Period cravings: Beat cramps, bloat, & fatigue with these 5 recipes

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“Turns out, spinach and sweet potatoes have some pretty magical powers when it comes to period pain.”

The best recipes for period cramps (That actually taste good)

When you think about PMS or period cravings, the first thing that comes to mind is usually chocolate – followed by salty chips, ice cream, maybe a burger and fries. Oh, and Flaming Hot Cheetos (duh). 

It’s no wonder we crave these types of comfort foods around our period: They help distract us from painful cramps, fatigue, and the stress that tends to ramp up right before period day one. Unfortunately, what we crave might not be what’s best for our bodies. Succumbing to that late night Chick-Fil-A craving might actually leave you feeling worse than you did before hitting the drive-thru. 

On the flip side, there are a ton of nutrient-rich foods that can make PMS and cramps feel way better, or even disappear entirely. We’re not talking obscure, expensive herbs or potions – just the “boring” fruits and veggies you see lining the produce aisle of your average grocery store. Turns out, spinach and sweet potatoes have some pretty magical powers when it comes to period pain. 

If you’re worried that getting the right nutrients during your period means sacrificing flavor, think again. We put together a few Chrissy Teigen-worthy recipes that both your body and your tastebuds will genuinely enjoy. Plus, they’re quick and easy to prepare and can be done with limited kitchen equipment (read: even in your college dorm kitchen). 

Kiss cramps, bloating, fatigue, and breakouts goodbye with these five recipes for PMS or period pain. 


The 5 best recipes for period cramps & PMS

1. Cinnamon dark chocolate chip overnight oats

What, did you think we wouldn’t include chocolate in at least one of these recipes? Of course we did. Even better, you get to eat it for breakfast (and it’s actually good for you). 

Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium: It contains 50 mg in every 1-oz serving. And studies have found that magnesium can be helpful in reducing PMS symptoms, especially mood swings and stress, which may be more common if you’re nutrient deficient.1 Magnesium may also ease headaches and curb sugar cravings.2 

While you can certainly get extra magnesium in supplement form, the best way for your body to absorb it is by consuming foods that are naturally magnesium-rich. So, consider dark chocolate your new PMS BFF – and for even more magnesium, add tofu, pumpkin seeds, avocados, and almonds to your diet during your period.3 

Other helpful ingredients in this overnight oats recipe include cinnamon, which has also been shown to improve pain, nausea, and vomiting associated with primary dysmenorrhea, 4 chia seeds, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, and Greek yogurt, which contains probiotics that can help with bloating and digestive discomfort.5 Oh, and the bananas have magnesium, too! 

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup rolled oats (Old Fashioned, not Instant)
  • ½ cup almond milk (or cow’s milk, oat milk, soy milk – whatever milk you’re loyal to) 
  • 1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup (the real kind, please) or honey
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp dark chocolate chips 
  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt 
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp chia seeds (optional) 
  • 1 banana (optional)

Instructions:

  1. The night before: Mix all the ingredients EXCEPT the banana in a bowl or mason jar, preferably one with a lid. 
  2. Place the covered bowl or mason jar in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 6 hours). 
  3. The morning of: Grab a banana, slice ‘er up any way you like, and place it on top of your oats. Enjoy!

2. Sheet pan pesto salmon with roasted sweet potato & broccoli rabe

When you have your period and you’re totally wiped out, it’s hard to get up the motivation to cook dinner. Make it as easy as possible for yourself with this single-sheet pan dinner. You’ll have plenty of leftover pesto, too, to use up later in the week for pasta or a salad. The powerhouse ingredients will make you feel amazing any day of the month, but they’re especially helpful when you’re on your period. Here’s why: 

First, salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids,6 which are beneficial for so many different aspects of your health. In terms of period pain, omega-3s have been shown to reduce both the mental symptoms of PMS (like depression, nervousness, anxiety, and lack of concentration) and the physical symptoms (like bloating, headache, and breast tenderness).7 

Salmon has 1,900 mg of omega-3s per 3 oz serving – and the walnuts in the pesto pack a punch, too, with 2,570 mg per ounce.8 The sweet potato has lots of Vitamin B6, which has also been studied for its PMS-relieving effects,9 plus Vitamin C for an immune system boost. 

Finally, the broccoli rabe contains 100 mg of calcium in a 2/3rds-cup serving.10 Calcium has been fairly extensively studied in correlation with premenstrual symptoms, and there’s a strong indication that high calcium intake reduces the risk of PMS.11

sheet pan pesto salmon

Ingredients:

  • 2 (6oz.) salmon fillets (wild-caught is our favorite if you can find it)
  • 1 cup broccoli rabe, trimmed with tough stems removed
  • 1 ½ sweet potatoes, cubed
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lemon, sliced into wedges

For the pesto: 

