What to Eat During Periods and What To Avoid– Foods that Reduce Cramps

Written by Jillian Lai Mei Siew on Fri, 13 October 2023

Key Highlights

  • Period cramps, or dysmenorrhea, are primarily caused by the uterine muscle contracting to help shed the uterine lining.
  • Eating certain foods can help alleviate period cramps by reducing inflammation and providing essential nutrients that support muscle relaxation and pain relief during menstruation.
  • During periods, it's beneficial to consume foods rich in magnesium, like leafy greens and nuts, as well as those containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flaxseeds, to help alleviate cramps and ease discomfort.
  • To minimize period discomfort, it's advisable to avoid excessive caffeine and salt intake, as well as sugary and processed foods, which can exacerbate bloating and inflammation during menstruation.
  • A balanced meal plan during periods may include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and sources of essential fatty acids like chia seeds to help manage symptoms and promote overall well-being.
  • During menstruation, it's essential to focus on nutrients like iron to address potential blood loss, magnesium for muscle relaxation, and omega-3 fatty acids for reducing inflammation, all of which can help alleviate period discomfort.

Every month, women around the world experience a natural physiological process known as menstruation. While the monthly cycle is important for female reproductive health, it can also come with various physical and emotional challenges. During this time, understanding what to eat during periods can significantly impact on how you feel, nourish your body, ease discomfort, and maintain overall well-being.

In this blog, we'll explain how your diet can impact your menstrual health by focusing on foods that can assist you during your menstrual cycle. Let's discuss what to eat during periods to promote comfort and vitality throughout your cycle.

What Causes Period Cramps?

Period cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea, occur due to the contraction of the uterine muscles during menstruation. The uterus contracts to shed its lining, allowing the menstrual blood to flow out.

Prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that play a role in inflammation and pain, trigger these contractions. Elevated levels of prostaglandins can cause stronger and more painful uterine contractions, leading to cramps.

The contractions can temporarily reduce blood flow to the uterus, which can result in oxygen deprivation and pain, affecting the comfort of menstrual flow. Additionally, prostaglandins can also affect other organs, leading to symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and headaches.

what causes period cramps

To reduce period cramps and discomfort, one way is to pay attention to what to eat during periods. This is crucial because your diet can significantly impact your body's response to menstruation, affecting the severity of cramps and overall comfort during this time. Not all women experience severe cramps, as individual hormone levels and sensitivities to prostaglandins vary. Managing period cramps can involve lifestyle changes, pain relievers, hormonal birth control, or other medical interventions to alleviate pain and discomfort.

What are the Nutrients to Focus on During Period?

During your period, it's crucial to know what to eat during periods to support your overall well-being. Understanding the right nutrients to prioritize can make a significant difference in how you feel during this time. Here are the essential nutrients to pay attention to:


Iron is important because menstrual bleeding can lead to iron loss. It's necessary for the production of red blood cells and to prevent iron-deficiency anemia, which can cause fatigue and weakness. Incorporating foods that are rich in iron is essential, especially foods that reduce cramp.


Some people may experience calcium loss during menstruation. Calcium is essential for maintaining strong muscles and bones. Including foods rich in calcium, like dairy products or fortified alternatives, can also contribute to reducing menstrual pain and promoting overall well-being.


Magnesium helps alleviate muscle cramps and tension that can occur during your menstrual cycle. It's one of the essential foods that reduce cramp.

Vitamin B6:

Vitamin B6 is essential for regulating mood and reducing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: 

Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and ease menstrual discomfort.


Fiber aids in digestive comfort and prevents constipation during menstruation.


Drinking plenty of water is essential to stay well-hydrated during your menstrual cycle, helping manage bloating and water retention.


Zinc supports the immune system and overall health. Including foods rich in zinc in your diet can help support your immune system and alleviate cramps, making them foods that reduce cramps.


Antioxidants reduce inflammation and support the immune system.


Protein plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and supporting the process of tissue repair.

What to Eat During Periods?

