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In the menstrual cycle, nutrition matters

The new episode of the podcast “A gust amb la Terra” embraces a topic that arouses increasing interest among women: What role does food play in the menstrual cycle?

The women’s health and well-being receives more and more attention: problems related to the menstrual cycle such as endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome or painful menstruation are increasingly visible and thanks to this there are more and more professionals and women who act in the face of these complications and raise awareness on the role of small everyday things, such as our diet.

On the other hand, we also know that the vegetarian population is getting bigger and bigger and this raises questions: What role does our food in the menstrual cycle? What is true in the popular belief that the veggie women are you more likely to suffer from anemia? Soy can not be consumed daily? We answer these questions with the help of Noelia López, Nestlé nutritionist.

And the fact is that dietary guidelines are evolving and now the way to approach the diet is more holistic and broader. Life stages are now taken into account (pregnancy, menopause), but also disorders related to the menstrual cycle.

Food for gynecological disorders

Polycystic ovary syndrome

“The diet and the lifestyle we follow are really important in some gynecological and hormonal aspects,” says the Nestlé expert.

An example of this is the role of insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome, a problem that frequently appears in adolescence and in which recommendations such as:

  • Decrease intake of unsaturated fats.
  • Ensure the intake of Omega 3, vitamin D and chromium.

One way or another, the expert assures that the most important thing will always be to go to a trusted gynecologist and a specialized nutritionist, who will adapt the diet according to each person’s needs.

Disappearance of menstruation

But let’s not forget the popular belief that the diet of those who choose the veggie lifestyle can condition their menstrual cycle to the point that they often have amenorrhea (disappearance of menstruation).

“It’s a half-truth”, points out Noelia López.

And to understand what happens in these cases, we must first know that the menstrual cycle consumes a lot of energy, so a poorly structured diet, whether vegan or not, can cause the temporary disappearance of menstruation.

run, running, runner, woman, beach, promenade, sea, sun, sport, nutrition, menstrual cycle
A woman runs along a promenade/EFE/EPA/CJGunther

It is important to take this into account especially in female athletes, who have a greater energy need.

In general, this type of situation is related to women on veggie diets because they generally provide more fiber, which leads to a feeling of satiety that displaces the consumption of other energy-giving foods.

To avoid this it is important to ensure that we get enough energy.

And the iron?

Iron levels usually depend on many factors and not just whether we are vegetarian or not. Diet approach is important or important. But factors such as poor absorption of nutrients or gastrointestinal problems must also be taken into account here.

According to the WHO, 30% of women in the world suffer from anemia, compared to 12% of men. Iron needs in women increase in stages such as pregnancy or menstruation with high blood loss.

Most important sources of iron

Traditionally, the amount of iron in meat or some viscera has been highlighted. But there are other foods that are also rich in this nutrient and also have less saturated fat:

  • Legumes
  • Dried fruit.
  • Whole grains, such as quinoa.
  • Green leafy vegetables: spinach or kale.

They are foods of high nutritional quality that we can incorporate daily into our diet and, if they are combined with other foods rich in vitamin c (pepper, broccoli, strawberries), will help us to improve this absorption of iron and to have adequate levels of this mineral.

soy

Soy has a substance called phytoestrogen, which has a similar structure to estrogen, a hormone related to the menstrual cycle.

Does it interfere with the menstrual cycle?

It is likely that you have heard that the presence of soy in our daily diet can interfere, in the case of women, with hormonal levels. This comes from the fact that at first it was believed that they could act as estrogenic disruptors, but it is known that the consumption of up to three servings of soy, regardless of the way it is ingested, does not alter anything.

In each of its versions

We can consume in the form of

  • Tofu (one portion corresponds to 150 grams)
  • Textured soy (a serving of 50 grams)
  • Yogurts made with soy
  • Soy drink

In addition, soy is essential to obtain calcium, an important mineral for women, among other things, for their bone health.

calcium

It is the most abundant mineral in our body. It is stored in our teeth and bones and represents a key piece for these two structures.

Ensuring a sufficient intake of calcium in our diet is important at all ages, but in certain population groups, such as women, it is even more so.

The Nestlé nutritionist explains that with menopause you start to lose bone mass and the risk of osteoporosis increases, which is why calcium must be the protagonist in our diet.

Soy is rich in calcium, but we also find other foods such as:

  • Dairy or derivatives
  • Soy enriched in calcium
  • Legumes: chickpeas, for example
  • Nuts: almonds and hazelnuts especially
  • Green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage)
  • Sesame

There are many foods that provide us with various very interesting nutrients. Knowing them is what will make a difference to our health.

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