Period days: What To Eat And What Not To!

Written by Deborah Onoja on Tue, 01 August 2023


Menstruation can put a lot of strain on women physically, mentally, and emotionally. During such important times, diet and healthy food plays a crucial role in women's health and wellbeing. Women often tend to ignore their nutritional requirements and their special diet-related needs.

This can have an adverse effect on their period and result in conditions like premenstrual syndrome. It is therefore extremely important to keep a watch on what should we eat during periods.

Addressing deficiencies, starting the necessary supplements, taking the right amount of protein, including healthy fats, etc. are some genuine concerns that often go unnoticed. Addressing these factors is important for a happy period and healthy life.

Here are some ways to achieve the same with food items that are high in nutrients and can help during menstruation.

Best foods to eat on your period

1. Leafy vegetable

During period days, the body deals with the loss of blood and electrolytes. This causes the iron levels in the body to go down. Most females are anyways anemic, meaning they have low levels of hemoglobin and iron in their blood. To make up for this it is necessary to have iron-rich foods.
Green leafy vegetables like Spinach, kale, swiss chard, and collard are iron and fiber-rich foods. Including these fresh dark green leafy vegetables in your diet can help maintain your iron levels during periods.

2. Fatty fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and trout are rich in iron, proteins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and other vitamins and minerals that are great for menstrual health.
The iron in these fish helps with restoring iron levels in the blood. The Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help with period pain, menstrual cramps, mood swings, and negative emotions during periods. Healthily cooking these fish and consuming the fresh nutrients will be beneficial during period days.

3. Nuts and seeds

Oil-rich nuts like peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc contain vitamin E and trace elements like iron, calcium, zinc, and manganese which can help with having a healthy period cycle. Dry fruits like dates are rich in iron and can be included in your diet.
Seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium which can help reduce uterine cramps during periods. They also contain Omega-3 fatty acids which can help with PMS symptoms and reduce emotional and physical problems during periods.

4. Soy

Protein plays a vital role in menstrual health. Proteins can help in regulating the constant fluctuating levels of hormones and sugar in our blood during periods. Soy and its products are a great source of vegetarian protein. Soy products like edamame beans, Tofu, soy milk, soy chunks, soy oil, etc are all protein-rich foods. It's a great way for vegans or in general to get your daily protein intake fulfilled.

5. Beans and lentils

Beans are a great source of proteins, fiber, iron, folate, vitamin B12, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc. These beans are whole foods and are full of nutrients. Consuming these beans is a great way to get vegetarian protein and healthy carbohydrates.
Lentils are also rich in vitamin B1, iron, and folate which can provide energy during periods. Lentils are fiber-rich and high in complex carbohydrates which can help you stay satiated for longer hours during periods.

6. Herbs and roots

Herbs have played a sincere role in calming menstrual problems in women since ancient times. Fresh herbs like peppermint, dill, rosemary, chamomile, motherwort, etc are often taken as teas or in the form of supplements as they reduce the levels of prostaglandins and inflammation in the body. This can ease painful menstrual cramps and abdominal pain.
Roots like ginger, turmeric, ginseng, etc are roots with anti-inflammatory properties that are used for reducing menstrual pain and cramps.

7. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is preferred by many for its low levels of sugar and rich flavor. It is not only tasty but it is also considered an ally by many during their periods. The health benefits of dark chocolate are due to the high levels of magnesium in 70-80% dark chocolate. The magnesium can help in reducing the frantic uterine cramps caused during periods. The minerals in dark chocolate also help in reducing prostaglandin levels during periods. This can help in reducing period pain. Dark chocolate is also considered to have inflammatory properties.

8. Probiotics

The fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone can have adverse effects on the gut. Many times it happens that females experience diarrhea or constipation during periods irrespective of their diet. This is the result of the period hormones.
Including probiotic foods like yogurt, curd, miso, kombucha, oats, etc in your diet can help in combating these bowel-related problems during periods. By maintaining good gut health, you can bid adieu to these additional health problems during periods.

9. Chicken

Chicken is a nutritious component of a balanced diet. It is rich in proteins, iron, and vitamin B12. These elements are essential for a healthy body and hormonal balance. Chicken can help you to stay satiated for longer hours and can help in curbing intense food cravings that arise during periods.

