Nutrition For Different Phases Of The Menstrual Cycle

Written by Reshma Pathare on Tue, 01 August 2023

Key Highlights

  • Periods present various challenges for a woman's body and nutrition is one of them
  • Every phase of the menstrual cycle has different nutritional needs
  • Here are foods you can have during different phases of your menstrual cycle

Your menstrual cycle makes you crave desserts one day but causes loss of appetite the next? Is this normal? The answer is yes!

The menstrual cycle is much more intricate than it seems and there is a definite correlation between nutrition and menstrual cycle. After extensively studying the menstrual cycle, researchers were able to identify and categorize the changes going on inside the body.

A concoction of hormones surges through your body and influences your menstrual cycle. Like well-oiled cogs and springs are required to keep a machine running smoothly, harmony among the hormones involved is necessary for healthy periods.

Depending on the hormonal fluctuations and changes occurring in the body, scientists divided the menstrual cycle into four phases. Each phase is different and has separate nutritional needs.

Here is a list of the best foods for hormone balance to suit the different female menstrual cycle phases:

Foods for each phase of menstrual cycle

Cramps, bleeding, and pain are characteristics of this phase. The menstrual phase involves shedding of the uterine wall which leads to the said conditions.

Here are some foods foods to eat at different stages of menstrual cycle.

1. Let's go green!

While menstruating, you tend to lose a substantial amount of blood, and iron, along with it. Greens that are rich in iron can help you solve this problem. Green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli are good options to include in your diet during your periods.

2. Stock up on healthy fats!

During the menstrual phase, the innermost lining of the uterus i.e. the endometrial layer is shed. This shedding causes the release of chemicals called prostaglandins which are responsible for inflammation. Studies have shown that prostaglandins are one of the reasons dysmenorrhea occurs in women.

Keep levels in check by consuming healthy fats like Omega-3 fatty acids. Include avocados, walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds for smooth and pain-free periods!

Read more: Nutrition for Breastfeeding Moms: Basics & Beyond

Follicular phase

This is the phase where women feel highly energetic and optimistic. With hormones on the rise during these days, you'll feel highly motivated and be ready to take on any challenge that comes your way.

Here are some foods you can try to maintain your energy levels and keep a watch out for menstrual cycle nutrition.

1. Your period companions - complex carbohydrates

Sweet potatoes, lentils, pumpkins, and unprocessed oats are great sources of complex carbohydrates. Such foods contain three or more naturally occurring sugars.

Having such foods will give your body the required fuel to maintain those energy levels. In addition, these foods moderately affect insulin levels keeping your mood and cravings under control.

Read more: Breakfast Recipes For Good Menstrual health

2. Befriend Vitamin B

With high energy levels during this phase, your body needs to recover from the blood loss during the menstrual phase. The body requires vitamin B for the efficient production of red blood cells.
Try including milk, yogurt, and other dairy products in your diet. Also, fortified breakfast cereals are available for improving vitamin B intake and are good menstrual phase foods.

Ovulatory phase

Ovulation usually occurs on the 14th day of your cycle and estrogen levels peak during this time. At sufficiently high levels there is a sudden surge of the luteinizing hormone (LH) which causes ovulation.

You might want to avoid some foods that can disrupt this process. Here's an example:

1. Fiber, friend or foe?

Having lots of fibrous foods such as fruits, vegetables, and sprouts might be good for your health but can hinder ovulation. Fibrous foods are known to lower estrogen concentrations in the body.

It has been observed that a 5 gm/day increase in daily fiber intake nearly doubles the risk of anovulation in women. This may be due to hormonal imbalance caused due to estrogen absorbing properties of the fiber.

We are not asking you to completely avoid fiber; however, do consult your doctor about the recommended fiber intake.

Luteal phase

The Luteal phase is the second part of your menstrual cycle. It is during this phase that you start PMS-ing. Bloating, water retention, mood swings, disturbed sleep cycles become the norm during this period. You are more prone to cravings.

Here are some foods you can include in your diet for a happy period:

1. Bring the happiness hormone on your side

Did you know that serotonin is also called the happiness hormone? Serotonin is a hormone that helps balance your mood. Having serotonin-boosting foods can help you thwart severe mood swings and bring balance to your sleep cycle.

The happiness hormone does not occur naturally in food. It is synthesized from tryptophan, an amino acid, which is widely available in proteinaceous foods like eggs, fish, and cheese. If you are someone who follows a plant-based diet, try leafy greens like spinach or seeds like quinoa.

2. Dark chocolate for the win!

Are cravings hitting you hard? We get it, most women think that a good ice cream sundae will hit the spot, but will it? Sugary foods will do you more harm than good.

Try swapping donuts and ice creams with a bar of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium, potassium and is packed with antioxidants. Having dark chocolate for dessert will not only ease your cramps but will also help satiate those cravings.


There are various hormonal fluctuations and changes occurring in the body during the menstrual cycle over four phases. It is important to monitor your eating habits to include nutrient rich foods during each phase, given that the nutritional needs of the body varies. If you are on a fad diet, what you need to understand is Is That Fad Diet Robbing You Of Precious Nutrients , and then act accordingly to sail through your periods healthy and happy.

We hope this article has helped you understand the importance of nutrition in health, period health in particular.


Reshma Pathare

Reshma Kulkarni-Pathare has been a self-employed media professional since 1999. Starting off as a Freelance Journalist for Times of India Thane Plus, Reshma went onto write for more than 45 national and international publications including Times of India, New Woman, Femina, Indian Express, The Hindu, BBC Good Homes and many more. While her forte has been lifestyle writing, she is equally proficient in writing health articles. Her health articles have been published in Health International (Dubai), New Woman, Femina, and Mother & Baby.

Apart from being a journalist, Reshma also works as a copy-editor for self-publishing houses and academic journals.

She is an award-winning bi-lingual translator with more than 12 books published in her name.

She has been a Visiting Faculty Member for post-graduate department of mass media at MET College (Mumbai) and Welingkar WeSchool (Mumbai).

She has worked as a Consumer Marketing Insights Researcher for global organizations like CEB Iconoculture (USA) and Gartner (USA).

Consolidating her multifarious skills in the media, in 2021, Reshma launched her own boutique media agency called Talking Turkey Communications, which specializes in content writing, editing, and translation.

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  1. Cleveland Clinic: What Should You Eat During Your Period?
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  3. 11 Diet changes that help you fight PMS. Available from: Cleveland Clinic
  4. Vitamin B 12 deficiency anemia. Available from: Medlineplus 
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  6. BioCycle Study Group Gaskins Audrey J Mumford Sunni L Zhang Cuilin Wactawski-Wende Jean Hovey Kathleen M Whitcomb Brian W Howards Penelope P Perkins Neil J Yeung Edwina Schisterman Enrique F schistee@ mail. nih. gov. Effect of daily fiber intake on reproductive function: the BioCycle Study. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2009 Oct 1;90(4):1061-9.
  7. Good mood foods. Available from: UCSF  

Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Aug, 01 2023

Written By

Reshma Pathare