What to eat on your period (and what to avoid)
When it comes to supporting your cycle, it’s crucial to tune in to your body and provide it with the right fuel to not just survive but thrive. What you eat can have a big impact on how you feel – especially during the menstruation phase of your cycle.
In this article, we’re bringing you all you need to know about what to eat on your period, what to avoid, what foods help period cramps and what to eat when you’re feeling weak on your period. After all, we’re all about helping you feel as good as you can at every stage of your cycle.
Before we dive into the food stuff, let’s quickly recap what’s actually happening in your body during your period.
An overview: what’s happening in your body during menstruation
As your period approaches, the lining of your uterus starts to break down, releasing prostaglandins that constrict the blood vessels in your uterus and make the muscle layer contract – say hello to period cramps. Prostaglandins may also lead to familiar unwelcome symptoms like headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
During your period, your hormone levels also fluctuate significantly, affecting neurotransmitters like serotonin, which influences your mood and appetite. These hormonal changes can trigger cravings for sweets, carbohydrates and high-fat foods. Being mindful of your food choices during this time can help alleviate symptoms and manage cravings. Let's check out the details.
Why nutrition is important during menstruation
Lora Attia, Nutritionist and Leading PCOS Dietitian at Nutrition Plus explains that, like all of your bodily functions, “your menstrual cycle requires energy to occur”.
“It requires enough body weight and body fat to function properly. For instance, if you're an athlete or someone who engages in a lot of physical activity, not getting enough fuel can affect your menstrual cycle. On the other hand, body fat can also impact the length and regularity of your cycle. So, it's important to ensure you have sufficient energy by matching your intake with your expenditure.”
Nutrition also plays an important role in managing the symptoms you might experience during your period, like cramps, inflammation, bloating and headaches.
Foods to eat on your period and why
If that’s left you wondering what to eat on your period, don’t stress because we’ve done the legwork for you. Below are some nutrient-rich foods that can have a positive impact on your period.
Top of the snack list for us, not only is dark chocolate delicious, but it's also rich in iron and magnesium. Both of these nutrients play a role in reducing the severity of PMS symptoms. Make sure to opt for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa for maximum benefits.
Iron levels can drop during your period, leaving you tired, achy and dizzy. Adding kale and spinach to your diet can boost your iron levels, and spinach contains magnesium, which helps relax muscles and reduce cramping.
Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, swiss chard and bok choy are not only good sources of fibre but are packed with antioxidants and can help reduce inflammation.
Take a break with a mug of warm ginger tea. Ginger has fantastic anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe those achy muscles. It may even help with nausea.
Packed with iron, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, fish is a menstruation must-have. Iron helps counteract any drop in iron levels during your period, and omega-3s have been shown to reduce period pain and even alleviate mood swings and depression.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, it’s a great addition to your diet, especially during your period.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and magnesium – it’s an added bonus that they make for such a convenient and nutritious snack. Flaxseeds, in particular, may help soothe constipation, a common symptom during menstruation.
For a plant-based protein option, turn to tofu. Made from soybeans, this versatile food is rich in protein and provides a good dose of iron, magnesium and calcium. It’s a fantastic addition to your period-friendly diet.
Soothe those pesky period symptoms with a cup of invigorating peppermint tea, which is great for relieving menstrual cramps, nausea and even diarrhoea.
What to avoid during your period and why
While certain foods can support your wellbeing, it's wise to steer clear of those that may intensify symptoms. Below are a few to keep in mind.
We hate to say it, but your morning coffee could be adding to your unwanted period symptoms. Coffee, tea and energy drinks containing caffeine can contribute to anxiety and breast tenderness and worsen cramps. Try to limit how much you consume during your period.
Too much salt can lead to water retention and bloating. Opt for low-sodium alternatives and avoid highly processed and salty foods.
High sugar intake can play havoc with your mood and energy levels. Choose natural sugars found in fruits and limit your intake of sugary snacks.
Alcohol can mess with your hormonal balance and exacerbate PMS symptoms like mood swings and inflammation. Staying away from the booze during your period can help things run smoother.
Tips for staying healthy during your period
A healthy, happy period isn’t just about what you eat. Consider these other practical tips to support your health during menstruation.
Keeping your water intake up is always a good idea, especially during your period. It helps prevent dehydration headaches, which can be a pesky side effect of menstruation. Plus, staying hydrated can reduce water retention and bloating.
Listen to your body
Each person's body is unique, so pay attention to how different foods make you feel. If something doesn't sit well with you during your period, trust your instincts and avoid it.
Be gentle with yourself
Self-care is essential during your period. Take time to relax, unwind, engage in activities that bring you joy and prioritise restful sleep to support your body's natural healing process.