Unlocking Hormone Health with Nutritionist, Sarah Cooper

Scarlet Period talks Hormone Health with Nutritionist, Sarah Cooper

Holistic health practitioner Sarah Cooper is passionate about empowering women through nutrition and movement. Here, she shares her top tips to help balance your hormones through nutrition.


Name: Sarah Cooper
Day job: Nutritionist & Pilates Instructor
Location: Clovelly, Sydney


Tell us about your career:

I have always loved health and fitness. When I was 15, I started doing Pilates and loved making delicious but nutritious treats to take to school. People kept asking for the recipes, so I started sharing them via Instagram and established my own website. A few years later, I did a Pilates instructor course and a Bachelor of Clinical Nutrition, which complemented each other beautifully. I have continued to create and share my love for yummy and healthy recipes as well.


What does an average day on a plate look like?

No two days are the same for me! I try to make sure I get a wide variety of whole foods in and a good balance of protein, fats, complex carbs and lots of fibre and veg. I love a snack between meals and some dark choc as well.
I think that's normal – or should be – for women. As our hormones fluctuate, so does our metabolism and our bodies’ energy demands. These also change based on stress levels, engagement with exercise, the amount of sleep we're getting, moods and more.


How do you change what you eat throughout your cycle?

I listen to my body. My appetite increases throughout my luteal phase, so I eat larger or more substantial meals. During my follicular phase I tend to eat more fresh, lighter meals. I crave heartier meals with probably a bit more carbohydrates and extra protein around my period and sugar! I am not perfect I will probably order some ice cream but try and stick to whole foods and homemade treats where I can.
I like to think of it like eating seasonally so follicular/ovulation is more how you would eat in summer and spring, and then luteal and menstrual is more autumn and winter.

Scarlet Period Blog | Unlocking Hormone Health with Nutritionist, Sarah Cooper

And should you vary your exercise regimen too?

I tend to go for a bit higher intensity around my follicular and ovulatory phases, when hormones and energy are highest, and then slow it down during the second half of my cycle. I love a mix of Pilates, barre, boxing, running, HIIT. This morning I went for a run by the ocean – it doesn’t get any better than that.

Scarlet Period Blog | Unlocking Hormone Health with Nutritionist, Sarah Cooper

Is menstrual health a good indicator of overall health? 

Absolutely! Our menstrual cycle is a strong reflection of our overall health. I love the notion that your period is like your 5th vital sign. So, when something is out of balance, it is often reflected in our cycle, whether that be exacerbated PMS or an irregular cycle.
I think of a period as a monthly report card - if you have been stressed, sleeping poorly, traveling, drinking more alcohol, or eating more processed foods it will often show.


Can food help with PMS?

The healing power of food is so powerful, and we should utilise our diet to make us feel better before supplements. Diet can help decrease hormonal symptoms by reducing inflammation and reducing risk of nutritional deficiencies.


What about gut health?

Our gut plays a massive role in our brain and mental health, our immune system, absorption of nutrients, energy and more. Addressing any underlying gut issues also plays a huge role in correcting hormonal imbalances.


Some general tips that can help improve gut health include:

  • Increasing VARIETY in your diet: this is essential in getting a good variety of pre- and probiotics to populate your microbiome. Having enough of these means your gut can operate at its best.
  • Aiming for COLOUR on your plate: this is an easy way to ensure you are getting antioxidants into your diet. These are so important for your immune system and to decrease inflammation in your body.
  • STRESS MANAGEMENT: Something so overlooked but one of the most common causes of both gut issues and PMS. Finding ways to manage stress that work for you is so important. This may look like less screen time, seeing a therapist, journaling, breathwork and so
    Scarlet Period Blog | Hormone Health with Nutritionist, Sarah Cooper

What are some easy ways to support hormones?

  • Foods that are high in magnesium can assist with period pain. These include dark leafy greens, dark choc, almonds.
  • Try iron-rich foods to prevent anemia related to menstrual blood loss. These include red meat, lentils, beans, dark leafy greens, tempeh. Consume with vitamin C-rich foods (such as orange juice or tomatoes) for best absorption.
  • Incorporate brassicas - think brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower and cabbage - in your diet during the ovulation phase of your cycle (if you have no thyroid issues).
  • Cook with anti-inflammatory spices such as ginger, turmeric, chili.
  • Drink herbal teas containing peppermint, ginger, chamomile to help alleviate period pain.
  • Make sure to get enough healthy fats – they are essential for hormones. These are things like salmon, olive oil, walnuts, macadamias, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds.


Can a green juice or supplement ‘fix’ a bad diet? 

Absolutely not. Health is holistic - you can't have a super healthy diet without addressing your mental health, exercise or sleep. Supplements are designed to be used in addition to a healthy diet. Using juices or tablets instead of eating whole food, healthy diet is like using a band-aid to cover up a deeper problem! Going back to basics is best - think Mediterranean diet. Lots of anti-inflammatory foods, lean protein, healthy fats, lots of veggies and complex carbohydrates with some treats now and then for balance.


How important is menstrual tracking?

It is a life changer. We can alter our diet, sleep, and exercise in accordance with our fluctuation in hormones. I use the flo app to track my symptoms. It is great to reflect on any changes in your cycle over certain months or changes in your life. It also is so beneficial to know how and why we feel a certain way … it is a physiological and hormone change. It is all about working with the body rather than against it.


My period, summarised:

  • My period in 3 words: Connected, slow, grounded.
  • Best period hacks: Listening to your body. slow down when you need and eat the chocolate if you want it
  • Contraceptive of choice: Condoms
  • Period tracker: Flo
  • Self-care toolkit: Dark chocolate, ocean swims, my dog, Pilates, walks in the sunshine.
  • On day 1 you can find me: Walking in the sunshine by the beach.

Sarah Cooper is a clinical nutritionist & Pilates instructor. You can find her at www.scoopitupp.com or instagram.com/scoopitup_


*Please note that these answers are broad and general, and everyone is different. If you are having concerns or issues regarding PMS symptoms or your menstrual cycle, it's important to speak with your GP.