As we enter into perimenopause (usually in our mid-40’s), diet and exercise needs change as oestrogen and progesterone production begin to decline.

The lowering of oestrogen affects other organs and tissues around the body which can mean your nutrient requirements are going to be different than they were when you were in your 20s.

Let's start with the basics and then take a look at the best foods for each phase of your cycle in perimenopause.

Menstrual Cycle 101

Your menstrual cycle is divided into 3 phases:

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  1. Phase 1 - Menses (your period/bleeding days): these are days 1 to 5 of your cycle.

  2. Phase 2 - The Follicular Phase: usually the first 13-14 days of your cycle.  This is when the egg matures in your ovaries. It’s part of an ongoing process in your body during your reproductive years when hormones activate changes in your body that make it possible for you to become pregnant. In this stage oestrogen is dominant in your hormonal environment.

  3. Phase 3 - The Luteal Phase begins around day 15 of your cycle and ends when you get your period.  This phase is the one that prepares your uterus for pregnancy by thickening your uterine lining. During this phase, progesterone is in control.

What To Eat in Phase 1 - Your Period

  • Both oestrogen and progesterone are low during this stage.
  • You'll find that you may have a lower appetite and you may find cravings aren't so bad.
  • If your periods are heavy, then eating foods high in folate, Vitamin B12, B6 and iron are recommended.  You can find folate, vitamin B12, B6 and iron in deep-green veggies, white and red meat, fish, nuts and seeds.
  • Very important to stay hydrated in this phase.

What To Eat in Phase 2 - The Follicular Phase 

  • Oestrogen is dominant so recommended to eat less eggs, dairy products, chicken and soy-based foods as these are high in natural oestrogen compounds. 
  • When you eat a lot of foods high in oestrogen, your ageing liver (that sounds a bit depressing!) is working harder to clear the excess oestrogen, saturated fats and cholesterol.
  • Eat foods that will metabolise oestrogen like cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, turnip greens, bok choy, wasabi, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, greens, and cauliflower.
  • Eat more salads and lighter plant-based meals that won’t make you feel bloated. 

What To Eat in Phase 3 - The Luteal Phase 

  • Progesterone is dominant.
  • This is the absolutely-not-fun crazy-making PMS stage (in perimenopause PMS symptoms can be exacerbated but we don't need to tell you that). 

    You may find food cravings are ramping up especially sugar cravings so make sure you have lots of healthy snacks to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Try apples and nut butters, carrot sticks and hummus or a boiled egg.
To help reduce crazy perimenopause PMS symptoms make sure you are having magnesium rich foods along with a supplement.

Read more here on the importance of Magnesium in Peri.  Our Peri Chai Latte and Peri Hot Choccy are loaded with magnesium glycinate to help you feel more calm and relaxed during this time.
  • Balancing your hormones in this phase is key. Try adding foods naturally high in oestrogen compounds like eggs, dairy products, chicken and organic soy-based foods. 

  •  Add zinc-rich foods such as fish and salmon as it’s important for your immune health whilst your body is in this crazy phase. 

  • When progesterone is high, this breaks down muscle more readily, so if you do a lot of exercise, then include healthy vegetable carbohydrates (sweet potato or brown rice) because carbohydrates work with protein to help maintain muscle. 
  • Super important to focus on hydration before your period. Plasma is the watery part of your blood. When hormones are high in the luteal phase, plasma volume drops by approximately 8%, meaning that less is available for blood circulation, sweating and maintaining your blood pressure. 

In addition to regulating the menstrual cycle, oestrogen affects the reproductive tract, the urinary tract, the heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, and the brain.

Perimenopause Nutrition: Non-Negotiables

In perimenopause there are some nutritional non-negotiables to ensure your body is fully supported as you navigate the hormonal roller coaster of perimenopause.

1. All-Powerful Protein 

Protein is packed with essential amino acids needed for perimenopause health. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein needed by our bodies to make the protein structures that build, maintain and repair every cell and tissue including in our digestive and immune systems. So super important!

