This probably doesn't qualify as breaking news, but when you eat well, you feel good — and the same rule applies for when you are on your period. Yes, for most of us, period cravings are no joke and can cause us to want to spend that one special week every month holed up on our couch, eating junk and binge-watching Netflix. While said junk food eating might seem comforting, we all know that it really only makes us feel worse.
So exactly what should we eat and what should we stay away from? Here's the lowdown.
1. Do eat complex carbohydrates
"Fruits, vegetables and whole foods are your friends always, but especially during menstruation. The fruit from sugar may help alleviate sugar cravings," explains health and fitness consultant Tari Rose. Try adding apricots, oranges, plums, pears, cucumbers, artichokes, corn and carrots to your diet.
2. Don't drink caffeine
Cutting back on caffeine intake can help reduce bloating and calm an irritable stomach. "Caffeine can increase stomach acid and be rough on sensitive intestines. If you want a rich-tasting coffee substitute, try my traditional Indian chai," professional chef and healthy living expert Jennifer Iserloh says.
3. Do eat calcium-rich foods
According to certified holistic health counselor and nutritionist Latham Thomas, women need at least 1,200 mg of calcium every day. "Some good sources of calcium include kale, collard greens, broccoli and yogurt."
Next Up: Don't eat too much salt
Originally published July 2010. Updated August 2017.
4. Don't eat too much salt
Though salt is crucial to good health, bloating and water retention can occur if you overdo it. According to Iserloh, nutritionists recommend a diet with 2,300 milligrams/day, or roughly one teaspoon. "The best way to control salt intake is to avoid processed and fast foods, many of which contain three to four times the salt you should have in one meal."
5. Do indulge in dark chocolate
Eyeing that chocolate bar? It's OK — give in! As Rose points out, having a piece of dark chocolate (with 60 percent or higher cacao bean) every day during your period will help soothe cravings. Plus, dark chocolate has helpful antioxidants and is linked to boosting serotonin, which can help improve your mood.
6. Don't skip the water
This one may feel counterproductive, but Rose explains that drinking more water will help your body release water retention and alleviate bloating. "Your body is retaining water because it's afraid of not getting enough. So, if you give it what it needs (more water) it will release the water it's holding onto."
Next Up: Do eat magnesium-rich foods
7. Do eat magnesium-rich foods
"Foods rich in magnesium like beans, tofu and peanuts are thought to reduce bloating in menstruating women," Thomas says.
8. Don't forget your vitamins
Thomas suggests adding vitamin-friendly foods to your diet, especially during your cycle. Vitamin E can help eliminate some PMS symptoms; you'll find it in avocado, hemp seeds and egg yolk. Vitamin B6 can help relieve bloating and boost your mood; find it in potatoes, bananas and oatmeal. Lastly, vitamin C and zinc support the health of a woman's eggs and reproductive system. Find vitamin C in grapefruits and lemons and zinc in pumpkin seeds and squashes.
9. Do eat some comfort food
Before you jump for joy at the thought of stuffing your face with a bowl full of Kraft Mac & Cheese, let us explain. The health-ified versions of your favorite comfort foods could be exactly what you need to make it through your period in one piece — by fending off those uncontrollable cravings. Eating lean protein and fiber can help to stabilize blood sugar and potentially reduce sugary and carby binges. Try toasting a piece of sprouted bread and slathering it with almond butter for breakfast or, better yet, to kick off a night of Netflix R&R.