Blog Nutrition Best Period Comfort Food: What To Eat For Cramps And Other PMS Symptoms

Best Period Comfort Food: What To Eat For Cramps And Other PMS Symptoms

For many women, periods are one of the most debilitating things they have to go through every month (or every other month for those with an irregular cycle). From irrational mood swings to feelings of anxiety and depression, insomnia, and appetite changes, women can go through a lot during that time of the month. 

Something that makes things a little more bearable is having the best period comfort food at hand to make you feel better. However, most period cravings are for foods that are not particularly healthy. 

If you’re looking for a healthier way to handle cravings during this time, then you’re in the right place. In this article, we’re going to be listing some food options that are healthy and can also help you with the severity of your cramps, making your next period week a little easier to handle.

Are Food Period Cravings Normal?

Yes, they are.

Before we tell you what to eat when you’re on your period, we must remind you that cravings before or during your menstruating week are completely normal and you should not be ashamed of them. 

Food cravings and slight increases in hunger levels are a regular part of the menstrual cycle – a fact that is supported by scientific studies:

  • An older study involving 300 female nurses published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine showed a direct relationship between food and sweet cravings and periods as well as common PMS signs such as tension and depression (17)
  • A review of 19 studies published in 1995 in the Physiology & Behavior journal showed that during this time, women’s food intakes fluctuate a lot and they can increase their daily food energy intake by up to 600 extra calories a day (or approximately 240 on average) (18).
  • A more recent study that was published in 2018 found that during the luteal phase (the period that starts after ovulation and ends on the first day of the period), women often have a higher intake of carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, and calcium.

They also found that the desire for foods that are rich in sugar, salt, and fat, such as chocolate, pastries, snacks, and desserts is higher during the premenstrual period (20).

More research on period cravings over the years has continued to show that period cravings are not only normal, but having them is also beyond our control.

Before menstruation, levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone generally peak and then start to drop. According to a study that was published in 2016, these hormone changes may lead to cravings for high-carb and sweet foods before and during your period (22).

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In a more recent study in the Nature Metabolism journal, researchers found that insulin action in the brain can affect insulin sensitivity in the rest of the body in different ways during different phases of the menstrual cycle (5). 

This hormone regulates glucose levels, metabolism, and food intake. Changes in insulin sensitivity may result in changes in appetite and cravings(5, 23).

  • Another theory on why women crave food during this time is that women may be unconsciously using food as a form of pharmacological therapy. 

Doing this helps boost serotonin, which makes them feel better by contributing to a general sense of well-being and happiness that is lacking due to pain and other mental health effects caused by periods (20).

  • Researchers have also suggested that turning to food provides a kind of physical and psychological comfort. Tasty foods play a kind of sensory role in fighting the unpleasant feelings that are caused by PMS (20).

From all of these studies, it can clearly be seen that yes, cravings before and during your period are absolutely normal.

best period comfort food  

What Foods Soothe a Period?

Painkillers are not the only thing that can soothe painful periods. Choosing the right foods can actually help you fight off PMS and cramps.

What Are Good Foods to Eat While on Your Period?

Many women often crave and reach for foods that are rich in sugar, salt, and fat, such as chocolate, pastries, snacks, and desserts right before and during their period. While many may think these are the best comfort foods during this period, they’re actually not.

They might taste good at the moment, they can be quite unhealthy, may increase cramps, and more often than not the person consuming them feels guilty for eating them. Here are some healthier food alternatives you should consider adding to your diet the next time you wonder what to eat on your period:


For many people, particularly those in Western countries, chocolate is top of the list of the best comfort food on period days (10). While this delicious snack will satisfy your sugar cravings, not all chocolate is good for you.

If you have to eat chocolate, we recommend you choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate.

Not only does the former have more beneficial plant compounds, it also has higher levels of magnesium. Due to hormonal fluctuations during menstruation, your magnesium levels drop, which can contribute to severe PMS symptoms such as cramps.

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One study found magnesium, vitamin D, and calcium statuses to be compromised in women with PMS, while another found that women with PMS who took a magnesium and vitamin B6 supplement showed improvements in their symptoms (28, 13).


