Seed cycling – have you heard of it?
It’s a technique of eating certain combinations of seeds during the menstrual cycle to help support hormone balance.
Many women say seed cycling relieves PMS symptoms and helps maintain a more regular cycle. It’s an easy technique to practise – so long as you enjoy eating seeds!
How seed cycling works
Based on an average cycle length of 28-30 days, the pattern for eating the seeds goes like this:
The plan is based upon the idea that the different nutritional qualities of the seeds support the variations in hormone levels over the course of the month. But, is it really necessary to seperate the seeds out like this? Does it matter if you eat a mixture of each seeds every day?
To date, there are no research trials looking at the impact of seed cycling. However, there are several studies examining the nutritional qualities and actions of some of these seeds individually – particularly flaxseed. Flax is packed with nutrients (see below) that can be incredibly helpful when dealing with PMS symptoms or perimenopausal hormone fluctuations.
How are the seeds helpful?
Flax: contains high levels of compounds called lignans. Our beneficial gut bacteria can convert these lignans into phytoestrogen compounds which have a modulating effect on oestrogen receptors. When natural oestrogen levels are too low, phytoestrogens can support them. At the other end of the scale, if you’re oestrogen dominant (which is often the case in endometriosis, PMT, PCOS, and early perimenopause) the phytoestrogens block the actions of natural oestrogen, helping to reduce its activity. Alongside the lignans, flax provides protein and the omega-3 essentail fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which converts into anti-inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins.
*Flax is best eaten ground as the tiny seeds are difficult to chew and can pass straight on through your digestion!
Pumpkin: excellent source of omega-3 ALA, zinc, magnesium, fibre, and protein.
Sesame seeds: naturally rich in calcium to support bone health and may also relieve some symptoms of PMS.
Sunflower seeds: packed with vitamin E; a powerful antioxidant and shown to help relieve hot flushes in perimenopausal women.
Seed cycling or seeds everyday?
There’s no firm agreement on this question. If you are keen to try seed cycling, go for it! If you are new to eating seeds start with 1/2 a tablespoon of each seed and work up to the full tablespoon to give your digestive system time to adjust to the increase in fibre intake.
If seed cycling sounds a bit too much like hard work, keep things simple and focus on including ground flaxseed each day instead. However you decide to include more seeds, remember to increase your water intake too. These seeds are rich in fibre that soaks up fluid in the digestive tract and keeps waste matter moving steadily along. More water is essential to prevent the seeds causing constipation!
How to include the seeds in your diet
- Smoothies – blend the ground seeds with fruit, dairy or non-dairy milk, veggies, and a dollop of nut butter for a satisfying smoothie
- Salads – sprinkle them into salads made up of a mixture of roasted veggies, salad leaves, meat or fish or egg, lentil pate, and a couple of tablespoons of a grain such as brown rice or buckwheat
- Add to yoghurt and fruit for a snack
- Mix with quinoa, cooked lentils, egg, baby tomatoes, chopped herbs, and a handful of baby spinach for a protein-rich lunch
- Mix with chopped dried apricot, raisins, nuts and coconut flakes as a trail-mix-style snack
- Add to homemade bread, muffins – or try this Menopause Cake recipe – yes, cake really can help you get through menopause!
Have you tried seed cycling?
What are your favourite tips for using seeds in recipes?
Share your ideas and discover more tips over in the Facebook group – Nutrition in York!