women. This was all so important to me. Now, having been in business for a year, it’s been incredible to see and hear stories from women who have experienced improvements, whether that’s with their cycles or their sleep.
The benefits of drinking herbal tea are truly endless. In our herbal tea blends, the botanicals used are chosen based on their therapeutic + nutritive value. They are able to provide nourishing amounts of vitamins and minerals, and provide specific targeted actions that are meant to improve your well-being.
Each and every one of our tea blends have been curated with purpose. No botanical goes unused, and they are prepared to truly target what ails you most.
If you are looking for support with sleep, I’ve created our Snooze Brew that contains valerian and passionflower to ease you into rest, along with oatstraw and lavender to ease your anxiety that may arise as soon as you slow down for bed.
If you’re looking for digestive support, I’ve created Bye Bloat, which contains ginger, peppermint and fennel to improve digestion following your meals. But, it also contains licorice root and marshmallow root, to help curb any sweet cravings you may have following meals.
Beyond the nourishment each of our tea blends provide, it truly is the ritual that comes with having a healing cup of herbal tea. With our crazy schedules, we tend to mindlessly weave ourselves through each day. Having a cup of herbal tea is a time you’re able to check in with yourself, to slow down, to become mindful of the moment.
I’ve provided a quick (yet powerful) recipe for an oatstrawinfusion. I’ve been sipping on these endlessly to help soothe my nervous system during these trying winter months where I feel I need all the support I can get. This infusion is a bit different than steeping my other blends. This infusion contains a lot more botanical and sits for an extended period of time before consuming, preferably up to 4 hours.
+ 1 large mason jar + lid
+ 1 ounce oatstraw
+ hot water
Scoop 1 ounce of oatstraw into your mason jar (depending on where you buy your botanicals, you may be able to buy it already weighed out for you). Boil your water, once it comes to a boil, let stand for a couple minutes. We want the water to be hot, but not boiling when we add to your oatstraw. Pour the hot water over the oatstraw, being sure to saturate the botanical completely and filling your mason jar. Cover and let sit. Let this infusion sit for a minimum of 4 hours to a maximum of 12 hours. I prefer to let this sit overnight. Strain the oatstraw, and consume cold or re-warm. Sip + enjoy throughout your day.
Thanks Kara! Kara and I are excited to be hosting a workshop in Toronto. Check out the event here, and let us know if you have any questions!
Today’s post is all about coffee! I LOVE coffee so much and anyone that knows me personally knows that it plays a big role in my life. I wake up excited for my morning coffee, and if I am ever going away or on a trip I always scout out the coffee scene beforehand.
Coffee and caffeine intake is debated topic within nutrition, and today we are looking at the health effects of coffee. Just like most areas of nutrition, coffee does not impact everyone in the same way. Some people feel wonderful drinking coffee, while others feel jittery, nauseous or just simply not great. The quality, quantity and timing of coffee can also make a difference with how we feel and even the health outcomes.
Below I outlined some main topic:
COFFEE + HEALTH
Coffee consumption has been linked to gastritis and acid reflux. Coffee may increase the risk for gastritis, as well as irritate the esophagus and trigger acid reflux. The stimulating effect of coffee may also be a trigger for IBS or any inflammatory condition of the digestive lining. If you feel coffee may be making your digestive systems worse, try both decaf and omit coffee for one week to see if you notice a difference.
Coffee has been taken out of World Health Organization as a carcinogenic, and there is actually a potential antioxidant benefit. Substances in coffee called chlorogenic acid and polyphenols, may act as an antioxidant, which can help protect cells in the body.
Coffee has been known to potentially increase blood pressure, but interestingly the evidence is conflicting and it may have both effects. The effect of coffee on blood pressure, may not come from caffeine but from other various substances in coffee ( of which there are many!). The effect of blood pressure may also be impacted by how frequently you drink coffee. Habitual coffee drinkers, who drink a bit of coffee every day may be affected by caffeine less than those who drink coffee infrequently or large amounts at a time.
Cholesterol may play a role in raising cholesterol levels, however it may be due to a substance called cafestol, not the caffeine. Cafestol may affect our LDL (low density lipoproteins – what we want to try and decrease). Interestingly, paper filtered coffee and instant coffee have the least amount of cafestol, compared to french press and Turkish coffee.
