I know that the new year always comes with a lot of “new's" and I would lie if I told you that I think it's completely overrated and nothing will change just because the number on the calendar has switched. 'Cause I do love the energy of a new year and especially the winter time - although challenging and grinding sometimes - this season is meant to be spent in introspection and reflection but also looking after our bodies more consciously and introducing a few “newbies" into our diet. And although I am a big advocate of EATING → read my blog post HERE - I also love to educate women about the “detox phases” every month that are essential for our metabolism, hormonal balance, blood sugar levels and overall weight maintenance. That's why I want to dedicate today's newsletter to the contrary (nurturing) phase which is equally important to avoid PMS and prepare your body for the menstrual phase. You will never see me promote any juice cleanses, fasts or under-eating but I will share some scientific research about eating “light” during the follicular phase and helping your body and especially your liver to get rid of excess oestrogen through nutrition.
From a medical point of view it goes like this:
The follicular phase starts - biologically on the first but energetically on the last day of your period. Typically, it takes up the entire first half of your menstrual cycle. This phase begins when your body's hormone control center, the hypothalamus, sends a message to the pituitary gland at the base of your brain. It then releases a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) which stimulates your ovaries to produce 5 to 20 tiny pods called follicles. Inside each follicle sits an immature egg. These follicles grow during this phase of your cycle. Eventually, one of these follicles becomes dominant. The other follicles start to wither away and are reabsorbed into your body. The follicle with the ripening egg increases your body's production of estrogen. Higher estrogen levels make your uterine lining grow and thicken. The lining becomes rich in nutrients to prepare for a possible pregnancy.
During the Follicular Phase, your digestion is strong and your metabolism rather slow so a shift in nutrients and meal assembly makes a lot of sense - especially coming from the warming, nurturing menstrual phase. As we are in the winter season now, make sure you don't eat too many exotic / cooling foods and fruits (smoothies) but add some raw greens to your main meals, an apple, pear or plum as a snack as well as a small amount of sprouts and fermented foods on a daily basis. One of my favourite ways to add raw winter vegetables is to make a red cabbage slaw: you can also add grated or thinly sliced fennel, carrots, apples or radishes. Massage with tahini, maple syrup, vinegar, oil and salt and let it sit overnight to tenderise. You can literally eat this 3 days in a row to each (cooked) meal. Your body doesn't need as many calories as in the previous phases so you can get most of your energy from smaller and lighter meals.
There is a great episode with Sara Gottfried on the Huberman Lab Podcast about Intermittent fasting, time-restricted feeding, and the ketogenic diet. The results were fascinating especially for women in their pre-menopausal phase. During the follicular phase, the fasting window can be increased, as oestrogen levels are higher and usually women have the most energy during this phase, as well as better insulin sensitivity. Overall, the recommendation is still to avoid an excess of refined sugar and from an energetic point of view this is also the phase where its easiest to “eat healthy” as you are naturally more energetic, enthusiastic and less hungry. Try to observe your hunger cues next time you enter the follicular phase and stay present when you eat your meals during “normal” eating times - maybe you are not as hungry in the morning as you usually are or full faster - connect with your body and trust its messages.
Find below some meal ideas as well as the recipe to my favorite SEED CYCLING GRANOLA
SEED CYCLING GRANOLA
Low in sugar, high in healthy fats and the grains / nut / seed blend is based and adapted on the follicular phase. I usually make 2 batches, one for each half of the cycle and switch the spelt flakes for oats or buckwheat flakes, pumpkin and flax seeds for sunflower and sesame seeds. I do leave the coconut flakes, cashews / almonds and hemp seeds as it is! You can also add some dried fruits or ground chia seeds at the end for extra plant protein!
๏ 200 g spelt flakes
๏ 80 g pumpkin seeds
๏ 80 g cashews or almonds
๏ 50 g (toasted) coconut flakes
๏ 20 g ground flax and hemp seeds
๏ 80 coconut oil
๏ 30 g coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup
๏ 15 g cacao powder (optional)
๏ pinch of salt
cinnamon, tonka bean, pumpkin spice, reishi or lions mane mushroom
Pre-heat the oven to 160°C (not higher otherwise it will burn easily).
In a big bowl combine the oats, pumpkin seeds and cashews or almonds. In a small pot gently heat up the coconut oil and mix in the sweetener, cacao powder, salt and spices. Stir to combine until fully incorporated. It should smell like spiced hot chocolate :-)
Now pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir until well combine. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 30 min, checking and stirring every 10 minutes. As soon as it's out, add the toasted coconut flakes, flax and hemp seeds and mix to combine.
Serve with coconut or soy yoghurt or your favourite plant-milk, (wild) blueberries or any seasonal fruits of your choice. Store in the fridge!