We all crave foods at certain times. Sometimes it’s an urge to indulge in the sweetest food available. Other times it may be a craving for foods you wouldn’t normally eat. However, the sudden hearty appetite that can appear during menstruation is something many women will identify with.
A common myth is that overeating will occur during menstruation, but research has shown that the changes in actual food intake are likely to be minor. It’s also unlikely to contribute to weight gain, given the slight (5-10%) rise in metabolism that occurs at the same time. Weight gain during this period is often the result of fluid retention, so it is important not to be disheartened by a temporary increase on the scales.
The average menstrual period ranges from 4-8 days. So what survival skills can be implemented to ensure that healthy eating efforts are maintained during this time?
"Magnesium has been reported to reduce cravings, and may drop leading up to menstruation."
1. Eat regularly
Small, regular meals help to prevent overeating at main meals, help stabilise blood sugar levels, reduce the number of persistent cravings, and make you less irritable. Ideally, a meal should contain three components:
- High fibre, low glycemic index foods such as wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes, fruit and starchy vegetables.
- Lean, protein containing foods such as fish, meat, poultry, unsalted nuts, tofu (soy protein) and eggs.
- Food containing healthy fats, such as nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocado or oily fish.
Protein and fat reduce the rise in blood sugar levels after a meal, allowing the food to digest and release energy more sustainably.
2. Fill up on healthy snacks
Enjoy fruit with yoghurt or vegetables with dips such as hummus and guacamole. Have these readily available and chopped up ready to eat.
3. Add magnesium
Magnesium has been reported to reduce cravings, and may drop leading up to menstruation. Chocolate is high in magnesium, likely explaining chocolate cravings. Consider other foods containing reasonable amounts of magnesium such as nuts, seeds, brown rice and legumes. If you do have chocolate, opt for a dark variety containing at least 70% cocoa.
4. Try to relax
Stress can increase cravings so learn some relaxation techniques, or plan another activity you find relaxing, such as a long walk.
5. Boost your serotonin
Both sunshine and foods rich in trypotophan (mainly found in animal and soy protein) may boost the feel good hormone, serotonin.
Get moving either through planned exercise or other enjoyable physical activities. It will produce endorphins (more feel good hormones) and decrease appetite.
Nutrition and regular physical activity are key to overall good health, helping us to feel better, think clearer and perform better. Don’t eat less – eat right.
Look after yourself with nourishing food, relaxation and gentle exercise to keep those munchies at bay.