This root has a fantastic flavor and is always a welcome addition to dishes, in addition to drinks such as teas. However, this isn’t all it’s good for.

According to one study that was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, ginger can help manage period cramps.

Researchers who worked on this study found that consuming approximately 1 g of ginger powder a day had the same pain-relieving effects on primary dysmenorrhea – the cramping pain in the lower abdomen that occurs just before or during menstruation – as common pain relievers.

If the person experiencing these pains isn’t suffering from other diseases such as endometriosis and cannot access common painkillers such as mefenamic acid and ibuprofen, ginger can work as a great substitute (6).


You may not think of a banana as the best period comfort food, but if you suffer from cramping, this simple and common fruit could be the savior you’re looking for. 

According to, bananas are among the most sought-after foods to help ease muscle cramps. They are high in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, three nutrients that help alleviate muscle cramps, which also might work on period cramps (19).

Healthy banana desserts such as delicious chocolate banana bites, banana puddings, and parfaits are much better for you during menstruation.

Fatty Fish

If cramps and depressive mood swings are the bane of your existence when menstruating, then making fish one of your best period comfort foods could be just what you need. Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are not only good for heart health, but for PMS too.

A study published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics found that women who increased their daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids had a noticeable pain reduction of primary dysmenorrhea. The pain reduced so much that they were even able to reduce the amount of ibuprofen they took to control their menstrual pain (12).

You should stock up on more tuna, salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, and mackerel and use them as your primary source of protein during this time.

Read more: Water Retention On Your Period: Why It Happens and What You Can Do About It

Fermented Foods

Thanks to more information about the incredible gut health benefits of these foods, the popularity of fermented foods is on the rise. Improved gut health is not only beneficial for digestion and nutrient absorption.

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A healthy gut helps regulate moods and also balances estrogen and manages period pain. Make sure to add more fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, and yogurt for a healthy gut and potentially less period pain (26, 2).

Pumpkin Seeds

A hearty bowl of pumpkin soup can provide you with comfort when you’re in bed dealing with painful menses-induced cramps. While this is good, saving the pumpkin seeds and consuming them too could go a long way to helping you deal with horrible cramps.

A meal with pumpkin seeds could be the best period comfort food thanks to the nutrients that are found in these seeds. They’re high in magnesium and zinc, which may help prevent and reduce painful cramping (13, 29).

Leafy Greens

Green leafy vegetables are rich in different vitamins and minerals and also have a myriad of benefits that make them great for your health. However, they make our list of the best period comfort food due to their high calcium levels.

A study published in 1993 showed that an increased calcium intake improved mood, concentration, and reduced pain during the menstrual phase of the cycle, and reduced water retention during the premenstrual phase (9). Calcium-rich leafy greens include collard greens, spinach, and kale.

best period comfort food  


Turmeric is well known for giving food (and everything else) a rich orange-yellow color and also contains trace amounts of minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, and potassium. 

A lesser-known fact is also that this root is rich in curcumin, a natural anti-inflammatory compound that is being researched for cancer prevention and treatment.

One study that was published in 2015 showed that curcumin may reduce the severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms including mood swings and more (7).

Natural Yogurt

Yogurt and other milk products are high in calcium, a mineral that is believed to help reduce cramp pains, bloating, and water retention caused by menstruation (25).


A study published in 2016 that examined the effect of peppermint in the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea found that peppermint may significantly lower average pain intensity and duration of pain, in addition to nausea and diarrhea (15).


While oranges are well known for their high amounts of vitamin C, which supports immunity, they’re also high in calcium, and orange juice is often fortified with vitamin D. One review on the role of vitamin D and calcium in premenstrual syndrome showed that supplementation of these two substances can help restore serum levels, which may eliminate or reduce PMS symptoms (4).


One study published in 2016 showed that women who supplemented their diets with vitamins D and E reported significantly reduced premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Broccoli contains Vitamins E, A, C, and B6, in addition to nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium that all may play a role in easing PMS symptoms (14).

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While water does not qualify as a best period comfort food, drinking it helps stop you retaining water and bloating, in addition to dehydration headaches.

