Introducing food brands that prioritize reproductive health

I remember in middle school when I learned from a boy that girls crave chocolate on their period. It was a stereotype perpetuated by the media, and whether or not women took it to be true, it was one of the many ways periods became a cliché. In addition to feeling shame for menstruation, we also had to stifle this urge which, if left unchecked, would supposedly lead to an increase in size.

The reversal of Roe vs. Wade is proof that we have a long way to go to free the reproductive body. But there are a few innovators hoping to make things a little easier for women going through the different stages of their cycles. With a focus on healing through nutrition, companies like Phasey and Agni encourage menstruating women to get their cravings under control and fill in the gaps caused by hormonal imbalance.

“The narrative about menstrual cravings has always been about how powerless we are over them,” says Asha Carroll, founder of Phasey. “But it’s a whole different game when you choose to listen to your desires, sing and dance until you get ice cream or chocolate. It’s like those cool little signals that tell our body what it needs. Why should we feel bad about it? There is power in this relationship.

Phasey’s flagship product is Period Chocolate, a chocolate truffle blended with full-spectrum hemp extract to relieve period pain, cramps, anxiety, and headaches. Likewise, the brand’s Sex Chocolate, a truffle containing organic shatavari, an Ayurvedic herb that has a long history of supporting reproductive health, is used to support libido, energy and stress relief.

Carroll, who has a background in holistic nutrition, founded Phasey with the goal of destigmatizing periods and promoting reproductive education. She drives these conversations through loud and unapologetic packaging, proudly imprinting the word “period” on the packaging.

“I dove into a bunch of retro era ads when I started Phasey, and it amazed me that in 50, 60, 70 years we hadn’t gotten this far,” says Carroll. “The products of the period, even today, still favor the pretty, the feminine, the discreet. I was put off early on because Phasey put the word “rules” on a food product, and for a little while the mainstream grocery stores didn’t want us, until they did. It can take time to undo these layers of stigma.

Agni Double Chocolate Chip Cookie
Photo courtesy of Agni

The stigma of menstruation coincides with a lack of research on all kinds of reproductive processes. “Only 4% of research dollars went to women’s health,” says Astrid Schanz-Garbassi, CEO and co-founder of Agni. “Ovulating regularly, growing and sustaining life is one of the most incredible and exhausting feats of the human body and it’s an area we’ve spent far too little time supporting as a culture.”

Agni specializes in cookies, teas and seasonings that support women through all stages of the reproductive health continuum, i.e. replenishing the nutrients that women are most often depleted of during menstruation, fertility, pregnancy, the postpartum period and menopause.

The top-selling double chocolate chip cookie mix, for example, contains ashwagandha, shatavari powder and psyllium husk, all of which target irregular cycles and bloating, while ginger tea and cardamom, with gokshur and oat straw, helps relieve nausea and indigestion.

Agni hopes to dispel the “less is more” talk that is often associated with nutrition – the idea that the best way to improve health is to eliminate foods, such as reducing calories or food groups. whole. Schanz-Garbassi compares the body to a factory. If we only had half the raw materials or half the labor, we would end up with a mediocre product.

“We start to experience symptoms — and even gain weight — when we don’t get the nutrients we need,” she says. “When we don’t get the proper building blocks our body has to ‘cut off’ functions – digestion doesn’t work as well, sleep suffers and periods become irregular and plagued with symptoms.” In this sense, more is more.

Schanz-Garbassi grew up in a home that welcomed traditional remedies, which included everything from inhaling essential oils to restoring nutrients through whole foods. “They felt empowering for me,” she says. “Something I could do at home between doctor visits.”

Prior to founding Agni, she worked in a clinic focused on holistic health, and it became clear that much work needed to be done to bring women’s health issues to the forefront. This is due to the historically male-dominated nature of the medical field and the fact that when women self-report symptoms, they are more likely to be fired.

“It takes, on average, 8 to 10 years longer for a woman to be diagnosed with a disease than for a man,” she explains. “Fortunately, I can also begin to describe this as ‘the old paradigm’. We are exploding into an era where women provide more care and receive better care.

Agni’s team consults with an advisory board of medical advisors drawn from Western, Integrative, Ayurvedic, and Traditional Medicine, as well as Herbalism and Nutrition. Schanz-Garbassi was delighted to find that there were often more similarities than differences between the different disciplines.

Snack bar trend
Photo courtesy of Tend Prenatal

Take for example the idea that Western medicine and nutrition understands that the estrogen-rich first half of an ovulation cycle is supported by certain nutrients and compounds like phytoestrogens, omega 3s and zinc. They also understand that the second half of the cycle, dominated by progesterone, is supported by vitamin E, selenium and omega 6.

Traditional practices such as Chinese medicine and herbalism have associated this understanding with a practice called the seed cycle, during which a menstruating person takes a ground tablespoon of pumpkin and flax seeds for the first half of the cycle. and a ground tablespoon of sesame and sunflower seeds for the first half of the cycle. Second part.

Agni offers two seed cycle mixes that you can incorporate into smoothie bowls or salads: a cinnamon and maca seasoning for the first half of the cycle and a sesame and nori seasoning for the second. Phasey has its own seed cycle blend, as does Beeya Wellness, another brand that champions the idea that debilitating PMS is not normal, and solutions can be found through whole food ingredients.

In the prenatal space, there’s Tend, a company that hopes to replace artificial vitamins with the first true prenatal food – a bar made up of 25 vitamins from fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds to boost your body’s energy. the mother and support the development of the baby. .

Tend co-founder Behzad Varamini, who holds a doctorate in human nutrition, discovered that isolated nutrients, taken out of their natural context, fail to mimic the actions of food. Foods, on the other hand, contain unique nutrient forms alongside hundreds of synergistic co-factors and enzymes.

While many of these brands have yet to raise funds for clinical trials, Agni is on track to participate in one of the first clinical trials of nutritional interventions for women’s health.

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding the idea of ​​food as medicine, notes Schanz-Garbassi, is that it’s about prevention and is no longer relevant after a diagnosis. “Nutritional interventions are even becoming After important when symptoms arise and can go a long way in reversing the progression of the disease,” she says.

For women, the first step to healing through food is simple: rediscover each phase of your cycle – a facet of sex education that may not have been taught to begin with or may have gotten lost in class. of road.

“I can’t tell you how many times in my life I wondered what was going on with me and then my period came,” Carroll says. “Our cycles have been with us every day for decades and decades of our lives, and finally having context about what my hormones were doing helped me learn to work with my body rather than against it. It’s like a little hormone ride every month, and I like to know what’s on that route.

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Jessica Sulima is a writer on Thrillist’s Food & Drink team. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


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