In the first part of this series, we discussed food and beverages that make your period heavier, as well as food that regulates your period. We continue here as we look at chocolate’s effect on periods, food that helps reduce period pain, as well as food that worsens period cramps. Let’s begin!
Chocolate’s Effect on Periods
Us ladies are known for devouring chocolates at the time of our menstrual cycles. There’s just something that goes off in our brains that alerts us to this beautiful, smooth, sweet and addictive food that tells us how much more relaxed and happier we will be with it in our bodies. So, what does chocolate actually do once you consume it? I’m going to tell you!
Dark Chocolate Wins
The good news is, its actually important to eat dark chocolate during your period, as it has so many health benefits. That means you don’t need to feel guilty no matter how many bars of Lindt 78% Cocoa (or any other dark chocolate favorite) you swallow during your period! Here’s why it’s so good for you during your period:
1. It helps relax sore muscles
Muscles can really ache and contract during our periods – and frankly, any relief will help. Dark chocolate contains magnesium, which helps soothe sore muscles. This relief will affect your abdomen, hips and thighs in a positive way, relaxing them.
2. Helps with mood swings
All of us ladies know how it goes when our periods are near – our emotions decide to go on a rollercoaster, and we can be happy and joyous, and then feel sad and blue – it’s just something we can’t escape, and one of the disadvantages of experiencing our periods, so anything that will help is gladly received!
Chocolate is known for improving your mood, calming you down and making you feel more satisfied. Dark chocolate actually releases endorphins into our brains, making us all feel happier. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in dark chocolate which releases serotonin into the brain, therefore giving off feelings of pleasure and happiness, acts as an anti-depressant and lifts your mood. There are also flavanols in dark chocolate that life your mood. If you’re feeling down during your period, make sure to empty your menstrual cup, and then get into bed, under a warm blanket, switch on some Netflix, and grab a slab of your favorite dark chocolate!
3. Relieves Stress
When eating dark chocolate, the stress hormone called cortisol is reduced. It also reduces catecholamines, which are your “fight-or-flight” hormones.
4. Increases Energy
When experiences a period, we often feel very tired and need to relax. Our energy seems to disappear, as we try take care of our sensitive bodies that are doing their monthly thing! Dark chocolate contains caffeine which will give you a nice energy boost, helping you deal with a tiring day better!
5. Reduces Menstrual Cramps
Menstrual cramps can really hurt! It is one of the biggest reasons most women walk around with pain killers in their handbags, and it is a reason many women can’t function normally during the day. There is potassium contained in dark chocolate that helps your muscles lessen the amount of water it retains, and lessens the bloating you normally experience during your period.
6. Rich in Iron
When us women experience our periods, we can often lose a lot of blood – which means our iron levels go down. It’s a big reason we crave iron rich sources such as red meat during this time. Dark chocolate actually contains a lot of iron, and is able to help improve your blood hemoglobin levels.
7. Improves Your Skin
Many of us women develop pimples just before our periods. For some, its worse than others, so its good to know that authentic, good-quality dark chocolate can actually help with this. However, it’s important to note that normal sugary milk chocolate can CAUSE more pimples. Dark chocolate is an antioxidant that promotes cell growth for a healthier skin, and helps detoxify the skin.
Food You Should Eat to Reduce Period Pain
One of the nastiest consequences of getting a period is period cramps. This kind of pain can be excruciating. Sometimes it hurts so much you literally drop down to your knees and crawl around the floor until you can get to your bottle of pain killers, and are able to swallow a few (patiently waiting on the floor for 15 minutes for the medicine to kick in). In fact, periods really wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the excruciating pain of it all. The good news is that there are certain foods out there that help reduce period pain. Here they are:
Salmon is one of the most versatile and delicious of all the fish out there. You can bake, grill or fry it, turn it into fishcakes, eat it smoked on bagels (with capers and cream cheese), or even enjoy it raw with your favorite sushi! This amazing fish has omega-3 fatty acids which helps with inflammation and is great for pain relief. This cold-water fish offers a great amount of protein, as well as vitamins B6 and D. Vitamin B6 aids breast pain and sensitivity as well as mood swings. Vitamin D helps put you in a more positive mood, and helps you absorb calcium which helps with the pain.
Eggs are great! They can be poached, fried, scrambled, boiled, made into a delicious omelet with fillings of your choice, or part of a delicious Shakshuka meal (Middle Eastern egg dish). This protein packed food contains vitamins B6, D and E, all which help reduce period pain.
3. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is really great. This tea sourced from daisy-like plants is exceptionally calming and has a unique taste that really reduces stress, and can help you fall asleep. It also magically reduces muscle spasms.