Eating a high protein diet during periods can help with reducing menstrual pain and bloating. Healthily cooking chicken by avoiding excessive use of spices and oils will be the best option during periods.

10. Fruits and berries

Fruits like bananas, lemons, oranges, and avocados are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids. Bananas are rich in potassium and can prevent uterine cramps. Avocadoes are rich in anti-inflammatory fats, magnesium, and potassium which also help in dealing with uterine cramps and abdominal pain.
Berries like blueberries and blackberries can work wonders for periods of pain. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help in soothing period cramps. However, eating lots of fruits and berries is not recommended as they can load you up with fruit sugar.

Read more: 7 Meals You Can Prepare For A Healthy Menstrual Cycle

Foods to avoid during period cramps

We are all caught up on the dos of period food. Eating fresh and clean food during this time of the month can work wonders for your menstrual health. Now let's take a look at the don'ts.

Here are some foods that you should avoid while on your period.

1. Junk food

Junk food is greasy, salty, spicy, and full of processed ingredients. These foods can take a long for digestion because of their calorie-dense nature. This can not only upset the digestive system but the lack of nutrition in junk food can bother various aspects of your health like the hormones, replenishment of lost nutrients, and growth. Junk food is a no-no during periods.

2. Alcohol

Alcohol is a dehydrating agent. During period days it is always advised to stay hydrated as it can flush out toxins. Drinking alcohol is the exact opposite of this and it can increase the inflammation in our bodies. Drinking during periods is also known to worsen period cramps and pain. It is best to avoid alcohol during periods to evade increased pain and cramps.

3. Caffeine

Like alcohol, caffeine is also dehydrating in nature. However, one cup of coffee won't be harmful. The adverse effects of caffeine will arise only if one recklessly consumes multiple cups of coffee. This will worsen period cramps and might even increase anxiety.

4. High-sodium foods

We all love salty snacks; however, binge eating these salty snacks can be detrimental to our health. Excessive salt can lead to constipation, dehydration, and even worsen headaches and period brain fog. It is best to stay off the extra salt to avoid water retention and bloating problems.

5. Sugar-loaded foods

Sugary treats are the most craved foods during periods. However, they are not the best for your health. Excessive sugar can induce jitters and worsen period cramps. Sugar cravings can lead to overeating and weight gain. Sugar is a habit-forming substance and acting on your cravings can lead to a habit of binge eating. Eating too much sugar can increase body heat and cause acne problems. It is okay to eat in moderation but sugar loading must be avoided at all times.

6. Red Meat

Red meat is high in prostaglandins. During periods the levels of prostaglandins are already high in a woman's body. These prostaglandins are responsible for shedding the inner uterine lining during periods and cause the blood to flow. This is also the reason for menstrual cramps. Thus avoiding red meat during periods is advised to prevent severe cramps.

7. Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can lead to digestive problems like diarrhea, heartburn, stomach pain, and even nausea. It is not well tolerated by many people. Eating spicy foods during periods can ruin the gastric health of many thus leading to increased agony during periods. It is advised to eat healthy, nutritious, and light food during periods.

By avoiding these foods one can ensure that they do not put any pressure on their bodies during this sensitive time of the month.

Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is an important point that shouldn't be missed. Water helps in flushing out toxins, hydration of the body organs, and calming the mind. Stay hydrated as it helps both physical and mental wellbeing.
Follow these steps for a happy period cycle, watch out for the no-nos and try to live a balanced life. Eat fresh, nutritious, and tasty food and open your body to a healthy life! Eat mindfully and have a happy period.


Deborah Onoja

Deborah Onoja is a passionate Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian with a Bachelors of Science degree in Nutrition & Dietetics obtained from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. She qualified as a Registered Dietitian after completing her Dietetic Internship training at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu where she was exposed to clinical dietetics. She also holds a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition and Diet Therapy from the University of Ibadan.

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  1. Onieva-Zafra, et al. "Relationship between Diet, Menstrual Pain and other Menstrual Characteristics among Spanish Students." Nutrients vol. 12,6 1759. 12 Jun. 2020.
  2. Souza L, et al. Do Food Intake and Food Cravings Change during the Menstrual Cycle of Young Women? Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet. 2018 Nov;40(11):686-692. English.