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Best Foods To Eat On Your Period

When the twinge of period cramps kicks in, many reach for the heat pads or pain killers to alleviate the pain. But did you know some foods and drinks help with period cramps too?

From dark chocolate to chamomile tea, these foods and drinks can help manage pain, relax muscles, and regulate the hormones that cause cramps. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that these foods for your period should be used to manage pain, rather than as a miracle cure for cramps.

But, if you’re wondering which are best foods to eat on your period, or what drinks can help with period cramps, this article has got you covered.

What causes period pain?

To understand how food and drinks can help with period cramps, we need to talk about why you get period pain in the first place.

On your period, your body gets rid of the blood and tissue that lines the uterus. To expel the lining effectively, your body produces a hormone-like chemical called ‘prostaglandins’, which triggers contractions that push the lining out.

The uterus contracting is what causes the main symptom of period pain – cramps. However, there are several other common symptoms of period pain:

It is quite common to experience a change in your mood around your period as well. This is because the body produces higher levels of steroid hormones - oestrogen and progesterone - during the days before your period, preparing your body for pregnancy.

However, when a pregnancy does not occur and you get your period, these levels drop back down. This fluctuation in hormones is believed to be what causes low mood, anxiety, and, sometimes, depression around your period.

Why do I crave comfort foods when on my period?

While it’s common to experience mood changes during your period, you may also notice a change in appetite, increasing certain cravings for food on your period.

The same hormones that cause mood changes during your period play a part in causing these cravings. The drop in progesterone levels and rise in oestrogen just before a period can cause blood sugar levels to deplete. To remedy this, our bodies crave sugar to help bring those blood sugar levels back up.

Another hormone called serotonin can also trigger cravings for certain foods during a period, particularly for sugar or carbohydrates. That’s because serotonin levels can drop on the run up to your period or during your period. As a result, your body might crave sugary or carb-loaded foods on your period to increase insulin, which can help increase serotonin levels too.

However, while eating the likes of pizza and pasta, or chocolate and sweets, might satisfy your cravings, they aren’t great foods for periods. This is because sugary, oily, high fat foods can cause inflammation which can, in turn, worsen period cramps and pain.

5 Best foods to eat on your period

While you do need to listen to your body, especially during a period, you might want to look to switch those cravings for foods to help cramps, period pain, and improve mood instead.

The best foods to eat on your period include ones that contain omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, natural sugar as opposed to artificial, and complex carbohydrates instead, helping to alleviate painful period symptoms.

So, if you do crave sweet foods on your period, or you fancy a pizza when on your period, there are plenty of alternative foods that help with period cramps to consider.

1. Dark chocolate

One of the most common food cravings during a period is chocolate - and the good news is this is actually a great food to eat on your period!

However, while you may crave your favourite white or caramel dairy chocolate bar, it is typically better to go for a darker chocolate instead. This is because dark chocolate contains higher levels of magnesium, which can help relax muscles.

As a result, dark chocolate is a good food to help period cramps and low mood, in particular. Relaxing your muscles can help ease the pain caused by the uterine contractions, while having a sweet treat can help boost your mood as well.

2. Oats

Craving carb-loaded food on your period is normal, but foods like these can worsen period pain symptoms, such as bloating and fatigue.

Oats are one of the exceptions, however, and a great food to eat on your period. That’s because, as a complex carbohydrate, oats contain significantly lower levels of carbs than simple carbohydrate foods, like bread or breakfast cereal. So, you can safely satisfy those carb cravings.

In addition, the high levels of fibre in oats help to regulate hormones like oestrogen and progesterone too, meaning this food can help relieve cramps and period pain.

3. Watermelon

When you’re feeling fatigued from period pain, you might turn to sugary foods for an energy boost. However, too much sugar can just cause you to crash and feel even more exhausted.

As a healthy alternative, watermelon is a good sugary food to eat on your period. The natural sugars in this tropical fruit are more easily and properly absorbed by the body than artificial sugars. This means you can satisfy your sweet tooth without worrying about a sugar crash.

What’s more, watermelons are a water-rich fruit too. This helps your body stay hydrated, helping to alleviate any swelling or bloating caused by period pain. Other water-rich fruits that can help with period pain include oranges, pineapples, plums, peaches, and apricots.

4. Salmon

Salmon is a good food to eat on your period, as it contains lots of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help with the likes of cognitive function, mood, and inflammation.

So, if you struggle with concentrating due to fatigue from your period, then eating more salmon can help you focus more easily.

Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of salmon, these fatty acids can also help alleviate bloating. Some studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can help with low mood and symptoms of depression too.

For a vegan or vegetarian diet, you can get your omega-3 from flaxseed or flaxseed oil. Chia seeds are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, helping to support heart health.

5. Chamomile tea

While you should generally stay away from too much caffeine on your period, chamomile tea is a pain-relieving alternative drink to help with period cramps.

Chamomile has anti-spasmodic properties, which can help soothe the uterus during contractions. In addition to this, a hot cup of chamomile can help relax your body and mind, making sleep easier too.

Other drinks that help with period cramps and pain include ginger tea, peppermint tea, and raspberry tea. In general, you want to make sure you’re also properly hydrated, drinking at least eight glasses of water per day.

When to see a GP about period pain

Experiencing some physical discomfort, fatigue, and low mood is normal during your period. But these symptoms should not be debilitating or prevent you carrying out day-to-day activities.

It may be time to see a GP, if you experience intense pain that leaves you regularly taking time from work, or school, alongside the following period symptoms:

  • Blood in stool or urine on your period.

  • Pain during or after sex. 

  • Heavy periods (bleeding through several layers of clothes).

  • Depression.

  • Bleeding between periods.

These can all be signs of conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, or cystic fibroids. All of which can be properly diagnosed and treated with the help of a medical practitioner.

For more information on women’s health, or to discover nutritious recipes containing foods that help with period cramps, head over to our Be Healthy hub.

Medically reviewed by Llinos Connolly on February 2024.