Sugar cravings and your menstrual cycle
Do you find that your food cravings are off the scale in the lead up to your period? Do you crave chocolate, sweets, bread, or cheese? Would you like to know why this happens and what you can do about it?
Why you crave sugar
In the lead up to your period, there a number of hormonal changes occurring as part of your menstrual cycle and these fluctuations of hormones can lead to you having sugar cravings.
Changes to sex hormones
Before your period starts, there is a drop in progesterone and rise in oestrogen. These changes lead to a drop in blood sugar levels resulting in low energy. Your brain sends a signal to top up your energy stores and this can result in sugar cravings which may have you reaching for the biscuit tin.
Serotonin is a hormone like chemical and is known as the ‘happy hormone’. Serotonin affects mood, emotions, appetite, and digestion.
In the lead up to your period levels of serotonin may drop, especially for those of you who suffer from PMS. Low levels may lead to cravings for sugar. When you eat sugary foods this can increase levels of serotonin but this is only temporary and can intensify your cravings when levels of serotonin drop again.. It can be a tough cycle to break.
When you eat, your body breaks down the food into glucose and your body releases insulin to store the glucose as energy in your muscles. If you are constantly craving sugar and eating sugary foods, your body will continuously release insulin to store energy in your body from the food that you eat. Having high levels of insulin may lead to your hormones becoming imbalanced and raise levels of oestrogen in the body. And, as mentioned above, these fluctuations in hormone levels can lead to sugar cravings.
What you can do about it
The key to controlling your sugar cravings is to balance your blood sugar levels. and eat foods that help you feel fuller for longer and sustain your energy levels. This includes protein, healthy fats and plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables, herbs, spices, and pulses (beans, lentils, and peas).
Protein and fat are crucial for helping you to control your sugar cravings. Protein is your best friend as it is going to help control your food cravings and reduce the urge to snack by keeping you full and satisfied. Therefore, protein helps to sustain your energy levels over the course of the day. Including a small amount of healthy fats in your everyday diet, helps to improve your energy levels by keeping you feeling full, satisfied, mentally alert, focused, and motivated. Fat also has a balancing effect on your hormones, as your hormones are made from fat.
The fibre found in fruits and vegetables also have a blood sugar stabilising effects by slowing down digestion. Some of the vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables have a direct role in producing energy and blood sugar control.
Start the day with a good breakfast
I genuinely believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for those who struggle with sugar cravings, fluctuating energy levels and find themselves snacking throughout the day to keep themselves going.
The best way to set yourself up for the day and to help you avoid energy slumps, and to reduce your cravings and the need for snacking is to eat a breakfast that contains protein, healthy fats and fibre.
A shout out for fat
Fat needs a special mention because you NEED fat in your diet. You need to consume essential fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6) as our bodies are not able to make them and they are necessary for the function of your nervous system, and they are crucial when it comes to making your hormones as they (your hormones) are made from fat. Therefore, fat can have a balancing effect on your hormones. Fat also helps you absorb the vitamins A, D, E and K. Both vitamin A and vitamin E help regulate your sex hormones. Vitamin A regulates the female sex hormones and supports regular reproductive cycles. Vitamin E regulates your hormones and helps your libido so you feel sexy and energetic!
By including protein, fat and fibre from fruit and vegetables with every meal and snack you are going to feel satisfied, fuller for longer with increased energy levels and reduced sugar cravings.
If you would like some inspiration for meal ideas, click the links below:
2 tbsp of houmous and vegetable sticks of your choice
Half an avocado on a rice cake with a handful of nuts or seeds
An apple served with a tablespoon of nut butter