Raging hormones, mood swings, breast tenderness, breakouts, headaches, nausea and bloating. Could it be that time of the month? Some women have a hassle-free period while some struggle to cope with PMS. Eat beetroot, take celery juice, consume lots of fluids, sleep well; the number of basic cures and home remedies for PMS pain prescribed by online blogs are way too many. Needless to say, you can eat your way to a better PMS, clear skin, stress-free period and a much happier version of yourself through the right intake of food. Believe it or not, food can be the medicine to keep painful periods and other daunting hormonal imbalances at bay.

Day 1-5 Menstruation

When menstruating, you are at the greatest loss of iron levels. Eat food that helps compensate for all the iron lost through blood when bleeding. When all you want is to dig into a bowl of ice cream or chocolate cake, just stop!

Eat This –

• Iron-rich foods such as all leafy vegetables (spinach, kale), salmon, legumes, fortified milk, red/green peppers, vitamin C sources such as oranges, pineapple, strawberries, broccoli and mangoes.

• Make a green smoothie and see how you instantly feel less fatigued. High level of magnesium intake also helps relieve cramp pains.

Day 5-13 Follicular Phase

During this phase, the body prepares for ovulation; so FSH hormones are at their peak. You may begin to feel energized. This is the time for good carbs and protein-rich diet. Start a good routine of exercise and you won’t experience those pesky cramps before your next period. Incorporate fresh salads and fruits. Try to detoxify and improve your gut health during this phase.

Eat This –

• Food that one must necessarily include in the diet are oats, eggs, yoghurt, fish, seafood, soya, pistachio nuts, avocado, brown rice, fruits, chicken and turkey.

• Pro-biotic yoghurt is great for digestion, immunity, gut purification and detoxification.

Day 14-16 Ovulation

Once the egg matures and moves into the ovulatory phase, a large amount of estrogen secretion is experienced by the body. Because of the fluctuating levels our appetite is largely affected. Many women are reported to feel less hungry, therefore less energetic during this period. Fiber-rich food is important during this time to get rid of toxins from the excess hormones produced. Excess of estrogen is also harmful; so it’s best to consume food that can combat and maintain the balanced level of estrogen.

Eat This –

• Stick with quinoa, eggs, radishes, wholegrain breads, potatoes, berries, papaya, chocolate that's 60% cacao or higher

Day 17-28 Premenstrual Phase

Oh the PMS! Translate – cramps, mood swings, headache, nausea, backache, body pain, sluggishness. In general, the ability to cry overwhelmingly and kill someone mercilessly at the same time! Excuse the euphemism, but can you relate? A week before your expected period date, try to avoid greasy foods and anything that will easily bloat you up. Junk food in general is the main cause of breakouts just before periods. Avoid coffee and alcohol as they are iron blockers for the body and interfere with absorption of all essential nutrients.

Eat This –

• You may crave unhealthy food but try to stop and eat more of vitamin B and magnesium rich foods such as nuts, mushrooms, flaxseeds, chickpeas, seafood, spinach, kale, asparagus, meat, dairy products, salmon or tuna.

• Oh, did we miss dark chocolate? Go ahead, treat yourself to a small piece!

What’s the takeaway from this read?

Believe it or not, the food you consume before, during and after a period can sufficiently help make your next period better. The right diet during an entire cycle can reduce cramps, avoid feeling swollen or bloated and help cope with mood swings. Additionally, drink enough water to stay hydrated and absolutely avoid refined or fried foods. Keeping a diary of your meals will certainly facilitate keeping track of the changes your body experiences from an altered, healthy diet.

Does it all sound like a lot of planning? Don’t sweat; period diet planning is not a struggle. And remember it is eventually self-love! If all fails, you can always treat yourself to a good chunk of dark chocolate (no judgment!).