Coffee can interfere with sleep, especially when we have it after noon. Adenosine is a hormone that helps to regulate sleep. The build up of adenosine can increase arousal in our brain (aka feeling awake). Adenosine and caffeine have the same structure, and each of their molecules fit into the same receptors. When we consume caffeine, this can block the adenosine molecules from properly binding to the receptors, leading to a higher amount of adenosine floating around the brain. This can contribute to us feeling awake, even with a lack of sleep.
Another way that coffee can interfere with sleep, is explained below.
In addition, caffeine has incredible effects on other neurotransmitters and hormones in our body, such as dopamine and adrenaline. The production of both chemicals is stimulated when caffeine enters the body. Dopamine, which falls under the “happy brain chemicals” group, makes us happy and improves our mood. Whereas, adrenaline, the “super hero hormone” or the “fight or flight” hormone, causes many physiological changes, such as an increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure, an increased respiratory rate, and an increase of blood supply to the muscles. As you can probably tell, too much adrenaline contributes to anxiety.
Coffee can inhibit the absorption and increase the excretion of certain vitamins and minerals. Most known are B6, iron, calcium and magnesium. This can have an impact for those with anemia/low iron and crease an increase risk for osteoporosis. Moderation is key here, and the risk generally lies in those who drink more than 3 cups of coffee per day.
A NOTE ON QUALITY AND QUANTITY
It is generally recommended to stay under 400 mg of caffeine per day. It is also generally advised that pregnant woman drink no more than 300mg per day, but generally recommended to stick to 100 mg per day. To give you an idea, one cup of coffee contains roughly 100 mg. This compares to a cup of black or green tea, which has about 50 mg of caffeine, and chocolate, which has about 20 mg of caffeine.
As stated earlier, coffee metabolizes at different rates for everyone. However, the average adult metabolizes caffeine within 3-5 hours. This means that drinking coffee in smaller amounts, at different times throughout the day can be better than all at once.
The quality of the coffee is another thing of note. Coffee beans are typically known as a highly sprayed crop, meaning that you are potentially ingesting pesticide/herbicide sprays with your beans. Organic coffee may be better for you than conventionally grown coffee beans.
‘Fair trade’ is another phrase that is used when talking about the quality of coffee. Coffee beans are a highly exported agriculture product, and fair trade means that the farmers were paid fair wages, and treated properly (which is a big issue within the farming industry, especially in certain countries).
The last thing to talk about is what we add to coffee. Generally the highest risk when talking about coffee consumption, is the added sugar. I would generally recommend to limit or reduce added sugar in your coffee, if possible!
Thank you for reading this post all about coffee! I personally try to practice moderation, but I also believe it is important to indulge in things that you enjoy and that bring you happiness- for me, coffee is one of these things.
As always, if you have any questions do not hesitate to reach out!
Today’s post is all about healthy snacking! Here are some of my personal favourite snack ideas. I will provide tips along with each snack to help you adapt to your taste and personal preferences.
1. SLICED VEGGIES AND HUMMUS
This is a long time favourite of mine, and something that is difficult for me to get sick of. Hummus contains protein and healthy fat (chickpeas, tahini) and veggies add fibre, vitamins, minerals and water. For a snack, I will have a handful or two of veggies with a few dollops of hummus- around 2 TBSP. Sometimes, I will add crackers, corn chips or olives to make it a more hearty snack.
Tip: Cut up vegetables at the beginning of the week, to have for the week. I often do celery and carrots, and add to a container with water. If you get bored of this snack, try different types of dips. I have a blog post here, but Pinterest is always a good option.
2. CHEESE AND CRACKERS
Another simple snack, one that is reminiscent of childhood. But why can’t we enjoy it? Cheese is a good source of protein and contains fat to keep you full, and you can get a good amount of fibre from a healthy cracker. Again, you can buff this plate up with veggies, olives and a dip to make a full on snack plate.
TIP: Make sure crackers are whole grain for better nutrition. I love Ryvita, Mary’s Crackers, Finn Crisps and Kii crackers. As for cheese, I opt for a sheep or goat cheese, as it is often easier to digest.
