What Is Seed Cycling – Does Seed Cycling Work for Periods, Fertility, and Hormone Balance?
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At first glance, “seed cycling” seemingly involves uploading pretty pictures of smoothie bowls to Instagram. These photogenic, seed-covered meals (5,000 posts and counting) actually have a different purpose: They’re supposedly a pathway to better hormonal and menstrual health.
By eating flax, pumpkin, sesame, or sunflower seeds at specific times of the month, seed cycling attempts to help with everything from more regular periods to reduced symptoms of PMS. The jury is still out on whether this wellness trend actually works as advertised, but there are plenty of other scientific reasons to add more seeds to your diet. Here’s the deal on all things seed cycling:
What is seed cycling?
Seed cycling typically involves eating flax seeds and pumpkin seeds during the first, follicular phase (Days 1-14) of your cycle, when your period starts. You consume a combo of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds during the second, luteal phase (Days 14-28), or after ovulation. While there’s not much by way of scientific research on the topic, the wellness blogosphere generally recommends having at least 1 tablespoon of seeds per day.
What does seed cycling do?
In theory, consuming specific compounds found in seeds during your menstrual cycle is supposed to establish more predictable periods and improve hormone levels. That’s because seeds contain a type of fiber called lignan, which is also found in other veggies, fruit, and plant-based protein sources. Eating flax seeds and pumpkin seeds during the first phase of your cycle is thought to boost estrogen production as your body metabolizes lignan. In the second phase, the sesame-sunflower seed combo is thought to boost progesterone via another lignan-related compound called enterodiol.
This theoretically complements the natural hormonal changes during your cycle. Typically, women have higher estrogen levels at the beginning of the month and higher progesterone levels during the second half of the month.
Does seed cycling actually work?
There’s no scientific research suggesting seed cycling directly affects hormone production and even when the research looks promising, there’s still much to be discovered on the topic. A lot of the literature has mixed results and may indicate it’s an individual response versus a universal recommendation that works for everyone.
One tablespoon of any food isn’t likely going to have a significant impact when you factor in everything else you eat in a day. In other words, even if seed cycling did have a small impact on hormones, it still might not translate into a predictable period.
That said, seeds are one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can consume. Adding more seeds to your daily meals and snacks can have a myriad of other health benefits over time. These nutrient-powerhouses contain minerals that help boost immunity, balance blood pressure, and support healthy tissues. They’re packed with heart-healthy unsaturated fats and phytonutrients, which have been linked to lowering your risk of chronic disease risk.
Seeds also provide a powerful combo of plant-based fiber and protein. A 1-ounce serving has around 6-9 grams each, depending on the type! Flax, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, chia, hemp: The list of great-for-you seeds goes on. Eat them in salads, soups, smoothies, sautés, or on their own as a snack.
Should I try seed cycling?
If trying seed cycling helps you personally eat more nutrient-dense seeds, then by all means, go for it! But obsessing over which seeds to eat and when isn’t worth your time or energy.
Depending on your personal circumstances — whether you’re struggling with fertility, suffering from PCOS symptoms, or just looking for a more regular period — then you likely already have enough stress in your life. Remembering when to eat which seed combos could add an unnecessary, unsubstantiated task to add to your already-full plate.
The Bottom Line
No single food in isolation can make or break your state of health. There’s no scientific reason to invest time, money, or mental effort in eating certain types of seeds during the specific times of the month. Eat the seeds you like best based on their taste and nutritional benefits. Most importantly, always talk to your OB-GYN about any concerns related to your period, fertility, or overall health and what solutions might work best for you.