Eating the right foods during your menstrual cycle can help alleviate some of the discomfort and symptoms that many women experience. Now, let's dive into what to eat during periods to make this phase of your cycle more comfortable.

What to Eat During Periods

Top 20 Foods for Period Pain:

  1. Bananas: Bananas are a good source of potassium, which can help reduce water retention and bloating commonly experienced during menstruation. They also provide energy and contain vitamin B6, which may help with mood swings. Bananas are among the foods that reduce cramps.
  2. Avocado: Avocado is another excellent choice for your period. It's rich in healthy fats, particularly monounsaturated fats, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy. Avocado also contains fiber, vitamins (like vitamin K and folate), and minerals like potassium and magnesium. These nutrients can support overall well-being and help alleviate some of the discomforts associated with menstruation.
  3. Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a great source of potassium, which can help reduce water retention and bloating commonly experienced during menstruation. They also provide energy and contain vitamin B6, which may help with mood swings.
  4. Lemons:Lemons are high in vitamin C, which can boost your immune system and may help combat fatigue and mood swings. Adding lemon to water can also promote hydration.
  5. Oranges: Oranges, like lemons, are rich in vitamin C and can help boost your immune system. They're also a good source of natural sugars for quick energy.
  6. Berries: Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are rich in antioxidants, vitamins (like vitamin C), and fiber. Antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and alleviate period-related discomfort, while vitamin C supports the immune system. The fiber in berries aids in digestive health and can help prevent constipation, a common issue during menstruation. Berries are also the best comfort food for periods.
  7. Watermelon: Watermelon is hydrating and contains vitamins A and C, which can help reduce period-related bloating and discomfort. Watermelon is among the best period comfort food.
  8. Almonds: Almonds are a nutrient-rich option during your period. They provide healthy fats, protein, fiber, and essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and iron. These nutrients can help maintain stable energy levels, reduce cravings for unhealthy snacks, and combat fatigue during your period. The magnesium in almonds may also help alleviate muscle cramps and mood swings. Almonds are among the foods that reduce cramps.
  9. Broccoli: Broccoli is a source of iron, which is essential during menstruation to prevent anemia and fatigue, making it a valuable food for period pain relief. It also contains fiber and vitamins to support overall health.
  10. Kale: Kale is another iron-rich leafy green that can help combat fatigue and replenish iron stores lost during your period.
  11. Dark Chocolate:Dark chocolate in moderation can be a mood booster due to its serotonin-boosting properties. It also contains magnesium, which can help relieve cramps.
  12. Oats: Oats are rich in fiber and can help regulate blood sugar levels, reducing mood swings and cravings, making them a useful food for period pain relief. They also contain vitamin B.
  13. Pineapple: Pineapple contains bromelain, an enzyme with anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce bloating and ease digestive discomfort.
  14. Quinoa: Quinoa is a nutritious grain that is high in protein, fiber, and essential minerals such as iron and magnesium. It can help maintain stable blood sugar levels, reduce fatigue, and support overall well-being during your period. Quinoa's protein content is especially beneficial for people who follow vegans who may have increased iron needs.
  15. Turmeric: Turmeric contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. It may help alleviate menstrual pain and discomfort when consumed regularly. Turmeric is among the foods that reduce cramps.
  16. Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are a source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, making them a great choice among foods to balance hormones during periods. These nutrients can help reduce inflammation and improve digestive health, which may be especially beneficial during menstruation.
  17. Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are high in omega-3s, fiber, and protein. They can help regulate blood sugar levels, provide energy, and support overall health.
  18. Whole Wheat Bread: Whole wheat bread is a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and essential nutrients like B vitamins and iron. These nutrients can help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy throughout the day, which can be especially important during your period when energy levels may fluctuate. Additionally, the fiber in whole wheat bread can help maintain regular digestion.
  19. Nuts: Nuts, including almonds, walnuts, and cashews, are nutrient-dense and provide healthy fats, protein, fiber, and essential minerals like magnesium and iron. These nutrients can help maintain energy levels, reduce cravings for unhealthy snacks, and combat fatigue during your period. The magnesium in nuts may also help alleviate muscle cramps and mood swings.
  20. Brown Rice: Brown rice is a whole grain that is rich in dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates. It provides a steady release of energy and can help prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes, reducing mood swings and cravings. Brown rice also contains vitamins and minerals like magnesium and B vitamins, which can help alleviate menstrual symptoms.