Popcorn may not be the most filling snack, in that it does not contain protein, but it can be a healthy and satisfying snack when you want to munch. Popcorn is actually quite high in fibre, which can keep you full for longer than a potato chip. I love popcorn as a study snack, or when I am working after dinner. Of course, it is the best movie snack, too!
Homemade popcorn is your best bet ( I follow this tutorial), but I also buy popcorn from the store and like Neal Brothers, Boom Chicka POP, Buddha Bowl Popcorn, and Skinny POP.
3. APPLE OR BANANA WITH NUT BUTTER
This is the best energy booster for me, and I enjoy it when I am feeling like I need a burst of energy in the afternoon. It is also a good pre-workout snack. I slice up an apple, or banana and slather nut butter on each piece. Sometimes I sprinkle hemp hearts for some more nutrition.
Tip: Keep a jar of nut butter at work, in the fridge. This way you can just bring fresh fruit with you every day.
4. HANDFUL OF NUTS WITH CHOCOLATE AND DRIED FRUIT
This is a sweeter snack, and great when you are in need of something sweet. I will have a handful of nuts, with a few pieces of dried fruit like figs, apricots or dates, and a few pieces of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate actually contains minerals like magnesium and iron, while the nuts provide protein and fat. Dried fruit contains fibre, and more vitamins and mineral, as well as a sugar boost.
Tip: This is a great snack for the office, or to keep in your bag as it is all non-perishable.
5. CHIPS AND SALSA
Again, this snack does not include protein, so may not keep you full for very long, but it does contain fibre and vegetables! I love chips and salsa, and again it is one of my favourite snacks. You can add a black bean dip and guacamole to this snack to make to more complete, if you like!
My favourite corn chips are Neal Brothers and Que Pasa Chips. As for salsa, I love a fresh salsa from Mad Mexican ( a Toronto company) or the Neals Yard salsa.
I hope you like these ideas for healthy snacks!
Are you interested in a personalized meal plan instead? Click here!
Today’s post is all about iron! I am personally trying to get my iron levels up a bit, and so I thought it would the perfect time to speak about this important mineral.
Today I am going to go over the importance of adequate iron intake, signs/symptoms of deficiency, the recommended daily intake of iron based on age/sex and then I will discuss ways to ensure adequate intake of iron through diet and supplementation.
ALL ABOUT IRON
Iron is a mineral, and it’s main role is to move oxygen into cells. Iron is a main element of hemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells that specifically carries oxygen from lungs into different parts of the body.
Iron deficiency leads to an inadequate production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body. You may have heard the term ‘anemia’ when you hear about iron deficiency, which is a result of iron deficiency. Anemia is a condition marked by a deficiency of hemoglobin in the blood.
Typical signs of iron deficiency and anemia include feeling fatigued/low energy, pale skin, brittle nails and hair and cold extremities.
Those who are most at risk for developing iron deficiency include menstruating women, vegetarians or those with digestive concerns like IBS or IBD.
If you feel you may be deficient in iron, it is best to speak to your family doctor to get tested. When you get tested for iron, they look at something called serum ferritin and hemoglobin. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron and releases it when you need- if you are low in ferritin it is an indicator of low iron levels. Hemoglobin tests measure the amount of hemoglobin in your blood, which can indicate anemia if ferritin levels are also low.
How Much Iron Do You Need?
Based on your sex and age, these are the following recommendations for iron intake per day. These numbers are all to indicate mg/day.
Children, 1-3; 7
Children, 4-8; 10
Children, 9-13; 8
Teens, 14-18; m= 11, f = 15
Adults, 19-50; m = 8, f = 18
Adults, 51+ ; 8
Pregnant women (19+); 27
Breastfeed women (19+); 9
Food Sources of Iron
There are animal and plant based sources of iron. Animal sources contain heme iron, which is a bit easier to digest compared to vegetarian or non-heme forms of iron.
