The scientific small miracle that is the female body never ceases to amaze me. I mean, that a tiny newborn creature can be sustained solely on its mother’s milk—that’s almost as good as plants turning sunlight into energy. Almost. Even menstruation makes perfect biological sense to me when I am not currently going through it. That said, every month there comes the day where my inner thirteen-year-old says, “Dude, who invented this and what the hell were they smoking? This sucks.”
I’ve noticed there is a ton of information out there on what to eat during the days leading up to your period, but when it comes to what to eat during menstruation, there remains a blank space where reliable information should be. Awesome. When you (meaning, I) need it most, there is no neatly-bulleted list at the ready to tell you what to eat to handle the cramps, the fatigue or the feeling of being on the verge of both tears and murder.
At least there wasn’t any to be found when I went looking for help this morning. Then I remembered that I’m a dietitian-in-training, which makes me somewhat qualified to write my own such a list. How convenient! So:
- Leafy greens—Aside from being rich in magnesium, which help fight headaches and cramps, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and chard are packed with iron, which is especially important during menstruation, as you’re losing blood, and the iron in that blood. This is why women of childbearing age need around 18 mg iron a day while men need only 8, mg. To improve absorption, eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C. If you’re having a salad, add tomatoes or lemon juice.
- Lentils—Also high in iron and magnesium, lentils also contain lots of protein and fiber, which will help keep you feeling satisfied rather than ravenous. Fiber can also help maintain healthy digestion. You could even eat them over a spinach salad.
- Oatmeal–The B vitamins in complex carbohydrates boost the release of feel-good serotonin to combat that killing mood.
- Bananas–Potassium-rich foods like bananas help fight cramps and bloating. Win-win.
- Yogurt—Some studies show that calcium may alleviate menstrual cramps. Yogurt is packed full of this mineral. It’s hard to go wrong, especially if you reach for low-fat or non-fat plain varieties and add your own mix-ins like fruit, nuts, or flax. Just keep in mind that Greek yogurts tend to have half the calcium of other varieties.
- Wheat Germ—The vitamin E in wheat germ has been shown to relieve soreness and tender breasts. As it also plays a role in hormone regulation, it may also help manage the hallmark irritability and depression many women experience.
- Don’t like wheat germ? Try almonds, almond butter, or almond milk. Almonds are another potent source of this fat-soluble, crazy-reducing vitamin.
Of course, eating a balanced, adequate diet the other three weeks of the month may also help keep the craziness at bay. For those days you need a little extra help, having a few tricks in one’s purse never hurts.
For example, frosting shots may seem like a good idea, but trust me, when your blood sugar starts to crash, you’ll be right back in raging-bitch land.