During menstruation, the desire to seek comfort food can be hard to resist. However, some comfort foods may actually make your condition worse. The right choices can not only provide solace but also alleviate some of the physical discomforts that come with your period. This blog post highlights which nutrients are especially important for menstruating women and a few recipes for the best period comfort food to help manage cramps and maintain energy levels.
Opt for Iron-Rich Foods
Losing iron through menstrual blood can sap your energy, and that’s where iron-rich foods step in (1). They are pivotal in synthesizing hemoglobin, the oxygen-transporting component of your blood, making them essential to revitalize your day.
- Spinach and Lean Meats: Spinach is a vegetable powerhouse packed with iron, and lean meats like chicken and turkey are excellent sources of heme iron, which is readily absorbed by the body. A fresh spinach salad topped with grilled chicken strips could be a great way to boost your iron and blood health.
- Legumes: Including beans, chickpeas, and lentils in your diet can boost your iron intake and provide fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health during menstruation. Try a bowl of chili or hummus for a vegetarian iron-boost.
- Whole Grains: Whole grain bread, quinoa, and fortified cereals are not only filling but also help in maintaining your iron levels. Boil up some quinoa or pair whole grain bread with hummus to take advantage or these iron-rich foods.
Choose Magnesium-Loaded Snacks
Magnesium plays a pivotal role in muscle relaxation and may reduce the severity of menstrual cramps (2). It also helps in regulating neurotransmitters, which can positively affect your mood and relieve premenstrual symptoms.
- Dark Chocolate: Indulge in dark chocolate for a comforting snack that’s rich in magnesium and can help ease menstrual discomfort.
- Almonds and Bananas: Snacking on almonds or adding bananas to your breakfast or snack time provides a good dose of magnesium, which may help soothe cramps.
Prioritize Calcium-Containing Comfort
Calcium is not only vital for bone health but also helps in muscle function and may alleviate menstrual pain (3). A sufficient intake of calcium during menstruation can help in reducing bloating and discomfort.
- Dairy or Fortified Alternatives: Milk, cheese, and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium, as are fortified non-dairy alternatives like almond or soy milk.
- Leafy Greens: Incorporate calcium-rich greens such as kale and broccoli into your meals for a non-dairy source of this important mineral.
Incorporate Omega-3s and Anti-Inflammatory Foods
- Salmon and Walnuts: Salmon is rich in omega-3s, and walnuts are a convenient snacking option that also packs these essential fats.
- Berries and Cherries: Brighten your plate with a mix of berries and cherries, which have natural anti-inflammatory effects and can provide sweet relief.
Stay Hydrated with Herbal Teas
- Ginger and Peppermint Tea: Both ginger and peppermint teas are known for their soothing properties, with ginger helping to reduce inflammation and peppermint easing digestive discomfort.
Include Complex Carbohydrates for Sustained Energy
Complex carbohydrates are essential for prolonged energy release, which can be particularly beneficial when experiencing the fatigue often associated with menstruation (6).
- Sweet Potatoes and Oatmeal: These foods not only satisfy hunger but also help maintain stable blood sugar levels, potentially reducing cravings and improving mood.
Best Period Comfort Food Recipes
Now that you know what kinds of ingredients you want to incorporate into your diet during menstruation, here are a few of our favorite period comfort food recipes:
Chickpea Spinach Curry with Brown Rice
This dish is not only comforting and flavorful but also packed with iron from the chickpeas, anti-inflammatory properties from the spices, magnesium from the spinach, and the complex carbohydrates of brown rice for sustained energy. It’s a warming meal that’s perfect for those days when you need a little extra nutritional support and comfort and might just be the best period comfort food.
For the Chickpea Spinach Curry:
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, no salt added
- 2 cans (14 oz each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
- 4 cups baby spinach leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Brown Rice:
- 1 cup brown rice
- 2 cups water
- Pinch of salt
- Start with the brown rice. In a pot, combine the brown rice, water, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.
- While the rice is cooking, heat the coconut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for another 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Stir in the curry powder, cumin, and turmeric, and cook for 1 minute until the spices are well combined with the onion mixture.
- Pour in the diced tomatoes (with their juices) and chickpeas. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
- Add the coconut milk, and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Allow to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Fold in the baby spinach and cook until the spinach wilts into the curry, which should take about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the rice is cooked, fluff it with a fork and serve it alongside the chickpea spinach curry.
Beef and Quinoa Stew
This beef and quinoa stew is rich in iron from the beef and quinoa, which is essential for replenishing iron lost during menstruation. The vegetables add essential vitamins and fiber, while the kale provides a source of calcium and magnesium. The lemon zest not only adds a fresh flavor but also vitamin C, which can help with the absorption of iron. This hearty stew is a true comfort dish with a nutritional profile tailored for menstrual support.
For the Stew:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound lean beef stew meat, cut into cubes
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice
- 4 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 cups kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Lemon zest
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef cubes and sear them on all sides until browned. Remove the beef and set aside.
- In the same pot, add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften. Add the garlic, red bell pepper, carrots, and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
- Stir in the quinoa and cook for 1-2 minutes, toasting it slightly.
- Add the diced tomatoes, beef broth, smoked paprika, and dried thyme. Return the beef to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked and the beef is tender.
- A few minutes before serving, stir in the kale and cook until it is wilted and tender.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve the stew hot, garnished with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of lemon zest for added freshness.
Dark Chocolate and Walnut Brownies with Raspberry Chia Jam
These brownies are a menstrual comfort delight: rich in magnesium from dark chocolate to ease cramps and boost mood, and omega-3s from walnuts to reduce inflammation. The raspberry chia jam provides fiber and vitamin C, helping with digestion and bloating, while almond flour offers a stable energy source, keeping blood sugar levels even. This treat is an example of the best period comfort food because it feels like an indulgence and also supports well-being during your cycle.
- 1/2 cup unsweetened dark chocolate, chopped (choose at least 70% cacao)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil or unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup maple syrup or honey
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Raspberry Chia Jam Ingredients:
- 2 cups fresh raspberries
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons honey or to taste
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
- Melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla extract together. Stir in the melted chocolate mixture until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the almond flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just combined. Fold in the chopped walnuts.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- While the brownies bake, make the raspberry chia jam by mashing the raspberries in a bowl. Stir in chia seeds, honey, and lemon juice. Let it sit for 30 minutes to thicken.
- Once the brownies are done, cool them in the pan on a wire rack.
- Cut the brownies into squares and serve with a dollop of raspberry chia jam on top.
Selecting the best period comfort food involves choosing items that not only comfort the soul but also provide physical relief. Foods rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, omega-3s, and complex carbohydrates are not just comforting; they’re also beneficial in managing menstrual symptoms. Remember, while these foods can help, it’s important to listen to your body and eat in a way that feels right for you.