What Foods to Avoid During Periods?

During periods, some foods and drinks may exacerbate menstrual symptoms, while others can help alleviate discomfort. Here are 5 foods to avoid during periods:

What Foods to Avoid During Periods

  1. Caffeine: Coffee, tea, and caffeinated sodas can increase anxiety, trigger irritations, and lead to breast tenderness. They can also worsen bloating and digestive issues. These are definite foods to avoid during your period as they can disrupt blood sugar levels and increase inflammation.
  2. Sugary Foods: High-sugar foods like candy, pastries, and sugary drinks can lead to energy crashes and worsen mood swings. These are definite foods to avoid during your period as they can disrupt blood sugar levels and increase inflammation.
  3. Fatty and Fried Foods: Foods high in saturated fats, such as fried items, can exacerbate inflammation and bloating. These are definite foods to avoid during your period as they can lead to discomfort and weight gain. Opt for healthier alternatives to minimize these effects.
  4. Salty Foods: Excessive salt intake can worsen water retention and bloating. Therefore, it's advisable to consume processed foods, canned soups, and salty snacks in moderation, as these are foods you should avoid during your period.
  5. Dairy Products: Some women may be sensitive to dairy during their periods, which can lead to increased abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Be mindful of foods to avoid during periods and consider alternatives like lactose-free or plant-based milk.

Remember that individual reactions to food during menstruation can vary. It's essential to listen to your body and adjust your diet based on your specific needs and comfort. Staying hydrated with water and consuming nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help alleviate menstrual discomfort.

What to eat during Periods – A Sample Meal Plan

Here's a sample meal plan that outlines what to eat during periods for a smoother experience:


  • A bowl of oatmeal topped with banana slices and a sprinkle of chia seeds  
  • A glass of fortified orange juice can be a nutritious addition to your breakfast during your periods.


  • Quinoa salad with chickpeas, cucumber, and avocado 
  • Red bean soup can be a part of your lunchtime meal
  • A side of almond yogurt


  • Mixed nuts and berries


  • Tofu baked with steamed broccoli on the side
  • Brown rice


In conclusion, understanding the relationship between your diet and menstrual health can empower you to navigate your monthly cycle with greater ease and comfort. By making mindful choices about the foods, you consume during your period, you can reduce period pain, boost your mood, and maintain overall well-being. Including nutrient-rich options like bananas, avocados, berries, and whole grains can provide essential nutrients and stabilize energy levels.

Hydrating with water and soothing herbal teas can further aid in relieving menstrual symptoms. Healthy blood vessels can improve blood flow, reducing discomfort during your period. Conversely, it's wise to limit or avoid caffeine, sugary, fatty, and salty foods, as they can exacerbate discomfort. Ultimately, tailoring your diet to your body's unique needs, including foods to eat that nourish your uterine lining, can lead to a smoother and more comfortable menstrual experience, allowing you to truly understand what to eat during periods for a healthier cycle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, you can drink coffee during your period. There is no specific medical reason to avoid coffee while menstruating. However, some individuals may experience increased sensitivity to caffeine during their periods, which could potentially exacerbate symptoms like anxiety, irritability, or breast tenderness. If you find that caffeine makes your menstrual symptoms worse, you may want to consider reducing your coffee intake or switching to decaffeinated coffee during your period. Ultimately, it's a matter of personal preference and how your body responds to caffeine.

Drinking warm water can help alleviate some of the discomfort associated with period pain for some individuals. The warmth of the water may help relax the uterine muscles and improve blood flow to the area, which can provide relief from cramps and lower back pain. Additionally, staying hydrated is important during your period, as it can help reduce bloating and other symptoms. However, the effectiveness of warm water in reducing period pain varies from person to person. Some people may find it helpful, while others may not experience significant relief. If you're experiencing severe or persistent menstrual pain, it's a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider, as there are various medical treatments and interventions available to manage period pain.

