By Cory Levin, RDN
Ever wonder why one week you’re snapping selfies and ready to plan a girls weekend, but at the drop of a hat and the next you’re curled up on the couch desiring nothing but a pint of Haagen Daz and the company of your cat? As a woman, our hormones are in a state of constant fluctuation! These hormones do a lot more for us than we might think– they influence our mood, sleep, energy, sex drive, weight, fertility, digestion, and more.
Hi, I’m Cory Levin, a Registered Dietitian and women’s health expert and this is part four of a four-part series giving you research-backed, evidence-based guidelines on how to eat throughout each phase of your cycle to optimize your hormone balance and mitigate things like PMS.
Your luteal phase begins after ovulation and lasts until your period starts again (anywhere from 10 to 16 days is average). The corpus luteum (the structure where you ovulated from) begins secreting progesterone and makes it the dominant hormone. The goal of the luteal phase is to keep progesterone high in relation to estrogen- If progesterone is not elevating enough or declining too rapidly in comparison to estrogen, you may notice signs of estrogen dominance or a shortened luteal phase. The luteal phase ends when progesterone and estrogen drop, signalling the start of your period and restarting the cycle over again.
During your luteal phase, you might be feeling a sense of calmness (progesterone is your “chill” hormone) and you’re also more susceptible to blood sugar swings (hello hanger!).
If you don’t have enough progesterone relative to estrogen, you might experience moodiness, restless sleep, breast tenderness, increased anxiety and/or depression, acne breakouts, cravings, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, cramps and migraines or other headaches. Sound familiar?
The foods you want to hone in on during this phase are foods that are going to keep your blood sugar stable, ward off PMS symptoms, and either prepare the body for pregnancy (if desired) or ensure a smooth transition into your period.
Foods containing energizing B vitamins actually have “progesterone-like effects” that inhibit digestion issues. Stock up on poultry, walnuts, peanuts, and potatoes. Foods rich in I3C (indole-3-carbinol) help your body detoxify estrogen and balance out that progesterone to estrogen ratio. To ensure enough of these, load up on Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, asparagus, summer squash, dandelion greens, figs, raspberries, and mangoes. Probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, tempeh, and yogurt can also help relieve symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea/constipation.
Turkey Sauerkraut Meatballs
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 2 tsp fresh sage, minced
- 2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 egg, beaten
- 6 oz sauerkraut, drained
- ½ cup flour or gluten-free flour
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- ¾ tsp horseradish
- MIx together meat with sage, thyme, and spices. Refrigerate at least one hour (overnight is preferable).
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease it lightly with olive oil.
- Mix in egg, sauerkraut, and flour until well combined and then shape into 1” balls. Place on baking sheet so they don’t touch and bake 15-20 minutes or until brown inside and outside.
- Whisk maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and horseradish together over low heat. Serve with meatballs over spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles, or high-fiber/high-protein bean-based pasta.
Want to learn about the other phases in the cycle? Follow these links:
Cycle Nutrition In 4 Parts: The Menstrual Phase
Cycle Nutrition In 4 Parts: The Follicular Phase
Cycle Nutrition In 4 Parts: Ovulation
Cory Levin is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and women's health expert. Cory is the founder and principal of The Women's Dietitian and Instagram account @thewomensdietitian, a private practice and digital platform for women seeking nutrition support for hormone balance, fertility, digestion, and weight management. She specializes in conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, PMDD, Hashimoto’s, and nutrition therapy for infertility and assisted reproductive technology. Cory dedicates her practice to a science-backed eating and lifestyle method she has created called "Cycle Hacking". It is through this program that she customizes nutrition prescriptions for clients phase-by-phase of their cycle to optimize hormone balance and encourage healthy hormone levels.