What to Eat Before, During, & After Your Period

Woman on her period

January 13, 2021

By Gretchen Lidicker

Around the time of your period, you might feel like your hormones are in control, driving what you want to eat, when, and how much. But what if it were the other way around? Can what we eat affect our hormonal health during different parts of our menstrual cycle?

According to Olivia Nealy, R.D., yes. In fact, as a functional fertility dietician and founder of Let’s Get Real RD, she spends most of her days helping women improve their hormone health through nutrition and lifestyle choices. She often recommends that patients switch up their diet to align with the hormonal shifts that occur throughout the month. By eating to match your menstrual cycle, you can promote a healthy mood, combat cramps, and reduce cravings.

Here’s what to eat before, during, and after your period.

What to Eat Before Your Period

This is the time to get serious about nutrition in an effort to decrease common PMS symptoms like mood swings, tender breasts, fatigue, and cravings. Unfortunately, that can be hard to do since as Neely explains, “progesterone is climbing so you will crave salty, sweet, or carby foods.”

You may also be hungrier than normal from days 16-28; it’s totally normal and you can adjust your eating patterns accordingly.

“Start by avoiding going long periods of time without eating,” says Neely, who recommends focusing on healthy fats with complex carbs and clean proteins to avoid dizziness and binge eating during this time. “A loaded sweet potato with plenty of ghee, butter, or coconut oil along with some leftover ground chicken or tempeh topped with arugula would fit the bill,” she says.

What to Eat During Your Period

You may have a smaller appetite this week from the rising estrogen, so listen to your body and stop when you feel full. You’ll also likely be feeling bloated, crampy, and fatigued this week, but this is not the time to have that extra glass of wine or snuggling up with a pint of chocolate ice cream. “In fact, more than any other phase, this is the time to avoid too much sugar, fat, alcohol, and caffeine,” Neely says.

She recommends focusing on foods that are high in magnesium, which she says is great for cramps and mood stability. Luckily, cacao is a great source of this mineral, which makes this non-dairy hot chocolate the perfect treat.

More on Magnesium

What to Eat After Your Period

You made it through the PMS and your period week, so you’re likely feeling good and not thinking as much about your hormones as much. Around three days after your period is when you’ll be full of energy, optimism, and your cravings will subside. It’s likely you’ll be less hungry as well, but you’ll still need additional nutritional support to metabolize estrogen, which is rising during this time. Neely suggests filling up on raw, sprouted, and fermented foods to help the liver detoxify the estrogen hormone. Specifically, she recommends eating 1/4 cup of broccoli sprouts daily.