Fatigue, instability, mood swings and awful cramps are a given during your period but you’ll be surprised to know that what you eat can actually affect how you feel during your period. Turns out, getting the right nutrition especially in these 5 days can counter muscle pain, uncomfortable bloating, headaches and inconsistent digestion. Even though it might seem totally legit to binge eat, you’ve got to take the hard road and make wiser choices. To help guide you along the way, here is a list of what to eat during periods and foods to avoid during period.
- Avoid: Alcohol
- Avoid: Caffeinated drinks
- Avoid: Processed foods
- Avoid: Foods high in fats
- Avoid: Dairy products
- Avoid: Fried foods
- Avoid: Refined grains
- Avoid: Foods with a high salt content
- Eat: Chocolate
- Eat: Bananas
- Eat: Salmon
- Eat: Yoghurt
- Eat: Whole grains
- Eat: Watermelon
Please go virgin when it comes to alcoholic drinks while on your period (yes, even if you had a really difficult day). While alcohol may reduce cramps temporarily, there are too many negative effects for you to ignore—despite the temporary relief it may give you. It can cause your period to become irregular and also increase oestrogen levels in the body, worsening period symptoms. Just one more consequence if you’re not convinced: its diuretic nature increases your water retention levels, making you appear more bloated. Why not try a watered down lassi or some coconut water. All of these alternatives will keep you hydrated and are recommended period foods.
Avoid: Caffeinated drinks
Turn down the volume of coffee—one of the main drinks you need to avoid during your period. It increases blood pressure and heart rate leading to tension and anxiety attacks and in turn, worsening the PMS symptoms.
Instead, have green tea, tomato and carrot juice or any type of soup.
Avoid: Processed foods
Frozen foods, fast foods, bacon, pickles, canned soups, papad etc. come with unknown ingredients and preservatives that aren’t the best foods during your period. They can interfere with hormones and amplify PMS discomfort.
Instead, have homemade meals, lots of salads and veggies, and heart and tummy warming foods like khichadi and porridge.
Avoid: Foods high in fats
Fatty foods influence hormones, lead to cramps and can make you feel gassy. Given the fact that your skin is already sensitive during these days, incorrect food choices during your period can make this issue worse and cause it to become even more dry and dehydrated. Ideally, you should try and avoid fatty meats, burgers and cream based desserts.
Instead, choose whole wheat bread, dal chawal, porridge, salmon and lean meats etc.
Avoid: Dairy products
This might come as a surprise to you but dairy products like milk, cream and cheese aren’t recommended. They are high in arachidonic acid which can act as a trigger for menstrual cramps.
Instead, choose buttermilk and toned milk—both of which are recommended period food.
Avoid: Fried foods
This goes without saying—most fried foods like chips, snacks, biscuits etc contain trans-fats or hydrogenated vegetable oil. All of these can increase oestrogen levels and can worsen your mood swings.
Instead, choose roasted snacks, crunchy veggies such as carrot or cucumber sticks.
Avoid: Refined grains
Bread, pizza, cereals, and tortillas should be avoided as they lead to bloating and constipation.
Instead choose, whole grains which have a low GI index and will not only keep your digestive system on track but will also keep hunger pangs at bay. Homemade chapattis and brown rice are best.
Avoid: Foods with a high salt content
Canned soups, bacon, chips etc should be avoided because they are high in salt. The hormone responsible for menstruation already causes water retention and a high salt diet will cause a gassy, bloating feeling.
Instead, opt for simple dal-chawal with yoghurt or toss up a salad.
Be mindful about what you’re eating and eat in moderation—especially when you’re on your period.Eat: Leafy greens
This may be the last thing that you feel like stuffing your face with to distract yourself from those god-awful cramps, but greens likes spinach and kale are extremely important when you’re on your period because they contain heap loads of iron which is something that you’re in desperate need of while menstruating. So, toss a quick salad or make yourself some veggie lasagna to get those greens into your diet.
Raise your hands if you did a double take when you saw this. Does this not make the struggle of having your periods worth it? You can eat (dark) chocolate completely guilt-free! Dark chocolate is great because it contains lower levels of sugar, and is also full of magnesium, a mineral that regulates your serotonin levels and will prevent you from terrorising your family and friends with your mood swings.
If you’re looking for a healthy pick me up, you can stop once you see the bananas on your kitchen table as they contain high levels of potassium and B6 vitamins. They’re great if you just need a little push to get out of bed and start the day. These components not only benefit your mental health, but also regulate bowel movements and decrease the amount of water you retain, making you feel less bloated. Pick up a banana and get munching. If you don’t care for its taste, blend it in as part of a smoothie.
If you’re someone who is accustomed to the feeling of tiny little knives piercing your stomach, otherwise effectively synthesized in the word “cramps”, try having a salmon breakfast bagel to alleviate the monthly pains. Salmon contains copious amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids, a substance that contributes to relaxing the muscles in the body—it’s practically a godsend for reducing cramps. If you’re a vegetarian or just not a fish person, other foods that contain a lot of Omega 3 are flaxseeds and soybeans.
We know we said no dairy, but this is the one exception, so why not have a partay with some parfait? Yoghurt is full of calcium, so it can help fix the mess that is your calcium levels when you’re on your period. It has been said that maintaining a good calcium balance can significantly reduce PMS symptoms like bloating and moodiness. If you’re set on the no dairy rule, a good alternative to yoghurt is almonds or lentils.
Eat: Whole grains
Whole grains are a safety net to make you sure you don’t fall into the deep dark hole of binge-eating. If you’re guilty of stuffing yourself with huge amounts of food during your period, any form of whole grains are a great snack—they leave you feeling full and satisfied for a long time, making it less likely that you’ll find yourself three quarters of the way through a bucket of chocolate ice cream at 2am. They also contain B and E vitamins, which combat the fatigue and depression that you often face on your period. Grab a bowl of oatmeal or some pasta if you’re looking for some long-term sustenance.
As soon as you feel the temptation to combine the brownies, ice cream, and anything else even remotely sweet you can find in the fridge into a massive sugar mountain, stop, and instead reach for some watermelon. We get this seems like an almost impossible task, but just start with trying. Watermelon is filled with nutrients and vitamins that help reduce feelings of tiredness and weakness, and also contribute to lessen any bloating of the stomach.
Eat: Nuts and seeds
Go ahead and substitute that candy mix on your coffee table with some trail mix! Similar to salmon, nuts have a lot of Omega 3 fatty acids that act as a savior when it comes to dealing with the monstrosity of cramps. Why not bring some walnuts to the office and munch on them throughout the day, or sprinkle some chia seeds on your morning smoothie?