Feel Good

The best foods to eat on your period – and beyond

What we eat can ease our period symptoms. WUKA founder Ruby Raut shows us how…

Written by High Life North
Published 25.08.2022

When it comes to nutrition and periods, it’s vital to adopt a holistic view.

You can’t just focus on when your period comes along; the entire menstrual cycle should be taken into consideration to feel at your best not only when those cramps hit but throughout the month.

For many of us, what happens to our minds and bodies throughout the menstrual cycle remains somewhat of an enigma – despite 15 million of us experiencing it every month in the UK. But we can take steps to reap physical, mental and emotional health benefits just by understanding our cycles and eating foods in sync with them.

To help the menstruating population better understand how nutrition and the menstrual cycle work together, we’ve asked Ruby Raut – founder and Menstrual Lifestyle Expert at sustainable period product brand WUKA – to share her insights.

‘From mood swings, cravings and cramps, to tiredness, headaches and bloating, the menstrual cycle causes all sorts of symptoms,’ says Ruby. ‘Food choices can really complement your cycle to manage, reduce or even eliminate these symptoms.

‘Understanding the impact of your diet and knowing what nutrients you need to prioritise at each stage of your cycle is important to feel more in control of period symptoms. Energy levels are also hugely dependent on where you are in your cycle, as hormone levels vary dramatically throughout.

‘Food is the body’s external energy source; it’s crucial in determining how we feel throughout any given month and has the power to counterbalance the impact of fluctuating hormone levels.’

So, what are the best foods to eat on your period? Ruby shares her top tips to help us all eat in sync with our monthly cycles…

 

MENSTRUATION

Eat plenty of iron

Iron-rich foods are ideal to eat on your period, as the mineral plays a key role in the production of new blood cells.

During menstruation, you can lose up to 50-80ml of blood; so, iron is important in replenishing the blood lost.

Great sources of iron include:

  • Red meats, such as beef and lamb
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Quinoa
  • Green leafy veg, such as kale

 

Avoid salty, fatty foods

To minimise painful symptoms like headaches and cramps, reduce your intake of fatty and salty foods (like crisps or chips), as these increase water retention, which can cause bloating and dehydration.

Fatty foods can also increase your chances of experiencing cramps, as the lipids in fat trigger the production of extra prostaglandins – a hormone that causes pain as part of your body’s healing process – leading to discomfort from uterine contractions.

Watch your caffeine

Caffeine intake should be monitored too, as it can cause vasoconstriction – the narrowing of blood vessels – which can worsen period cramps. Caffeine is also a leading factor in disrupting sleep cycles, which isn’t ideal when experiencing hormonal fatigue.

 

Load up on magnesium

If you require a hot drink to warm the start of your day, chamomile tea is a wonderful option full of anti-spasmodic properties and magnesium, both proven to help balance your mood.

Other ways to add magnesium into your diet in small, frequent doses is by including spinach, watercress, almonds and pumpkin seeds to smoothies, yoghurt bowls and salads eaten throughout the day as energy-boosting snacks.

Indulging your sweet tooth can also be period friendly – try dark chocolate for a great source of magnesium and iron!

FOLLICULAR PHASE

During the follicular phase – from the first day of menstruation for around two weeks up to ovulation – you are more likely to feel energised, positive and motivated. This is due to increased oestrogen levels as your body prepares eggs for ovulation.

Use this time to take full advantage of renewed energy levels and strength. Your body’s main source of energy are carbs, wholefoods, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fibre.

Fibre

If you’re hitting the gym, a breakfast of overnight oats or porridge is a great way to up your fibre intake and can be topped with further nutritious foods, such as flax seeds and açai berries.

 

Omega-3

Fish for lunch or dinner will help you get a good dose of omega-3 into the diet. Experiment with lemon-infused mackerel or dill crusted salmon for a nutritious and delicious meal.

 

Stay hydrated

Make sure to stay hydrated during the follicular phase. With higher energy levels, it’s likely you’ll be more active, which is great – so long as you drink plenty of water to avoid fatigue.

OVULATION PHASE

During ovulation, the ovaries release an egg and oestrogen levels are at their peak. This phase lasts between 12 and 48 hours.

Get plenty zinc

Zinc is important for supporting healthy ovulation, as it regulates hormone function and cell division.

Great sources of zinc include:

  • Red meat
  • Pumpkin
  • Ginger
  • Egg yolk
  • Seafood
  • Dairy

Again, think of creative ways to add this to your diet without having to change everything up too much for a more sustainable adoption of cycle-friendly eating habits. A stir fry with added ginger or tasty pumpkin muffins are small changes that you can make to your regular meal rota and voila – cycle-boosting properties included!

Support your immune system

Zinc also bolsters your immune system, which is vital at this stage as the immune system is suppressed to protect the egg.

To add immune system supporting super foods to your diet, nothing beats a smoothie: the ultimate easy, tasty snack that can be enjoyed at any time of day.

Try a green smoothie, which also makes a great pre-workout snack:

  • Spinach
  • Celery
  • Coconut
  • Banana
  • Milk of your choice
  • Spirulina

You could opt for a glass of red wine as your drink of choice with an evening meal. Red wine is rich in antioxidants, which are important in protecting cells from damage. Just be careful not to overindulge, as too much alcohol can be detrimental to both hormonal and overall health.

LUTEAL STAGE

Finally, the luteal phase of the cycle occurs after ovulation and lasts around 14 days, up until the first day of menstruation. It can be split into two parts.

In the first 7 days, progesterone levels are at their peak and oestrogen is still high. During the second half, however, these hormone levels drop dramatically, which can trigger PMS and generate symptoms such as acne, headaches, bloating and anxiety.

 

Indulge healthy fats

Try to enrich your diet with foods that will improve your mood and skin at this time. Healthy fats are key, as they’re the building blocks of your cell membranes and have also been proven to reduce symptoms of depression.

Foods like avocado, salmon, sesame and sunflower seeds will leave your skin feeling hydrated, soft and healthy.

 

The different stages of your cycle can feel like a turbulent journey of ups and downs physically, mentally and emotionally. But these simple, easy adjustments to your diet can help regulate the rollercoaster and, ultimately, maximise your hormonal power.

 

For more information about how your diet can impact your menstrual cycle, or to find out more about WUKA, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram

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