Remember that our gut integrity becomes impaired as oestrogen declines so protein is so important as it helps repair our gut lining (brilliant!).

Perimenopause is also a time when our muscle mass and bone strength is on the decline so we need the amino acids to help increase our muscle mass and strengthen our bones. 

Read more here about the power of protein in peri.

2. Whole Foods to Nourish and Reduce Inflammation in Perimenopause

Perimenopause is a time when our bodies are going through a transition period, under pressure and feeling the stress. It's a time where we have to be super kind and gentle on ourselves: to nourish our body and give it the best fuel possible to deal with the changes and charge us up ready for each day.

Eating a varied diet of foods that's as close as nature intended is key.

Make sure you're eating foods like:

  • Fruit and vegetables (Lots! Eat the rainbow)
  • Fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Chicken and other meat
  • Yoghurt
  • Cheese.

  • Avoid processed foods depleted of nutrients and minerals, packed full of added colourings, preservatives, unhealthy fats (and also hyper-palatable which makes us want to eat more - grrr give us a break!).

    Processed foods are associated with bad health outcomes and promote inflammation when we are already in a pro-inflammatory state (which causes and exacerbates so many unpleasant perimenopause symptoms).

    3. Eat Lots of Fruit and Vegetables

    Fruits and vegetables are foods from the Gods!

    They are packed full of fibre, minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients.

    Why is fibre important in perimenopause health?

    Fibre keeps us fuller for longer and feeds our good gut bacteria. A diet high in fruit and vegetables helps reduce obesity and maintain a healthy weight, lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

    You need to eat an array of colourful fruit and vegetables to ingest as many different types of minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients as possible.

    Wait! What are Phytonutrients and Why Do I Need Them In Perimenopause?

    Phytonutrients are nutrients derived from plants and are absolute health powerhouses.  They have huge health benefits for us such as fighting inflammation which can cause and exacerbate our perimenopause symptoms, and antioxidant powers to help prevent damage to cells throughout our bodies.  


    4. Drink Plenty of Water in Perimenopause

    Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water is absolutely crucial to supporting your body as you go through perimenopause and reducing symptoms.

    You need to drink approximately 2 litres of water a day, so about 8 glasses. 

    This helps your body flush out any toxins that aren’t beneficial to our health and to perform vital chemical reactions for sustaining a healthy life.

    Staying hydrated is critical for brain health and cognition.

    Something as simple as a glass of water can make a world of difference to your quality of life!

    Eating and Exercising in Perimenopause If I'm Still Cycling?

    If you are in perimenopause and still cycling (we're talking about your menstrual cycle not like, on a bike, actual cycling), you might like to consider eating and exercising depending on what menstrual phase you are in.

    So for example, as you move past Phase 1 you may notice you have more energy and feel stronger. This is the phase where you might undertake more vigorous training (if that's your bag), or you might do a little more physical activity during the week while your energy levels are high.

    You may notice too as you approach the end of your cycle, your energy levels drop.  Now is not the time to force yourself to that 5am gym HIIT session. Focus on gentle restorative movement such as a gentle walk in nature, or a gentle yoga session.

    Be led by your body - listen to her and tune into that wisdom.

    Track Your Cycle and Mine for Gold

    Journalling is really helpful by keeping a note of how long your cycles are and how you feel at each stage.

    Be sure to make a note of any symptoms and feelings you're experiencing each day and you might start to see a pattern with each phase of your cycle.  These kinds of insights can be gold for you as you make decisions based on what your body is telling you she needs at a particular point in time. 

    Tuning in like this will make a big difference to your experience of the severity of perimenopause symptoms especially around mood, energy and sleep.

    We know too though, tracking cycles during perimenopause can become difficult as you get further into these transition years and each phase may change.  No matter, taking time to tune in and be aware of how you feel can still help you make the right decisions for you.

    What does a perimenopause period look like? Find out here 

    Want to feel the whole SheBANG? again?  




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    February 08, 2023 — Angela Greely

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