The Monthly Cycle: Understanding Your Body’s Needs
You know it’s that time of the month when your cravings for chocolate, burgers and cake kick in at full force. The reason behind these hankerings is due to the fluctuation in hormones – your estrogene, testosterone and progesterone (vital reproductive hormones) undergo a dip during your menstrual cycle.
Did you know that through these cravings, your body is actually longing for specific nutrients? According to dietitian and nutritionist, Natalie Stephens, women should consume all food groups with as much fruit and vegetables as possible during their period. These are the six vital foods to consume:
The Malaysian Pantry: A Treasure Trove of Nutritious Delights
Malaysia’s diverse culinary landscape is not just a testament to its rich culture but also a haven for nutritious foods that are perfect for menstrual health. Here, we delve into traditional Malaysian ingredients and dishes that align with the dietary needs during menstruation.
1. Fish: Omega-3 Rich Delicacies
Fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, are known for their menstrual pain-relieving properties. In Malaysia, dishes like ‘Ikan Bakar’ (grilled fish) and ‘Kerabu Pucuk Paku’ (fern salad with fish) are not only mouth-watering but also packed with these essential nutrients.
2. Greens Galore: Iron and Fiber-Filled Veggies
High-fiber greens like broccoli and spinach are pivotal for easing PMS symptoms. ‘Sayur Lodeh’ (mixed vegetable curry) and ‘Kangkung Belacan’ (stir-fried water spinach with shrimp paste) are excellent ways to incorporate these greens into your diet, offering a delicious blend of nutrients and traditional flavors.
3. Bananas: The Potassium Powerhouse
Bananas, a ubiquitous fruit in Malaysia, are perfect for combating PMS and boosting mood, thanks to their high potassium and magnesium content. Whether it’s enjoying ‘Pisang Goreng’ (banana fritters) as a snack or incorporating bananas into ‘Cekodok Pisang’ (banana fritters), these dishes offer a delicious and healthy way to satisfy sweet cravings.
4. Quinoa: The Modern Superfood Touch
Though not traditionally Malaysian, quinoa has found its way into the local diet. Its high protein and fiber content make it an ideal choice during menstruation. ‘Quinoa Nasi Ulam’ and ‘Quinoa Lemak’ are innovative twists on classic dishes, bringing a modern, health-conscious touch to the Malaysian table.
5. Dairy: Calcium and Vitamin D for Comfort
Dairy products are essential for their calcium and vitamin D content, helping to alleviate menstrual cramps. ‘Teh Tarik’ (pulled milk tea) and yogurt-based smoothies with local fruits like durian and mangosteen can be both comforting and beneficial.
6. Dark Chocolate: A Guilt-Free Indulgence
Dark chocolate, especially with a high cacao content, is not only a mood enhancer but also rich in antioxidants. Incorporating dark chocolate into local snacks, such as in ‘Chocolate Apam Balik’ (stuffed pancake), can provide a delicious and healthful treat.
Recipes for Comfort and Health
Creating dishes that are both delicious and beneficial during menstruation can be a fun and creative process. Here are some recipes that combine traditional Malaysian flavors with the recommended foods for menstrual health:
Sardine Nasi Lemak: A twist on the classic ‘Nasi Lemak’, replacing the usual anchovies with omega-3-rich sardines.
Broccoli and Tofu Laksa: A hearty and warming noodle soup with tofu for added protein and broccoli for its PMS-easing properties.
Banana and Coconut Rice Pudding: A sweet and satisfying dessert, ideal for fulfilling those sugar cravings while providing essential nutrients.
Quinoa and Chicken Rendang: A healthier version of the beloved ‘Chicken Rendang’, with quinoa substituting rice to provide a fiber and protein-rich meal.
Yogurt and Tropical Fruit Parfait: Layered with Greek yogurt, local fruits, and granola, this parfait is a perfect breakfast or snack.
Incorporating Mindful Eating
While focusing on the right foods, it’s equally important to practice mindful eating. Paying attention to how food affects your body, savoring each bite, and eating in a relaxed environment can enhance the benefits of a nutritious diet.