Along with cramps, light irritability and the other fun realities of getting our period, a lot of us experience an increased appetite while during our cycle, and often some pretty intense cravings, too. By now, you’ve probably learned to deal with your menstrual cycle with a combination of treatments, from deep breaths, to light exercise to the occasional anti-inflammatory pill. But did you know changing your diet can actually alleviate some of your period symptoms?
Try these nourishing foods before and during your next cycle and see if it helps to ease your menstrual discomfort.
When it comes down to it, the best way to prepare your body for its monthly visitor is to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet. Easier said than done, right?! Try integrating some of these period-friendly foods into your nutrition plan for a less painful time of the month.
Leafy green vegetables
According to Dr. Christine O’Connor of The Gynecology Center, leafy greens (think kale or Swiss chard) can benefit your body several ways during that time of the month. Not only are they rich in iron and B vitamins; their high fiber count also can help with digestive issues often associated with your menstrual cycle.
A version of this article was originally published in March 2012.
Next Up: Why you should eat nuts
Instead of reaching for that bag of licorice come snack time, reach for a bag of nuts. “Foods that are rich in good fats or omega-3s (such as nuts) can be helpful and much more filling than the calories in junk foods,” Dr. O’Connor said.
Another food to aid your period-related digestive problems is fruit. Stock up on your favorite fresh fruit before your flow begins to ensure a healthy digestive system.
Just like fruit, the fiber in whole grains can help you stay regular, especially during your period. Whole grains also include complex carbohydrates, which provide important vitamins and minerals.
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It’s important to increase your iron intake during your period to make up for what’s lost each month. “A diet high in iron helps avoid anemia and symptoms that can go along with it,” said Dr. Sharon R. Thompson of Central Phoenix Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Women who eat red meat will be able to get sufficient iron from food.” However, if you’re not a meat-eater, Dr. Thompson recommends taking a supplement to maintain adequate iron stores.
Quick tip: In addition to a healthy diet, Alyssa Dweck, MD, recommends regular aerobic exercise, yoga, meditation and breathing exercises to help alleviate period symptoms.
Next Up: Foods to avoid
Foods to avoid
As tempting as those freshly baked cookies are, it’s best to resist your period-induced urges.
“Many women have the urge to snack on junk food and empty calories,” Dr. O’Connor explained. “This ends up not being nutritionally filling, and can lead to an uncomfortable, bloated feeling.”
In addition, Dr. O’Connor recommends steering clear of foods and beverages with high sodium content, which can also contribute to bloating.
Every woman is different
Dr. Thompson points out that it’s important to keep in mind that every woman is different. “There can be a lot of variation among women in terms of how foods affect their symptoms,” she said. “For example, some women may notice that decreased salt intake reduces bloating with menses, while for other women, this makes no significant difference. The same is true for mood symptoms, pain with menses, amount of menstrual flow, etc.”