  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups gently packed *fresh* basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Spray a large sheet pan with non-stick spray or cover with parchment paper.
  3. Make the pesto: Place the walnuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Add the basil, salt, and pepper, and pulse until the mixture looks like a thick paste. Then, with the food processor running, add your olive oil in a steady stream until fully incorporated. Add the parmesan and pulse 30 seconds more. Store in a mason jar for up to a week in the fridge. 
  4. Toss cubed sweet potatoes in a bowl with ½ tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika. Spread on one side of the sheet pan in an even layer. 
  5. Place sweet potatoes in the oven for 15 minutes until partially cooked. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the sweet potatoes. 
  6. Toss broccoli rabe with the other ½ tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on the other side of the sheet pan, leaving enough room for your salmon fillets. 
  7. Place salmon fillets in the middle of the sheet pan and top each with a heaping spoonful of your homemade pesto so it covers each fillet. Place 1 lemon wedge on each fillet. 
  8. Place the sheet pan back in the oven and bake for 15 minutes (you may need to leave the salmon in a couple of minutes longer depending on thickness). 

3. Thai ginger chicken stir fry

If your usual habit is ordering takeout during your period from the local Chinese or Thai hole in the wall, you may be surprised by how easily you can recreate your favorite meals at home – but way healthier and, TBH, better tasting. This simple recipe is ready in under 30 minutes and is almost impossible to mess up. 

How will it help your period, though? Well, for starters, the plentiful fresh ginger may significantly reduce period pain, a.k.a. dysmenorrhea: One 2012 study found that ginger “may be an effective and safe therapy for relieving pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea if administered at the onset or during the 3 days prior to menstruation.”12 Plus, ginger has long been used to remedy an upset stomach – and it just tastes good, so don’t skimp! 

Then you have baby bok choy, which contains loads of PMS-busting calcium (see above for the benefits of calcium for period pain) and is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.10 The shiitake mushrooms may have an anti-inflammatory effect, too.13

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips or bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce (optional)
  • ½ cup fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 2 cups baby bok choy leaves, cleaned with ends trimmed
  • ¾ cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves or cilantro (optional)
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice

Instructions:

  1. Stir the fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha sauce, garlic, and honey in a small bowl until combined. 
  2. Heat the avocado oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. 
  3. Season the chicken breast pieces with salt and pepper, then transfer to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides and nearly cooked through. 
  4. Add the mushrooms, bell pepper, and ginger to the pan and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Then, turn the heat up to high and pour in the sauce, stirring right away (it should sizzle). Let the sauce thicken for a minute or so, then lower the heat and continue to cook on medium for another 2-3 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Add the bok choy leaves and stir gently, allowing them to wilt down slightly. 
  5. Divide the rice between two bowls, top each bowl with stir fry, and garnish with basil or cilantro.

4. Any-meal avocado toast

The avocado is pretty much the queen of health foods – it adds an amazing dimension of flavor and texture to just about any savory meal, whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and even tastes great on its own with a simple slice of bread. We can do better than bland ‘cado toast, though: This recipe makes a meal out of what might otherwise be considered a snack, and it has the perfect balance of salt, spice, crunch, and lemony pizzazz. 

Why is it good for your period? Well, avocados have tons of magnesium, plus iron and potassium. The magnesium (as mentioned in the Overnight Oats recipe) can help with mood swings, stress, and the emotional burnout we often feel during our period.1 The iron is great if you experience especially heavy periods: The more blood you shed, the more prone you are to anemia (or an iron deficiency).14 The pumpkin seeds have TONS of iron, too, so you’re pretty much fully covered in that department. 

For added protein, top your toast with a fried or poached egg: You’ll benefit from the Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb the much-needed, PMS-fighting calcium found in other foods. Bonus points for multigrain bread made with flax seeds, which contain omega-3 fatty acids. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 avocado, quartered and then thinly sliced
  • 2 small slices or one large slice multi-seed or multigrain + flax seed bread, toasted
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 small radish, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds (salted or unsalted)
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp everything bagel seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 egg (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Arrange the avocado slices on your toasted bread in an even layer.
  2. Arrange the radish slices on top of the avocado.
  3. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over both slices (or your single slice).
  4. Sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds, paprika, everything bagel seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  5. Add a drizzle of olive oil, if desired. 
  6. Want to make it a more filling meal? Fry or poach your egg and put that on top, too!

5. Glow-up “salad in a smoothie”

This last recipe is another versatile, “in-between” type of meal: Have it for breakfast, as a post-workout pick-me-up, or even as a light lunch or dinner. You can add more protein powder or tofu if you want to make it heartier (or skip those ingredients if you don’t have ‘em on hand – no big deal). Keep frozen fruit in your freezer at all times for quick, simple smoothies on the go. 

