This past month in the On Track group I had the pleasure of interviewing Allie McFee -Writer, Women’s Wellness Educator, and Cooking Teacher. She is the girl behind the blog at Modern Goddess Lifestyle, where she shares her hormone-balancing recipes, as well as tidbits on women’s health and sacred self-care. She is working on her first soon-to-be published cookbook on women’s hormone health and the moon cycle. Allie is a certified Women’s Health and Nutrition Coach through the Integrative Women’s Health Institute. She spoke with our group about what foods to eat to help optimize hormones during our monthly cycle.
I loved everything Allie had to say & everything she stands for – so I asked her if she’d write a blog post around women’s cycles/food and share her best recipe to help combat stress! Here she is…
What to eat to combat stress
Our brains as women biologically function different than men. A man’s brain generally functions with more focus on one task at hand. Typically, the higher estrogen levels women have can make our brains look like computers with many tabs open, where we are able to jump from task to task, and work on several projects simultaneously. It gives us a unique ability to see the big picture and operate from many details, in knowing that everything is intrinsically connected. It’s why the men in our lives tell us to “get to the point” when we’re telling long drawn out stories, and our girlfriends hang onto every word. All that extra clutter of emotion and detail when telling a story can be quite confusing to our male friends, but our sister-friends catch every beat, waiting for it all to tie together.
But the catch 22 of our incredible female brains is the world we live in is set up in a patriarchal, masculine based model, where rigid work schedules allow little time for feminine flow. As women are cyclical, our needs shift throughout the month from social, expansive energies, to contracting energies asking us for more rest, especially during our menses.
With the ability of our feminine brains to see the connectivity of all tasks, this is reflected in our lives as we juggle roles of working, mothering our children, paying upcoming bills, care-taking loved ones, helping friends, volunteering at community events, cooking, cleaning, and caring for ourselves. With the overwhelming stress brought on by our culture’s love for productivity, women may feel the pressures of maintaining all these roles and just like the computer screen with many tabs open, eventually she may overload and crash.
It’s important to note that not all women experience stress this way, and some can thrive in intensive corporate work environments.
Multiple Roles Women Fill in Current Society;
- Full Time/Part Time Employee
- Caregiver (including of aging parents)
- Business Owner
- Community Volunteer
- Cook of Household
- Household Caretaker
Why Stress Contributes to Hormonal Imbalance
If you resonate with the overwhelm I am describing, here’s a little bit about how your body reacts to stress: cortisol levels can rise and fall throughout the day due to stress responses, and overtime this can exhaust the adrenals by having them work overtime to meet the needs of producing cortisol. The mother hormone, pregnenolone, is the building block of the sex hormones; however instead of building up our fertility with producing hormones such as progesterone, it will first convert to making cortisol, because our body is requiring higher levels of cortisol to deal with chronic stress. This is called “pregnenolone steal,” when it is being stolen to make cortisol rather than other necessary sex hormones. This increase production of cortisol eventually burns out the adrenals, imbalances your hormones, and leaves you feeling depleted and exhausted.
What to Eat to Combat Stress
Here is my #1 tip to help prevent you from reaching that burnout: Eat foods with enough protein and fat will help stabilize blood sugar. When cortisol levels elevate, this also raises insulin levels and can create blood sugar spikes and crashes. Keeping your blood sugar stabilized will help reduce the stress response you are feeling and help you move through the stress with more emotional and physical ease.
My “Serenity Bowl” recipe has healthy fat and protein from ingredients such as quinoa, egg, avocado, and black beans and is full of flavor. This can be a quick recipe to prepare, especially if you pre-cook the quinoa and black beans and keep glass containers in the fridge ready to go, or buy pre-cooked black beans. Taking time to nourish your body with healthful meals will help you combat stress in the long run. Cheers to working with our feminine chemistry, rather than against it!