Meat i.e. beef, pork ~3-7 mg/serving
Seafood i.e. muscles, oysters ~ 20 mg/serving
Eggs ~ 2 ,g/serving
Tofu ~ 4mg/serving
Beans/legumes i.e. chickpeas, black beans ~ 7 mg/serving
Green veggies i.e. kale, spinach ~ 4 mg/serving
Seeds i.e. pumpkin seeds ~ 4 mg/serving
If you iron deficient and feel you are not getting enough iron through your diet, you can talk to you health care practitioner about potential supplementation. Do not start a supplementation without speaking to your healthcare provider first!
I am personally a bit low in iron and along with focusing on high-iron foods, I decided to continue with an iron supplement (I typically take one on and off). I am currently trying the MegaFood Blood Builder Formula. MegaFood is a whole food supplement company, which means they use real foods ingredients (i.e. vitamin C comes from oranges). I like that this company works closely with the farmers to ensure a high quality product. I have tried MegaFood supplements before, and really liked them.
The Blood Builder formula is an iron supplement, that contains 26 mg of elemental iron. It contains Vitamin C ( which helps with absorption of iron), along with folate and B12. Iron supplementation is known for having gastrointestinal side effects such as constipation and nausea, but this supplement has great feedback that it does not contribute to gastrointestinal side effects. I also like that there was a clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine that used this specific supplement in a controlled environment to study improvements on iron levels, along with side effects. Iron levels significantly increased, with little to no side effects noted, which is pretty cool!
I encourage you to find a supplement that works for you, as this is often quite individualized. I have tried a bunch of different iron supplements, and I am looking forward to seeing how this supplement works, and if taking it helps to increase my iron levels. I will keep you posted!
Now, I would love to hear from you! Have you tried to increase iron levels before? What worked for you and what didn’t?
Hello friends! Today I invited Nutritionist Marina O’Connor to write a guest post about hormonal health, and what we can do to nutritionally support our body throughout each stage in our cycle.
Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle
By: Marina O’Connor, B.A., CNP
How well do you know your feminine cycle? For a very long time, the only thing I knew or cared about my cycle was when I was going to menstruate (crossing fingers it did not land on an important event or vacation!). Unfortunately, basic health class does not prepare us with the specific and thorough knowledge to navigate our fertility and hormonal cycles. We are not taught that our bodies are eloquently and continuously adapting to these changes without us even realizing. This is most certainly not a criticism against our education system! Instead, this post is intended to educate and empower women about the way their cycle moves. I hope you will come away from this post knowing three things: 1) how to adapt to your energy levels as hormones fluctuate, 2) how to balance your cycle with appropriate food choices, and 3) learn to appreciate the function and strength of your body.
Here’s a look at the four phases of the menstrual cycle:
Duration: 3-5 Days Average
The follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is released slowly by the pituitary gland right before menstruation when estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. FSH is responsible for developing the dozen or so follicles in the ovary that will later race for ovulation (Weschler, 2015, p.408). Immediately before and during menstruation, melatonin levels peak (responsible for regulating blood pressure, sleep and wakefulness, immune system, and the coordination of other hormonal shifts).
This is the perfect time for a woman to rest, spend time alone, and practice positive affirmations. This time of the month shows an increase in creativity, contemplation, intuition and spirituality (Kaur, 2005, p.76). Take time to self-reflect and journal during this phase, particularly on the emotions that are overwhelming (and completely normal).
Increase dietary sources of iron: seaweed, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, beets, and molasses (Kaur, 2005, p.76). Focus on water-rich foods and vegetables in order to hydrate your body such as watermelon, burdock, dark berries, as well as various soups and stews (Vitti, 2014, p.153-154).
Duration: 8 Days Average
As estrogen continues to rise during the first half of your cycle, the uterine lining thickens and prepares for a fertilized egg. FSH drops and luteinizing hormone (LH) is released by the pituitary gland between menstruation and ovulation. Estradiol (estrogen made by follicles) boosts neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine resulting in feelings of happiness, pleasure and motivation (Briden, 2017, p.57-58). High testosterone levels before ovulation increase sexual energy. Estrogen causes the cervical fluid to thin and alkalize, promoting passage and survival of sperm (Kaur, 2005, p.77).
