‘What should you eat during your period?’ – A big question you probably don’t know where to begin to answer.
Believe it or not, your diet actually does matter when it comes to your period, especially for PMS symptoms. There are foods out there that can make PMS worse, but there are also foods that help reduce bloating, pain, and period blues.
It all comes down to nutrients – minerals, vitamins, proteins, etc. – in the food you eat. The nutrients in your food is what keeps your body up-and-running on a daily basis. They can also help ease the more painful symptoms of menstruation.
Nutrients to Boost During Your Period
There are certain nutrients out there – vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats – that’ll help you combat some of the worst menstruation symptoms. These are nutrients we should try to get naturally through food on a daily or at least consistent basis.
The key nutrients to prioritize during your period are:
- Magnesium – Relaxes muscles in the uterine wall to relieve cramping, plus boosts mood.
- Zinc – Supports the immune system and reduces cramps and swelling. It absorbs into the body best when paired with vitamin B6.
- Iron (with vitamin C) –Iron and oxygen (carried throughout the body by iron) levels dip during menstruation due to blood loss. Vitamin C boosts iron’s absorption into the body.
- B-complex vitamins – Is a family of vitamins that ease painful symptoms of menstruation. B6 and B12 are the most helpful during periods.
- Omega-3s – An anti-inflammatory fatty acid that relieves cramping. It can also help stabilize hormones and regulate mood.
- Protein – A macronutrient that helps keep your body well-nourished and your periods regular.
But… where do you find these nutrients? There are so many foods out there, where would you even start? We’ll make it easy for you – check out these 8 delicious foods you’ll want to consider incorporating and enjoying during your next period.
8 Beneficial Foods to Add to Your Period Diet
Anti-Inflammatory herbs & spices
Anti-inflammatory foods are a great place to start when optimizing your period diet – especially if you suffer from serious cramping. Anti-inflammatory compounds reduce swelling and soreness in the body, soothing tensed muscles. Natural herbs and spices are an excellent option to reduce inflammation. They are easy to add into your daily routine and boost the flavor profile of your food. Try them in a steaming, hot cup of herbal tea 1-3 times a day!
Here’s a list of spices that could help you feel better during your period:
- Black pepper
This may be our favorite food on the list thanks to its taste and impact! Dark chocolate contains high amounts of magnesium and antioxidants to minimize your period blues. It boosts mood and energy by regulating serotonin and increasing brain power. It also reduces cramping and protects the body from stress-related damage. The higher the cocoa percentage the more effective it will be, BUT you may find it more difficult to swallow with less added sugar and fat. Not a dark chocolate fan? To make dark chocolate easier to eat, try adding it into a smoothie or making a delicious homemade avocado mousse sweetened with a natural sugar, like honey or maple syrup.
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, and pecans could be one of your new favorite period go-to’s. These nuts are filled with good fats like omega-3s and tons of protein, which is great for your body and your period symptoms. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, so they can help ease tense muscle and cramps. They can also improve your mood by regulating hormones to help stabilize mood swings and boost energy.
Citrus fruit & berries
Citrus and berries are among the best fruits to eat during your period. They are both full of vitamin C, and citrus fruits come with extra magnesium, calcium, and several B vitamins. These vitamins and minerals are all helpful when it comes to relieving period pain. Berries and citrus also contain beneficial phytochemicals that act as antioxidants, preventing stress-related damage to the body and reduce the likelihood of heavy periods.
Here are some interesting citrus fruits you may want to try during your next period:
And some berries! (Plus, some fruit you may not have realized were actually berries!):
- Star fruit
- Dragon fruit
Dark, leafy green veggies
Leafy green veggies are chock-full of vitamins and minerals, but also rich in iron. Because iron levels dip during your period (from blood loss), it’s important to restore that iron to avoid issues like anemia and poor oxygen circulation. When it comes to leafy greens, they also contain high levels of vitamin C (helping iron absorption), vitamins A and B, and magnesium. Always remember – the darker the better! Deeper and brighter colors mean higher nutrient content.
Try these amazing greens to make your next period nutrient-rich:
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
Plant-based proteins are great during your period. Obviously, they are rich in protein, but they are also full of iron. Plant-based protein options are great for any diet type and can improve your diet’s overall sustainability and environmental impact. Some options include legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds (like chia). But quinoa, spirulina, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, edamame) are some of the best plant-based protein options – boasting the most protein per serving and also containing additional B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium.
Another protein-rich food to add to the list – but not plant-based – is fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. These fish are full of our favorite good fat, omega-3s that can boost mood and reduce intense pain, making fish one of the best foods for period cramps and mood boosting. They also contain high levels of iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, and some B vitamins.
Probiotic foods are a bit unique on this list. They are some of the best foods for period bloating, but they are most beneficial when it comes to preventing bacteria-related infections during your period, like yeast infections. Probiotic-rich foods boost levels of essential good bacteria in the digestive tract and vagina to fight bad bacteria and prevent infections before and after your period. Remember – proceed with caution when it comes to probiotic and fermented foods. It’s common for them to be packed with extra sugar, sodium, and saturated fats, which you want to moderate during menstruation.
Here are some popular probiotic foods – and some non-dairy options – you may already eat on the daily:
Some Foods To Be Mindful Of During Your Period
There are also some foods you want to pay close attention to during your period. They can contribute to making some period symptoms worse. Including dehydration, bloating and swelling, digestive discomfort, nausea, low energy, and increased anxiety and depression. It can be worth your while to take note of the effects they may have on your symptoms.
Be on the lookout for the following on your period diet:
- Spicy foods
These are all foods that are especially important to regulate while menstruating to prevent a painful period. Also, avoid foods you are sensitive to or don’t tolerate well, to dodge more digestive complications while on your period.
What to Eat on Your Period: Foods to Help You Feel Better
We know, your period can be overwhelming. Between painful cramps, serious bloating, and low energy to do literally anything, thinking about eating ‘right’ for your period is definitely going to be pushed to the wayside. Especially if you don’t know where to start or what foods will even be helpful in the first place.
Consider these 8 foods a great place to start! They are all easy to find, simple to prepare, and rich with nutrients that’ll help you minimize the worst period symptoms. Plus – the foods you may consider avoiding to prevent making your crappiest period symptoms even worse.
Looking for more health tips for a feel-good period? You can also try light cardio exercise and yoga, a soothing message to the stomach or lower back, a calming meditation ritual, or leak-free menstrual products like nixit for a manageable, worry-free period.
Author: Allison Lansman, RDN, LD
Allison Lansman, RDN, LD is a freelance writer and owner of The Freelance RD Health and Nutrition Writing Services. She specializes in creating expert nutrition content for like-minded, modern wellness brands. Her main goal is using her RDN background to write engaging, research-based nutrition articles all readers can understand and incorporate into their daily lives.