In the movie No Strings Attached, there's a scene where Emma (Natalie Portman) is experiencing her menstrual cycle with her roommates. In sync, they were all having a miserable time in their apartment, and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) rescues them from a bad afternoon by bringing them a box of cupcakes and a period mix. And it's probably the most relatable part of the movie, having a cupcake or two to numb the pain happening in your uterus. Sure, the first few minutes after that last bite can feel like heaven, but we all know what a sugar crash can do.
The thing is, food affects our body in a big way. For instance, your brain is always turned on—even when you're asleep. To run effectively, it needs fuel; that's where food comes in. Your body functions best when you feed it right. When you eat food that's high in refined sugar, it promotes inflammation and oxidative stress and causes your mood to fluctuate. Research has shown that the risk of depression is 25 percent to 35 percent lower in those people who have "traditional diets" (Mediterranean diet, traditional Japanese diet) because they consume more vegetables, fruites, seafood, and unprocessed grains.
While it's understandable for you to crave specific things during a particularly rough time of the month, it's also advisable to keep eating right. To give you an idea of what kinds of food you should reach for (and ones you should probably stay clear of), keep reading.
Menstruation food: What to eat
Obvious, right? Water is essential for life, and since we were kids, people have been drilling it in our heads that we need at least eight glasses a day. Still, many of us don't drink enough water and are dehydrated without even knowing it. When you're on your period, one of the common symptoms is a headache, which is aggravated when you're dehydrated. Plus, water keeps you from bloating!
This is sort of connected to the first point. Fruits like watermelon, melon, oranges, pineapples, and cucumbers are rich in water. You're not only hydrated, but the natural sweetness in these fruits can help curb your cravings for the bad stuff.
Not all treats are bad, though. Dark chocolate, for example, is high in iron and magnesium. It's also rich in antioxidants. There's also some research saying it might help protect you against heart disease. Of course, this doesn't mean you should binge on dark chocolate. It's still heavy on calories and overeating anything—even a snack that's healthier than most—isn't recommended.
During your time of the month, it's normal for your iron levels to dip—especially if you have heavy flow. Eating leafy vegetables can help with that. Veggies like spinach, kale, asparagus, peas, and leeks are some of the ones that are high in iron.
If you need something a little more refreshing, reach for some yogurt. It's a probiotic-rich food that's also packed with magnesium and calcium. Sprinkle a few nuts in there for added texture—which is also food that's recommended when you have your period, btw.
Menstruation food: What to avoid
Sodas, juices, and energy drinks
But you already knew that. Even when you're on your period, anything high in sugar is a no-no. Carbonated drinks also make you bloat, and yes, that includes sparkling water.
To be clear, we're not telling you to give up all your favorite desserts. But the next time you eat a donut or two, check how your body feels after an hour. The high is great, but the crash may not be worth it. That kind of fluctuation can also affect your mood in a big way. When you're on your period, regulating your sugar intake might make that week bearable for you.
As amazing as coffee is—and believe me, we're with you on this one—it also has downsides like water retention, bloating, and sometimes, headaches. But cutting out coffee completely can lead to withdrawal or headaches, so just watch how much caffeine you're consuming while you're on your cycle.
On a regular day, when you're not on your period, spicy food can test your body (read: you spend a lot of time in the bathroom after a few hours). That doesn't just magically go away for a week every month. Consider all the discomfort you're already going through: If you eat spicy food on top of that, you're putting your body through possibly more pain, diarrhea, and sometimes even nausea.