Serenity Bowl Focus
Healthy Fat…. Clean Protein….. Fiber….. Probiotics…. Magnesium…. Low in Sugar
Eggs: Rich in Protein and Healthy Fats
But you may be worried about cholesterol? Eggs raise the levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. Cholesterol is extremely beneficial for the body- pregnenolone is made from cholesterol, as well as other hormones: cortisol, testosterone, estrogen.
The egg yolk is the healthiest part of the egg. It is concentrated in Vitamin D, and when left runny, more of this nutrient is available. The yolk contains almost all of the whole egg’s calcium, iron, B-12, folate, B-6, Vitamin A, and zinc.
Avocado: Contains healthy fats which can increase your testosterone levels. Have you been feeling a lack of libido due to a stressful and overworked lifestyle? Eating avocados can help to strengthen the libido by increasing testosterone reserves.
Quinoa: Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is actually a relative to spinach, and although we call it a grain and cook it like a grain, it is actually the seeds of the plant, making it digest more like a seed than a grain.
Black Beans: Known in Chinese Traditional Medicine to nourish the kidneys, strengthen spleen and blood, and brighten eyes, making it a great food for maintaining adrenal health. Black beans are also high in protein and fiber which will prevent blood sugar spikes.
Sauerkraut: Rich in probiotics to increase beneficial bacteria within the gut flora. When under stress, chronic high levels of cortisol can compromise the immune system. Having a strong colony of beneficial microbiota will become your strongest defense system- they compete to live with the pathogens and harmful bacteria that enter the system. If there is a strong colony, they will keep these harmful bacteria from over-colonizing and prevent sickness.
Baby Kale: A dark leafy green, rich in magnesium to reduce bloating.
This salad contains no dressing, because the salsa, sauerkraut, and avocado provide much flavor when mixed together. Often, store bought dressings include sugar.
- 2-3 cups dark leafy greens, I used baby kale
- 3 Tablespoons black beans
- 4 cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 2 Tablespoons sauerkraut (I made my own, but you can also purchase from the health food store)
- 2 Tablespoons salsa
- 1/4 cup quinoa
- 1/3 avocado
- 1 egg, soft boiled
- Cook quinoa and black beans according to package instruction. Cook ahead of time or use store bought, pre-cooked black beans and store in fridge.
- I used organic, store bought salsa to save time, and this in combination with sauerkraut can be used as your dressing.
- To soft boil egg: Fill a small cooking pot with enough water to cover eggs completely with a couple inches to spare. Let water come to a boil. Reduce heat to medium so the water will continue to simmer. Then, add in the eggs. Cook eggs for about 5-7 minutes. Remove eggs and run under cold water for about 45 seconds. Hold the egg upright and tap shell with a spoon to crack it open. Gently peel the egg’s outer-shell. The egg yolk will be slightly runny inside.
To Prepare the Salad:
- Place 2-3 cups greens in a bowl.
- Open avocado by slicing it in half, separating the two halves and removing the seed with your knife. Keep the avocado in the shell and vertically slice four lines into the avocado, as you will be using 1/3-1/4 of the avocado. Scoop out the sliced avocado from the shell with a spoon. Fan out avocado on top of greens.
- Next add black beans (you can eat these cold or heated).
- Slice cherry tomatoes and add on greens.
- Gently slice soft boiled egg in half and place on salad, without losing yolk if runny.
- Add your scoop of salsa.
- Add quinoa (cold or warm).
- Finally, add sauerkraut in the middle of the bowl. You can use store bought, from your local health food store or make your own.
- Add additional liquid from sauerkraut brine to add more flavor as dressing. The brine from the sauerkraut provides probiotics as well.
More information on nutrition for each phase, including recipes and videos can be found here: http://moderngoddesslifestyle.com/2015/12/16/204/
Stable blood sugar is important for any cycle of the feminine journey. Eating foods with clean protein, healthy fat, and fiber will aid in preventing blood sugar spikes. My Stress Away Serenity Bowl is a great recipe for this.
If you are interested in knowing more how to live cyclically, with recipes and tips for each season of the menstrual cycle, you can check out my eCourse: Goddess in Rhythm: