Spring and summer are the seasons we tend to crave more fresh, raw, cold / cooling foods. It's the time we feel alive, active and energised again and therefore we also spend more time outside, moving in nature / water and craving cold drinks and big salads. Which is great and most smoothies and summer meals are packed with vitamins, enzymes and nutrients BUT... for us women it's a tricky time especially for our second half of the cycle which represents autumn and winter in Chinese Medicine (TCM). It's an important time for our bodies to rest, get nourished and kept warm - through food, clothes and as little windy / cold exposures as possible. You might have noticed a change in your cycle (longer / shorter / more painful) with the change of season and what we are lacking in winter we tend to consume / do too much in summer. The good new is: there is a time and place for both, we just need to be educated and aware of the individual needs of our bodies and align our nutrition and lifestyle accordingly.
Meaning, after ovulation we should slowly start to shift our mindset and prepare our bodies during the luteal for our menstrual phase. This doesnt have to be a fixed date but around day 20, swap your coffee for decaf or my "Female Balance Elixir"(basically a PMS hot chocolate), warm herbal tea or anything but iced / cold beverages. Skip the smoothie with frozen fruits and prepare a protein / fat rich (room temperature) shake with avocado, date, cacao, hemp seeds, plant protein powder (optional) and cinnamon. On the graphic above is a "milk bottle" which needs some explanation :-) It's the time your body needs more calcium and magnesium so focus on foods like sesame seeds / tahini, greens but also plant milk thats either fortified with calcium or make your own nut & seed milk (soak 1/2 cup cashews, 1/4 cup shelled hemp seeds and 1/4 cup toasted sesame a few hours in water, rinse and blend with a 2-4 dates, a pinch of salt and 1 liter of water. No need to strain the milk through a bag - it keeps up to 5 days in the fridge). This is an easy and effective way to add healthy fats and protein but also the RIGHT kind of micro nutrients to your daily diet (use it for your porridge, matcha / chai, shakes, chia pudding...).
But now to the real star of the show -> last night's dinner was a representation of the PMS dilemma in summer. Because we end up eating more cold and raw foods (which is totally ok on hot summer days or when out with friends) - make sure that when you cook for yourself you keep in mind that your body despite the 30+ degrees still needs food that keeps the kidneys and ovaries in a warm environment.
I like to use the simple approach of combination :-)
There is not just black and white aka soup vs salad but the the principle of purpose - how to prepare certain foods and why so you get the maximum of nutrients but also it's function out of it. Red cabbage for example belongs to the "Cruciferous and leafy vegetable" family like spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower - all super high in magnesium which is a nerve and muscle relaxant and may help prevent migraines and cramps especially if you are prone to PMS symptoms. They're also a source of iron which may be low, particularly if menstrual flow is heavy (low iron can lead to fatigue and dizziness). I like to eat red cabbage raw - massaged with some apple cider vinegar, flax or olive oil, salt and (vegan) greek yoghurt. This helps break down the tough fibres of the cabbage and also makes it easier to digest. The salad keeps 2-3 days in the fridge and only gets better the longer it sits! I also like to add currants or (unsweetened) cranberries, toasted sunflower or sesame seeds (#seedcycling) in the end.
This and a handful of arugula (to help with digestion) was the base of my meal. I also added shaved zucchini "pasta" which I quickly boiled in some salted water, leftover chickpeas and whole wheat bulgur that I warmed up and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and za'atar spice. And to make it extra fancy I garnished it with some pine nuts, avocado, basil, sprouts and olives. This meal is so rich in healthy fats, plant protein but also enzymes (from the raw cabbage) but didnt feel COLD as half of the components where cooked / hot.
I ate this dish 3 times this week as I was also surfing a lot (after taking almost a year break) and coming home starving and craving something nourishing, fresh but also supportive to my female cycle.
I hope this gave you some more insights, help and inspiration to take extra care of yourself during those few days before your menstruation! And don't forget to MEAL PREP some items (grains, beans, sauces or in this case the cabbage salad) so you don't have to start from scratch every time / day! Make your life easier and help your body to recover, be nourished and refuelled!