Several effective home remedies can alleviate period pain:

  • Heat Therapy: Applying a heating pad or warm compress to your lower abdomen relaxes muscles and eases cramps.
  • Herbal Teas: Ginger, chamomile, or peppermint tea can have soothing, anti-inflammatory effects that reduce discomfort.
  • Hydration: Staying well-hydrated helps prevent bloating and minimizes pain.
  • Dietary Choices: Incorporate omega-3-rich foods like salmon and magnesium sources like bananas into your diet for pain relief.
  • Light Exercise: Gentle activities like yoga or walking boost circulation and reduce cramps.
  • Over-the-Counter Medications: Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin can be effective when used according to instructions.
  • Stress Reduction: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation help manage stress, reducing pain intensity.

During period pain, you can drink various soothing beverages to alleviate discomfort. Herbal teas like chamomile or ginger tea can help relax muscles and reduce cramps. Warm water with lemon may also provide relief. Staying hydrated with plain water is essential to ease bloating and maintain overall health. Additionally, consuming warm milk or a hot water bottle can soothe abdominal pain. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can exacerbate symptoms. Experiment with these options to find what works best for you, and consult a healthcare professional for severe or persistent menstrual pain.

Incorporating a diet for menstrual cramps into your routine is simple. Start by adding nutrient-rich options like bananas, avocados, berries, and whole grains to your meals. For breakfast, enjoy oatmeal topped with fruits and seeds. Include salads with chickpeas, cucumber, and avocado for lunch, and snack on mixed nuts and berries. At dinner, opt for tofu, steamed broccoli, and brown rice. These foods provide essential nutrients to ease menstrual cramps. Hydrate with water and herbal teas, as they improve blood flow. Avoid caffeine, sugary, fatty, and salty foods, which can exacerbate cramps. Tailor your choices to your unique preferences and needs for a smoother menstrual experience.

Yes, eating habits can influence your menstrual cycle. A balanced and nutritious diet can help regulate hormones and reduce the severity of period symptoms such as cramps, mood swings, and bloating. Consuming foods rich in certain nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to a more comfortable and regular menstrual cycle. Conversely, an unhealthy diet with excessive processed foods, caffeine, and sugar may disrupt hormonal balance and exacerbate period-related discomfort. While dietary changes alone may not drastically alter your cycle, they can certainly play a role in managing its symptoms and promoting overall menstrual health.

It's generally advisable to avoid overly spicy foods during your period. Spicy foods can irritate the digestive system and exacerbate gastrointestinal discomfort, which is already common during menstruation for some individuals. Spices like chili and hot peppers can lead to bloating, gas, and indigestion, making period-related symptoms like cramps and abdominal discomfort worse. Opting for milder, soothing foods is often a better choice to promote comfort during menstruation. However, individual tolerance varies, so if you find that mild spice doesn't bother you, moderate consumption may be acceptable, but excessive heat should be avoided during your period.

There is limited scientific evidence to suggest that certain foods can potentially influence the timing of your menstrual cycle, although these effects are generally minor and not a reliable method for delaying periods. Some women believe that consuming high amounts of vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits or parsley may help delay menstruation, as they can slightly increase estrogen levels. Additionally, some herbs like ginger and turmeric are thought to have similar effects. However, it's essential to note that these methods are not scientifically proven, and attempting to manipulate your menstrual cycle with diet is not recommended. Consult a healthcare professional for safe and effective options if needed.


Jillian Lai Mei Siew

As the Product Consultant Manager of Mega BiO-LiFE, Jillian Lai Mei Siew, has the role of providing a productive team spirit among all Product Consultants to equip them with the right health nutritional information. Jillian is a BSc in Nutrition and Community Health, and a MSc in Nutritional Sciences an from Universiti Putra Malaysia. Affiliated to the Professional Affiliation Languages & Dialects Nutrition Society of Malaysia, NSM, Jillian can speak English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien and Malay.

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