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How Can I Satisfy My Period Hunger?

Feeling as if your stomach is a never-filling black hole before and during your period is absolutely normal. Instead of filling up on unhealthy (but still delicious) foods such as chips, bread, or pasta, be intentional and choose complex foods or carbs such as beans, lentils, brown rice, and oats.

While they may not be as exciting as the convenient foods you often reach for, they’re more nutritious and will keep you feeling full for longer. Ultra-processed food, while delicious, is made up of empty calories – it does nothing for your body other than taste good, which is sometimes what you need and that’s okay.

Not only does it have very few important nutrients, but it gets digested and used up really quickly and that’s why you find yourself eating so much and still feeling hungry. If you tend to want snacks more than actual foods, then opting for healthy sweet snacks is a better option.

Look up quick low-calorie mug cake recipes that require minimum effort, eat some cinnamon popcorn, dates with nut butter, or fruits with melted dark chocolate. The options are almost endless.

What Foods Should You Avoid During Your Period?

In the same way that some foods can help you during your period, some can worsen your symptoms. These foods include:


While legumes and lentils are good for you during all other times of the month, they may not be the best period comfort foods. If you’re prone to gastrointestinal discomfort and bloating during your period, legumes may not be the best option. They may actually make the bloating worse. 

However, if you don’t bloat, go ahead and enjoy legumes. They’re great complex carbs that help keep you fuller, thereby regulating increased appetite during this week.


Sugar cravings are quite common during and before menstruation, but you should avoid overindulging in candy and sweets during this time. 

You can satisfy your craving with something sweet, just don’t go overboard. Too much added sugar can really increase your calorie intake and contribute to weight gain. However, one treat won’t hurt, so don’t worry too much about it.

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Fried Foods

Craving foods such as pizza, donuts, and French fries is common during your period, but giving in to these cravings too often is not the best idea. Research has shown that diets that are rich in added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats make PMS and cramps worse (24, 21).

Soda and Other Carbonated Drinks

These drinks can worsen bloating, which is already an uncomfortable symptom of premenstrual syndrome. Many are also high in sugar, which may worsen cramps.


Drinking alcohol is a pastime enjoyed by many people. While alcohol can be good on some occasions, you should avoid drinking too much of it during your period. 

It can dehydrate you, worsen headaches, and cause bloating, in addition to leading to or worsening digestive issues, such as diarrhea and nausea.

An article from The New York Times also stated that alcohol can make PMS symptoms worse and may even lead to prolonged cramping (16).

Spicy Foods

If you don’t eat spicy food often, eating it during this time can upset your stomach, which can further lead to diarrhea, stomach pain, and even nausea. This is dependent on your personal tolerance and reaction to spicy foods, so you should use your own discretion.

Is It OK to Satisfy Period Cravings?

Yes, it is. If despite doing everything else, you still find yourself craving more unhealthy foods and snacks, then you should have some. The trick is to enjoy them in moderation as too much of them may make PMS symptoms worse.

Read more: Yoga for Period Cramps: Does It Work?

best period comfort food  


  • Does caffeine make cramps worse?

No, it doesn’t.

Caffeine has long been thought to contribute to painful cramps as it can act as a vasoconstrictor. Vasoconstriction is the narrowing ( or constriction) of blood vessels by small muscles in their walls, which slows down or completely blocks the flow of blood. 

This constriction was believed to lead to pain and women were often warned to stay away from caffeinated products during their period. However, despite this theory being believed by many, there is little scientific research that proves it to be true. 

Many studies actually show no relation to caffeine and cramps:

  1. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health linked caffeine consumption to premenstrual anxiety and mood changes, but not to menstrual cramps (8).
  2. Another study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition sought to study how caffeine and coffee affect premenstrual syndrome in women. 

At the end of the study, researchers found that caffeine has no relation to PMS symptoms such as cramps, breast pain, irritability, and fatigue, but they also stated that the current recommendations for women to reduce caffeine intake may not help prevent PMS development.

You may be able to drink four or more cups of coffee a day and it will have no impact on the intensity of your cramps (3).