4. Peanut Butter
Peanuts are filled with magnesium which helps soothe period cramps. It also naturally releases serotonin in the brain. Also, organic peanut butter that contains very little salt and sugar helps prevent bloating – which is always a plus!
Ginger is actually great if you’re feeling nauseous and need to control it. It’s also great at combating gas and bloating and helps soothe sore menstrual cramps. Add some ginger to your cup of chamomile tea, and you’ll see how wondrous it makes you feel!
There are many different varieties of oats – often with added sugar. The oats that you need to eat are sugar free. You can add strawberries or blueberries to them to help sweeten their taste. They have lots of fiber, which will help you feel full for long, and have an abundant source of magnesium and zinc. Magnesium relaxes blood vessels and increases serotonin levels in your brain.
If you are experiencing painful bloating, 8 glasses of air temperature water will really help – ice cold water may worsen period cramps. It helps to prevent your body from retaining water, as ironic as that sounds. If you find it hard to drink so much water, especially during the winter, drink different herbal teas, which will warm you up from the inside!
8. Eat Dark, Leafy Greens
This is definitely on my grocery list as I know I don’t get enough of this in my diet! During your period, there is a lot of blood loss, which equals a loss of iron. This can really reduce your energy levels. Eating a salad full of kale and spinach will make you feel more energetic, and will help soothe painful cramps. It also contains calcium which helps towards soothing pain around the abdomen. Add a healthy dressing of apple cider vinegar with some fresh lemon and Himalayan rose salt.
9. Bananas, Kiwis and Pineapples
These three together sound like the perfect fruit salad! Bananas contain a lot of potassium, as well as vitamin B6, which helps relieve bloating and cramps. Pineapple contains bromelain, which helps inflammation. Kiwis have a lot of vitamin C and an enzyme called actinidin. This helps you digest protein more easily, and the fiber inside of it aids with constipation. Put these three together in a smoothie or eat it as a fruit salad.
Food That Worsen Your Period Cramps
It’s really easy to fall into a pattern of eating a lot of junk food when menstruating. The body’s hunger increases by at least three-fold, and we are constantly hungry! That’s why it’s important to know what food NOT to reach for, as it just makes cramps more painful!
1. Fatty Foods
Fatty food makes your uterus contract, as it increases prostaglandins – lipids that deal with injury in the body. When your uterus contracts, it increases cramps. Fatty meat such as lamb should be avoided at this time, as it contains saturated fats which can worsen your pain. Stick to poultry such as turkey that contains very little fat when compared to other poultry and meat.
2. Processed Food
When you have your period, you need to turn to food as much in its organic form as possible! Processed food like chips, French fries, caramelized popcorn, and the like, all contain trans fats which all cause inflammation, making the body feel sore and terrible. If you’re craving food that’s rich and creamy and tastes like junk food – turn to dishes made with eggplant. This “simple” vegetable is actually quite luxurious on the palette – just learn how to cook it right and incorporate it into meat and other protein dishes of your choice!
3. Refined carbohydrates and sugar
One of the first things we grab for when experiencing our periods are cookies, cupcakes, muffins, chocolate croissants, in fact anything sugary and sweet with a lot of carbohydrates. These only cause the blood sugar to spike and you crash soon after feeling miserable, and craving yet another sugary treat. All the extra sugar causes a lot of inflammation and worsens cramping. What also ends up happening, is that your body will retain sodium and water, making you more bloated and all the extra sugar will also add to mood swings. All in all, these are really to be avoided! Rather keep a stash of sweet blueberries in the fridge and bananas on the counter top for whenever a sweet craving arises!
4. Dairy Products
As discussed in part one of this series, dairy is a big no-no when it comes to your period. Dairy products may seem exceptionally appealing, especially cheese which has a protein called casein. It makes you feel really good and crave similar food. In general, ice cream, cheese and milk all contain arachidonic acid (which is an omega-6 fatty acid) which only increases inflammation, thus intensifying period pain. If you’re craving pizza, have it on a cauliflower base with vegan cheese and your body will thank you for it!
5. Salty Foods
Food that has high traces of sodium causes water retention within the body, as well as bloat. Keep away from adding too much salt to your popcorn, potato chips, French fries, and certain sausages that are very salty.
Well, I hope you took away a lot of tips from part 2 of this 3-part series of the effect food has on our bodies during our period. In part 3, we cover healthy food to eat during your period, food that helps reduce bloating, as well as food that helps keep your skin clear from pimples during your period! As you can see, there really is a strong connection between the food we eat, and our periods! Just remember for a stress-free period, wear a menstrual cup!