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Foods to eat and avoid during menstruation

menstrual health

It is totally normal to have cravings for plenty of unhealthy foods like processed, sugar ladened chocolates and ice-cream at the start of your menstrual cycle. Although treating yourself with some comfort foods during your period can help boost your mood, it is important to note that what you eat throughout your entire cycle can make a significant difference. This is because our diet has a direct impact on our body’s hormonal balance. Therefore, whether you suffer from menstrual cramps or simply looking to maintain menstrual health, there are several factors to consider for hormonal health, as well as your physical and mental well-being of which we will cover below.  

Foods to Eat When Having Menstruation 

Not sure what foods to eat during menstruation? From PMS-associated water retention to menstrual cramps, certain nutrients have a positive effect on promoting homeostasis when there are hormonal imbalances. We’ve compiled a list of the top superfoods to incorporate into your daily diet to help ease menstrual cramps and to nourish your body before and when your period comes.

1. Bananas

During periods, we tend to retain more water, which is one of the main reasons for bloating. Bananas are rich in Vitamin B6 and potassium, which help reduce water retention in the body by restoring the body’s natural fluid balance. This reduces bloating and cramping commonly experienced before and during periods.

2. Organic Maca Root Powder

The Maca Root is known to be a natural remedy that eases menstrual pain by alleviating cramps, body pains, gastric bloating, and mood swings. At the start of the menstrual cycle, there is a very low level of estrogen, which increases drastically mid-cycle before decreasing again. As Maca is a herbal adaptogen, it aids to balance hormones, thus making it effective in relieving symptoms of discomfort caused by periods. Also known as an energy potion, organic maca root powder might give you an added boost of energy; nullifying the low energy levels triggered by the hormonal dip. However, it is important to note that organic maca root powder is very potent and can stimulate the body to produce more estrogen. Hence, it should be consumed with caution or not at all if you have an existing estrogen-sensitive condition. 

Organic maca root powder can be taken as a supplement or added to your diet. You can choose to add it to your smoothies, coffee or tea, baked desserts or even your yoghurt bowl. 

A great recipe to try: The Macaccino – a healthy, decaf substitute to your morning coffee or milo that also makes a great accompaniment to your healthy breakfast cereal.

3. Ginger or Ginger Powder

Ginger and ginger powder have anti-inflammatory benefits and are known to be a digestive aid to ease gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, nausea and constipation. If you suffer from painful cramps due to menstruation, consuming ginger may help in easing the pain. 

A great recipe to try: Spicy Ginger Punch – a light drink that packs a punch with a dash of ginger powder.

4. Dark Chocolate or Raw Organic Cacao Powder

Apart from having mood boosting benefits, both dark chocolate and raw cacao are known to be great in helping to ease period cramps. Both are good sources of magnesium which helps relax muscles and reduce prostaglandins that cause period pain. However, it is important to note that many chocolates in the market are processed with lots of refined or cane sugar that can make your period pain more severe. Hence, it is important to opt for good options such as Nature’s Superfoods Organic Superfood Chocolate (70% Dark) or even try adding raw organic cacao powder or nibs to your smoothies, cereal or yoghurt bowl for the benefits.

A great recipe to try: No-Bake Energy Bites – mixed with some plant-based protein powder, these sweet treats will surely boost your mood.

5. Moringa Leaf Powder

Moringa is considered one of the most nutrient-dense plants on the planet and has been used since ancient times for many health purposes. It is a natural multivitamin that contains more than 90 nutrients and 46 types of antioxidants; all the nutrients that the female body needs to reduce menstrual cramps significantly. Try adding a teaspoon of Moringa powder to your daily diet to aid with PMS symptoms.

A great recipe to try: Elegant Moringa-Pineapple Smoothie – a refreshing beverage that is the perfect pick me up.

 6. Avocado

For those, suffering from period cramps, focusing on the fats you are consuming can make a difference. This is because certain fatty acids impact the production of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that control the contraction of the uterus. Avocado is rich in anti-inflammatory omega fats, magnesium and potassium which are all required to fight menstrual cramps. Also, the Omega-3 present in avocado acts as an anti-depressant.

A great recipe to try: Yummy Moringa-Chia-Avocado Pudding – combining three of the must eat foods when having menstruation – banana, moringa leaf powder, and avocado – fight your menstrual blues with ease. 

Foods to Avoid During Menstruation 

Apart from consuming these foods, there are certain foods we should avoid during the menstrual cycle. These foods are known to worsen PMS symptoms such as period cramps, bloating symptoms, mood swings and skin breakouts. Totally avoiding these foods and restricting yourself may be impossible. But do keep a look out and try to limit the consumption of these foods.

1. Foods High in Refined Carbs & Sugar 

Foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugar like white bread, pasta, white rice, bubble tea, pastries, cakes, and candies are a big no! Instead, opt for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, green leafy vegetables, and naturally sweet foods like fruits. Wholegrain foods contain three layers of the grains: endosperm, germ, and bran. Grains with these layers still intact contain more fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These are more nutritious compared to refined foods such as white bread that lose important nutrients due to processing. 

2. Highly Processed Foods

Heavily processed foods are loaded with chemicals and preservatives, which can aggravate bloating and water retention. Moreover, these foods tend to have high amounts of salt. High levels of salt or sodium do even more damage during your period. Hence, it is important to limit the intake of highly processed foods. Reading the ingredients list at the back of the packaging helps! If you see many chemical names, this may be a sign for you to ditch it. 

3. Red Meat

Red meat is said to have higher levels of prostaglandins, which is the chemical that causes menstrual cramps. Instead of eating red meat, opt for lean white meats like chicken or fish instead, to reduce symptoms of PMS. The cooking method is also very crucial. Try to boil, steam or bake the meat instead of deep-frying in oil.

4. Caffeine

If you do not want bad PMS symptoms like cramping, you will need to cut down on your caffeine intake. Try sticking to just one cup of coffee or tea a day. This is because consuming excessive caffeine can cause vasoconstriction, worsening cramps during period. It can also increase discomfort and bloating.

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