  • Can I eat chocolate on my period?

Yes, you can.

Chocolate is one of the best period comfort foods that can soothe cramps and other symptoms. If you opt for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, you’ll get more antioxidants with your sweet treat.

  • What worsens period cramps?

As previously mentioned, foods such as red meat, high-sugar, high-salt, spicy, and fried foods may make period cramps worse.

  • What drinks help with period cramps?

Water is great for menstrual cramps. Tea is also a good option – ginger, chamomile, cinnamon, fennel, and green tea are excellent choices (27).

  • Can I drink milk during my period?

Yes, you can. Some sources claim that milk on your period is a bad idea as it may make cramps and other symptoms worse. However, this does not seem to have any scientific backing. In fact, research on the effect of milk on the menstrual cycle has shown that it has no effect whatsoever (1).

The Bottom Line

Trying to find the best period comfort food is not as difficult as you may imagine. While it may mean giving up the high-carb, high-fat, and high-sugar meals you often gravitate toward while menstruating, the final result is much better than battling cravings for a couple of days to a week.

Please remember that while these foods may taste delicious,  if they’re eaten in excess, they may worsen premenstrual symptoms such as depressive moods, cramps, bloating, and nausea, and make you feel even worse than you did before you ate them.

It can help to have healthier options at hand. Simple changes such as clearing out your pantry, making healthy substitutes for your best period comfort food, and keeping healthy snacks and vegetables at hand will ensure you’ll have the healthiest and best period comfort food.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. [Effects of daily consumption of milk powder on menstrual cycles and urine sex hormone concentrations of young women] (2014,
  2. 12 Foods That Will Make Your Period Cramps So Much More Bearable, According To RDs (2023,
  3. A prospective study of caffeine and coffee intake and premenstrual syndrome (2016,
  4. A systematic review of the role of vitamin D and calcium in premenstrual syndrome (2019,
  5. Brain insulin action on peripheral insulin sensitivity in women depends on menstrual cycle phase (2023,
  6. Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea (2009,
  7. Curcumin attenuates severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (2015,
  8. Diet and lifestyle factors associated with premenstrual symptoms in a racially diverse community sample: Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) (2007,
  9. Dietary calcium and manganese effects on menstrual cycle symptoms (1993,
  10. Does culture create craving? Evidence from the case of menstrual chocolate craving (2017,
  11. Do Food Intake and Food Cravings Change during the Menstrual Cycle of Young Women? (2018,
  12. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on intensity of primary dysmenorrhea (2012,
  13. Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome (2010,
  14. Evaluating the effects of vitamin D and vitamin E supplement on premenstrual syndrome: A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial (2016,
  15. Evaluation of mint efficacy regarding dysmenorrhea in comparison with mefenamic acid: A double blinded randomized crossover study (2016,
  16. Fighting Food Cravings and PMS (2019,
  17. Food Cravings, Depression, and Premenstrual Problems (1969,             
  18. Food intake and the menstrual cycle: A retrospective analysis, with implications for appetite research (1995,
  19. Foods That May Help With Muscle Cramps (2022,
  20. I need chocolate. And chips. Oh yes, pizza, too: PMS food cravings are the real deal. (2019,
  21. Major dietary patterns in relation to menstrual pain: a nested case control study (2018,
  22. Menstrual cycle hormones, food intake, and cravings (2016,
  23. Period Food Cravings Are Real. A New Brain Finding Could Explain Why They Happen (2023,
  24. Premenstrual Syndrome Is Associated with Dietary and Lifestyle Behaviors among University Students: A Cross-Sectional Study from Sharjah, UAE (2019,
  25. Role of vitamin D and calcium in the relief of primary dysmenorrhea: a systematic review (2021,
  26. Science Says You Can Heal From A Breakup With Food (2023,
  27. The 6 Best Tea for Reducing Menstrual Cramps, According to Experts (2021,
  28. The Association between the Risk of Premenstrual Syndrome and Vitamin D, Calcium, and Magnesium Status among University Students: A Case Control Study (2015,
  29. Zinc treatment prevents dysmenorrhea (2007,
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