how does nutrition affect your period?

Do you want to know about what to eat for healthy periods? 

Well you’ve come to the right place!

The food you eat has a significant impact on your overall health and well-being. Your body is an interconnected system that needs a balance of nutrients to feel your best.

This is especially true during periods, when your body is not only losing essential nutrients but also experiencing hormonal imbalances, often leading to painful and uncomfortable side effects. 

However, research has shown that many – if not all – period symptoms can be better managed by practising good nutrition. 

Whether it's finding relief from cramps, maintaining stable energy levels, or supporting emotional balance, understanding the connection between nutrition and periods is an essential aspect of menstrual health. 

In this blog, we will explore how different nutrients affect your overall menstrual health, the best nutrient-rich foods for periods, and other period-related nutrition tips. 

how does nutrition impact your period? 

The best way to manage your food intake to ensure overall menstrual health is by understanding how different foods affect your body during the various phases of the menstrual cycle. 

The menstrual cycle can be broken down into four different phases — the menstruation phase, follicular phase, ovulation phase, and the luteal phase. A balanced diet during periods can play a big role in optimising these phases and improving your overall quality of life. 

Read this blog to learn about the different menstrual cycle phases. 

Let's learn about the best foods and nutrients that your body needs during the different menstrual cycle phases. 

what should you eat during the menstruation phase? 

During this phase, your body experiences blood loss, exhaustion, cramping, moodiness, and more. The essential nutrients to look out for during this time are iron, vitamin C, and magnesium. 

When we bleed, we lose somewhere between 40-60 ml of blood, and along with that, we lose iron. 

Iron plays a key role in energy production, oxygen transport, and immunity building. To replenish your supply, you need to eat more iron-rich foods during your period, especially during the menstruation phase. 

This could include red meat, chickpeas, lentils, beans, and leafy green vegetables. 

If you prefer plant-based options, it’s better to pair them with foods rich in Vitamin C—berries, tomatoes, lemon, and other citrus fruits—to help with better absorption of the nutrient. 

Read this blog for more tips on which iron-rich foods are best for periods. 

Along with iron, another nutrient that helps regulate your body during this phase is magnesium. Known as nature’s relaxant, it plays a vital role in the synthesis of feel-good hormones like serotonin, and dopamine, which helps balance moodiness and reduce pain during your period. 

The best magnesium-rich foods for periods are leafy green vegetables like kale, rocket leaves, and spinach. 

Pumpkin seeds and almonds are also rich in magnesium, so if you’re a fan of almond butter, this might be the time to bring it out! 

what should you eat during the follicular phase? 

The follicular phase is right after the bleeding stops when oestrogen levels rise to support the re-growth of the uterus lining. The increase in oestrogen, along with the presence of the FSH hormone (follicle-stimulating hormone), makes you feel re-energized and more positive. 

The key nutrients to include in your diet during the follicular phase are omega-3 fatty acids and fibre. 

Omega-3 fatty acids during periods help support oestrogen production and maintain skin and hair health. Fibre helps avoid chronic constipation, which can be common during this time. 

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fish such as salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and soybeans. 

Pairing these foods with a good portion of vegetables and fruits rich in fibre will make sure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need. 

what should you eat during the ovulation phase?

During ovulation, oestrogen levels are at their peak, with the luteinising hormone (LH) triggering the release of an egg from your ovaries. During this phase, you may feel like you’re at your best, and have all the motivation in the world to get things done! 

Vitamin D and zinc are important nutrients to include in your diet during this phase. Foods like mushrooms, salmon, sardines, and eggs are great sources of Vitamin D.  Not only will they help boost your immune system, but also prepare your body for the next phase of the cycle. 

Not only will they help boost your immune system, but also prepare your body for the next phase of the cycle. 

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fish such as salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and soybeans. 

Pairing these foods with a good portion of vegetables and fruits rich in fibre will make sure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need. 

what should you eat during the luteal phase?

The luteal phase can be divided into two stages—the first few days when you’re still feeling good, and the second half, when the lack of fertilisation leads to a drop in hormonal levels and brings on the PMS symptoms. 

During this phase, healthy fats and Vitamin B6 are essential! 

Foods such as avocado, wild salmon, sesame, and sunflower seeds contain healthy fats that support skin health and prevent breakouts. 

Along with that, foods like carrots, sweet potato, lentils, oats, and walnuts that contain high levels of Vitamin B6 support healthy progesterone levels and help contain mood swings. 

frequently asked questions

How should you balance period cravings and nutrition

Be mindful of what you eat! 

Try to include nutrient rich snacks like Greek yoghurt, whole grain crackers with hummus, nuts, and seeds which are both nutritious and satisfying. If you’re craving chocolate, pick dark chocolate because that’s both low in sugar and rich in antioxidants. 

Remember that period cravings are normal, indulge in your favourite treats but in a healthy way. 

What are the best foods for menstrual comfort

Some of the best comfort foods during your period are dark chocolate, herbal teas, oats, bananas, and berries. Not only do they provide all the right nutrients, they’re also delicious and easy to get! 

What foods should you avoid during your period?

Foods that are too salty, sweet, spicy or fried are the worst foods to eat during periods. 

Eating too much salt can cause bloating, while eating a lot of sugar can actually worsen your mood. 

The top 5 important things you should avoid during periods include coffee, candy, alcohol, processed foods, and dairy products. 

If you’re really craving any of these, you try eating them in small quantities – you may feel satisfied after a small shot of espresso or chocolate bar!

Can caffeine cause period cramps? 

Caffeine and menstrual symptoms can go hand-in-hand. Caffeine actually restricts blood vessels, slowing down the flow of blood which causes cramps to worsen. 

Additionally, caffeine causes sleep disturbances and energy level fluctuations, making you more irritable and prone to mood swings.

Caffeine is also dehydrating, and excessive coffee consumption may result in the loss of vital fluids in your body. 

How much water should I drink for a healthy menstrual cycle? 

There is a strong link between your menstrual cycle and hydration. 

During your period, your body is going through a number of changes and constantly requiring water to avoid dehydration. 

While you should drink at least 9 cups (2.7 litres) of water per day, it is recommended that during your period, you should add 2 additional cups. 

Should I take nutritional supplements for periods

While the best way of getting the nutrients you need is through a well balanced diet, nutritional supplements can be an alternative in case of deficiencies. 

Supplements that would be helpful on your period include Iron, Vitamin D, Magnesium, and B Vitamins. 

However, please consult with your doctor or nutritionist before making these adjustments. 

Can your diet affect your period flow? 

Yes, your diet can potentially affect your menstrual flow. 

Several factors impact the regularity, duration, and intensity of your period and some of them include nutrient deficiencies, dietary fibre, salt intake and body weight. 

Hence, it is important to pay attention to your eating habits and ensure good nutrition for overall menstrual wellness.