This is a good time to start new projects. There is an increase in left brain activity indicating verbal fluency (Kaur, 2005, p.77). Energy levels begin to rise and the body is more receptive to physical activity. Use this time towards creating to-do lists and setting goals for the upcoming phase as your mental and physical energy continue to rise.
Increase consumption of phytoestrogen-rich foods such as flaxseed while estrogen levels are still quite low. Eating light, fresh food during this time is very helpful. Help transition to ovulation and assist with cervical mucus production by focusing on foods such as: artichoke, broccoli, zucchini, carrot, avocado, flax seed, Brazil nuts, olives, citrus fruit, and mung beans (Vitti, 2014, p.159-160).
Duration: 1 Day Average
The outpouring of LH triggers a more subtle rush of FSH, which halts estrogen production in the leading follicle. Eventually this follicle ruptures resulting in the release of the interior ovum (ovulation). The egg stays alive for about 24 hours. Pheromones are strongest during this phase as the body is most fertile. Body temperature begins to rise and cervical fluid is very thin and elastic; the most conducive for achieving pregnancy (Weschler, 2015, p.410).
Mental and emotional activity is at its peak, causing a rise in intense emotions (Kaur, 2005, p.78). This is the time for receptiveness to new ideas and strong communication. Speak your truth, open up fluid conversation with loved ones, and execute your to-do lists and goals using the energy of this phase.
Increase fibre and specific nutrients (e.g. glutathione) to aid with estrogen metabolism, detoxification, and removal (Vitti, 2014, p.149). Boost circulation and lower oxidation with the following foods: asparagus, red bell pepper, chard, dandelion, okra, spinach, coconut, fresh fruit (apricots, strawberries, raspberries, figs), red lentils, and almonds (Vitti, 2014, p.159-160). If striving for pregnancy, amplify fertility with: turmeric, cinnamon, buckwheat, avocado, leafy greens, royal jelly (Vitti, 2014, p.217-218).
Duration: 14 Days Average
Progesterone (our nourishing and calming hormone) rises after ovulation and dominates the luteal phase (Briden, 2017, p.63). Progesterone keeps the body temperature higher and controls the buildup of the uterine lining to support pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy, progesterone levels fall and the uterine lining sheds, resulting in menstruation. FSH and LH remain low during this phase, until just before menstruation when FSH begins to rise as a result of low estrogen levels (Weschler, 2015, p.411). Cortisol and serotonin may decrease, resulting in mood imbalances such as depression, irritability, anxiety, and food cravings. Towards the end of this phase, melatonin peaks.
This is the time when reflective and intuitive thoughts rise. Decrease stress by saying “no” more often (Kaur, 2005, p.79). Increase rest and be gentle with yourself as your body prepares for menstruation. One way to shift the focus on rest is to concentrate on self-care; take time to meditate, do gentle yoga, take long baths, spend time in nature, and partake in any other relaxing activity you enjoy.
Increase potassium rich foods to help decrease salt and water retention in the body: carrot juice, avocado, papaya, cantaloupe, mango, banana, kiwi, figs, pineapple, adzuki beans, lentils, pinto beans, and squash (Kaur, 2005, p.79). To further reduce water retention, increase the consumption of diuretic teas (e.g. dandelion greens) and leafy greens (calcium and magnesium). Avoid sugar cravings by focusing on B-vitamin rich foods, such as: brown rice, pine nuts, and collard greens. Eating complex carbs at this time balances serotonin and dopamine levels and averts mood fluctuations (Vitti, 2014, p.150-151).
Thank you Marina! I hope you enjoyed this post. If you need help supporting your cycle with nutrition, please do not hesitate to reach out to either Marina or myself.
Briden, L. (2017). Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods. United States: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.
Kaur, S. D., Dean, C., & Danylak-Arhanic, M. (2005). The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health. Toronto: R. Rose.
Vitti, A. (2014). Woman code: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive, and Become a Power Source. New York, NY: HarperOne.
Weschler, T. (2015). Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health. New York: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.
This month is the last edition of Monthly Nourish.
