What You Should Eat (and Avoid) on Your Menstrual Cycle

nutrition Jun 11, 2020

Many women struggle throughout their menstrual cycle. Our hormones fluctuate all month and when it comes time for our period then things can feel totally out of whack.


From bloating, cramps, and indigestion to moodiness, headaches, and fatigue, we can all agree periods aren’t much fun.


But as dancers, our schedules don’t slow down just because we’re on our cycle. Practice, competitions, and staying in shape doesn't give us a break, regardless of what time of the month it may be.


The good news is there are some foods you can eat (and others you can avoid) to make your period far less intense, helping you perform at your best - year round.


Foods to Eat on Your Cycle


When it comes to the foods you should be eating while on your period, there are a few things to consider. You’ll want food that balances your hormones, provides enough iron and magnesium, and that will offset any cravings you may have.



Leafy Greens

While on your period, you’ll be losing a lot of iron. This iron deficiency causes fatigue, dizziness, and pain during our period. So, to replenish that iron, leafy green vegetables are necessary.


Spinach, kale, and broccoli are all incredible sources of iron while also being rich in magnesium which can help alleviate the symptoms of PMS. Make a big salad or add some of these greens to an omelette. You’ll start to feel better in no time.



Chicken, Fish, and Eggs

Chicken is also iron-rich but provides a lot of protein as well. Protein helps you feel fuller for longer which can help you avoid sugar cravings often associated with our periods.


Salmon has a ton of omega-3 fatty acids which studies have shown can reduce period pain and period-related depression. Plus, it’s iron- and protein-rich too.


Eggs are great to have during your cycle as well. The yolks contain iron, fatty acids, protein, and important fat-soluble vitamins. However, avoid eating hard-boiled eggs as it can make period-related stomach pains more uncomfortable.


If you’re vegetarian, then tofu, lentils, and beans are other great options to ensure you’re getting enough protein. They’re also a great source of iron and tofu, in particular, can provide magnesium and calcium, too - all super beneficial during your period.


Dark Chocolate

If you’re on your cycle, you’re probably craving sweets. Totally normal! Go for dark chocolate which is packed with iron and magnesium. Feel free to have a piece (or two) every night during this time.


Dark chocolate helps curb those cravings for less beneficial sweets. However, if you’re not a dark chocolate fan, fresh fruit can also help satisfy your sweet tooth.



Whole Grains

Choosing whole grains during your period helps provide your body with extra magnesium, plus essential B and E vitamins. Whole grains also help you feel fuller for longer, meaning you might then be less tempted to choose unhealthy foods that you may be craving.


Quinoa is also full of iron, magnesium, and protein. All of these nutrients can help alleviate some of the negative side effects of your period and are the perfect addition to your meals.




Like salmon and other fish, most nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, they’re an excellent source of protein and magnesium. Even if you’re not a fan of nuts on their own, try some healthy nut butter or add nuts to your pre-rehearsal smoothie.




High in calcium and packed with healthy, active cultures, yoghurt has been known to help with digestive issues. Kombucha, like yoghurt, also contains active cultures and is similarly recommended during that time of the month. It’s a great alternative if you’re vegan, avoiding dairy, or don’t like yoghurt.




While most fruits are fine to eat on your period, bananas are particularly beneficial. Filled with potassium and other important B vitamins, they also contain fibre to aid in digestion while offering a boost of energy. Bananas are the perfect backstage snack.



Ginger and turmeric are root spices that are incredible anti-inflammatories. Adding these spices to your food or settling in with some ginger tea can help soothe period pains by reducing the inflammation in your achy muscles.


Ginger is also a common remedy for stomach aches and can help if you feel nauseous on your period. Avoid going overboard on the ginger, though. Too much can have the reverse effect, causing heartburn and stomach aches.



Chamomile and Peppermint Tea

We all know that your period not only wreaks havoc on your physical body but on your nervous system, too. Cue mood swings!


Peppermint tea takes care of your physical aches and period pains, while chamomile tea is incredibly calming and perfect for dealing with moodiness.



And finally water! Staying hydrated is always important, especially for dancers who are always on the move. However, during your period, proper hydration reduces headaches, bloating, and water retention.


Another way to ensure you’re getting enough water during your cycle is by including more foods like watermelon, cucumber, or celery to your diet.


Foods to Avoid Eating on Your Period


Just as there are foods to include in your diet during your period, there are also some foods to avoid.


  • Salt: Increases water retention contributing to bloating.
  • Sugar: You may feel an initial energy spike, but the crash isn’t worth it. Sugar crashes can increase your moodiness and make you feel even more tired than before.
  • Caffeine: Too much caffeine can increase blood pressure and make PMS worse. Try switching to decaf while on your period.
  • Spicy food: Can exacerbate indigestion and stomach aches.
  • Red meat: Although red meat is high in iron, it’s also high in prostaglandins which the body uses during menstruation. Prostaglandins are what causes the cramps, so avoiding red meat can help reduce these pains.
  • Processed foods: Often made with added sugar and unhealthy fats, processed foods can negatively affect your hormones and are especially unhelpful while on your period.


A whole food diet is always recommended for dancers - period or not. However, adding iron-rich, magnesium-filled, anti-inflammatory foods to your diet will be especially helpful during this time.


Learning to listen to your body, understand your hormones, and eat in a beneficial way throughout your menstrual cycle will help you feel better, dance stronger, and reach your full potential.



The Reaching New Heights Team


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