For those not following along, Monthly Nourish was my little attempt at inspiring simple and small change, completely aligned with my fundamental approach to nutrition that health is not all-or-nothing. Each month I highlighted three foods, discussed the health benefits and provided loads of recipe inspiration. The hope was that you could try new foods or new recipes, a little bit at a time, and at a pace that suits you.
I am finishing up the series, but there is a full year (12 months!) of posts to go back to, when you find yourself in need of a little inspiration.
So here it is, the final Monthly Nourish!
MONTHLY NOURISH | SEPTEMBER
Apples are the quintessential fruit of fall. They are a high-fibre and low-sugar fruit, typically suitable for those watching their sugar intake. Apples contain vitamin C and B vitamins, along with phytonutrients to help with free-radical damage. Apples contain prebiotic fibre, which can help feed the beneficial bacteria that naturally reside in your gastrointestinal system. Apples also contain a good amount of a flavonoid called quercetin, which is good to support the immune system.
Apples can be enjoyed as a snack ( I love them with almond butter), or baked in an apple crisp/pie. Try out this recipe for Carrot Muffins with Apple from The Minimalist Baker and check out our Pinterest board for more recipe inspo!
Carrots are a starchy vegetable, that contains fibre, along with other vitamins and minerals. Carrots, similarly to other orange coloured foods, are notably high in beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is great for skin health, immune system and eye health.
Squash is another fibre-rich vegetable, high in beta carotene. It is also a good source of B 6, which is helpful for energy and stress, along with folate, making it a great food to enjoy when pregnant. Squash also contains potassium, which is an important mineral to help with nerve signals, muscle contractions and specifically can help to manage blood pressure.
Squash comes in many forms, and they can all be cooked and enjoyed in different ways. Roasted or baked squash, is one of my favourite ways to enjoy it. Try out this recipe for Butternut Squash Veggie Pizza by The Minimalist Baker and check out our Pinterest board for more recipe inspo!
I hope you enjoyed this series. Please check back through the archives whenever you need a dose of nutrition inspiration!
Hello and Happy Friday!
Not only is it Friday, but it is also the first week in September, and back-to-school time, which is generally a busy week for most.
I know many of my clients are starting to feel overwhelmed by school lunches, or even getting into a good routine for themselves and I wanted to pop on the blog to offer three simple items that you can cook this weekend, to make next week easier.
What To Cook This Weekend, To Make Next Week Easier!
1. Baked Salmon/Chicken Or a Pot of Lentils
It is a great idea to have a good protein source available, which you can add to your meals throughout the week. All of these options keep for a good 5 days and can last you the work/school week. Even if you do not want to cook something, you can have canned tuna or salmon available to top salads, put in a wrap or just add to whatever sides you are making.
2. Roast Vegetables
Roasted vegetables could not be easier. You can chop up a bunch of your favourites like cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, sweet potato, asparagus, zucchini etc. and add to a pan with oil of choice ( I like avocado or olive oil) and salt. Depending on the vegetables, cook at 350 anywhere between 30 minutes-1 hour. Roasted vegetables can be reheated, or added to a salad as an easy way to get added vegetables into your diet.
3. A Sauce or Dip
This is a great way to make boring meals a bit more exciting. Many of us do not have the time to cook and so throwing together some things ( like your pre-made salmon, roasted veggies with perhaps a handful of greens) can be made more enjoyable and exciting with a really delicious dressing.
You do not have to be a meal planning/batch cooking extraordinaire, but I really find that a little bit of preparation can go a long way. Minimizing kitchen time even a little bit throughout the way, can alleviate some stress. These three options are a great start and a wonderful base to a healthy week!
Hello + Happy Saturday!
Today, I am posting my go-to banana bread recipe. I absolutely love banana bread, and make it quite regularly. I am not the best baker in the world, and I really love simple recipes with basic ingredients. This recipe checks all the boxes for me; low in sugar, tastes great, easy to make and full of whole food ingredients.
Here is my go-to recipe for banana bread:
4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup olive oil or melted coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Big pinch of cinnamon
1. I mix this batter one of two ways. I either blend all ingredients together in a blender, or I mix the wet and dry ingredients separately and then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
2. Pour into pan and cook for approx. 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out smooth.
Please let me know if you make this recipe and how you like it! I am going to go enjoy a piece right now :)