Period-wise, just about every ingredient in this smoothie has something to offer. There’s the avocado which, as mentioned, gives you healthy fats, cramp-relieving magnesium, and iron.1 There’s the spinach, which has even MORE iron than the avocado and is an all-around PMS powerhouse food with tons of calcium.15 There’s the yogurt, for a probiotic boost. There’s the chia seeds and flax seeds with omega-3 fatty acids. And there’s enough berries and orange juice to hit more than 100% of your daily value of Vitamin C.16

Drink up, glow up, and kick PMS to the curb!

glow up smoothie

Ingredients: 

  • ½ avocado (fresh or frozen)
  • 2-3 big handfuls of fresh baby spinach 
  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup frozen banana slices
  • ⅓ cup frozen blueberries
  • ⅓ cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 ½ cups orange juice
  • ½ cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • 1 scoop collagen peptides or unflavored protein powder of your choice (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Place the avocado, Greek yogurt, frozen banana, and frozen berries in a blender.
  2. Add the chia seeds, flax seeds, and protein powder if desired, then shove in as much spinach as you can within your blender’s capacity (trust us on this – you won’t taste it!).
  3. Pour in the orange juice and almond milk (make sure you have enough liquid to cover the top of your other ingredients, but don’t overfill your blender). 
  4. Blend for 1-2 minutes until everything is totally combined. If needed, add a couple ice cubes to thicken it up. Enjoy!

References (Click to open/close)

  1. Quaranta, S., Buscaglia, M.A., Meroni, M.G. et al. Pilot Study of the Efficacy and Safety of a Modified-Release Magnesium 250mg Tablet for the Treatment of Premenstrual Syndrome. Clin. Drug Investig. 27, 51–58 (2007). https://doi.org/10.2165/00044011-200727010-00004Quaranta, S., Buscaglia, M.A., Meroni, M.G. et al. Pilot Study of the Efficacy and Safety of a Modified-Release Magnesium 250mg Tablet for the Treatment of Premenstrual Syndrome. Clin. Drug Investig. 27, 51–58 (2007). https://doi.org/10.2165/00044011-200727010-00004Quaranta, S., Buscaglia, M.A., Meroni, M.G. et al. Pilot Study of the Efficacy and Safety of a Modified-Release Magnesium 250mg Tablet for the Treatment of Premenstrual Syndrome. Clin. Drug Investig. 27, 51–58 (2007). https://doi.org/10.2165/00044011-200727010-00004
  2. Mauskop, A., Altura, B. T., Cracco, R. Q., & Altura, B. M. (1996). Intravenous magnesium sulfate rapidly alleviates headaches of various types. Headache, 36(3), 154–160. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1526-4610.1996.3603154.x
  3. Magnesium-Rich Food Information. (2014, December 1). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15650-magnesium-rich-food
  4. Jaafarpour, M., Hatefi, M., Najafi, F., Khajavikhan, J., & Khani, A. (2015). The effect of cinnamon on menstrual bleeding and systemic symptoms with primary dysmenorrhea. Iranian Red Crescent medical journal, 17(4), e27032. https://doi.org/10.5812/ircmj.17(4)2015.27032
  5. Bertazzoni Minelli, E., Benini, A., Vicentini, L., Andreoli, E., Oselladore, M., & Cerutti, R. (1996). Effect of lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum administration on colonic microbiota and its metabolic activity in premenstrual syndrome. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 9(6), 247-260. https://doi.org/10.3109/08910609609166465
  6. Omega-3-rich foods: Good for your heart. (2013, November 1). Harvard Health. Retrieved from health.harvard.edu/heart-health/omega-3-rich-foods-good-for-your-heart
  7. Sohrabi, N., Kashanian, M., Ghafoori, S. S., & Malakouti, S. K. (2013). Evaluation of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: “a pilot trial”. Complementary therapies in medicine, 21(3), 141–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2012.12.008
  8. Hjalmarsdottir, F. (2019, September 30). 12 Foods That Are Very High in Omega-3. Healthline. Retrieved from healthline.com/nutrition/12-omega-3-rich-foods
  9. Fathizadeh, N., Ebrahimi, E., Valiani, M., Tavakoli, N., & Yar, M. H. (2010). Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, 15(Suppl 1), 401–405.
  10. 14 Non-Dairy Foods That Are High in Calcium. (2014, September 7). Time. Retrieved from time.com/3265401/14-high-calcium-foods/14 Non-Dairy Foods That Are High in Calcium. (2014, September 7). Time. Retrieved from time.com/3265401/14-high-calcium-foods/
  11. Bertone-Johnson, E. R., Hankinson, S. E., Bendich, A., Johnson, S. R., Willett, W. C., & Manson, J. E. (2005). Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome. Archives of internal medicine, 165(11), 1246–1252. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.165.11.1246
  12. Rahnama, P., Montazeri, A., Huseini, H. F., Kianbakht, S., & Naseri, M. (2012). Effect of Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a placebo randomized trial. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 12, 92. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-12-92
  13. Finimundy, T. C., Dillon, A. J., Henriques, J. A., & Ely, M. R. (2014). A review on general nutritional compounds and pharmacological properties the Lentinula edodes Mushroom. Food and Nutrition Sciences, 05(12), 1095-1105. https://doi.org/10.4236/fns.2014.512119
  14. Peuranpää, P., Heliövaara‐Peippo, S., Fraser, I., Paavonen, J., & Hurskainen, R. (2014). Effects of anemia and iron deficiency on quality of life in women with heavy menstrual bleeding. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand, 93, 654-660. https://doi.org/10.1111/aogs.12394
  15. Gunnars, K. (2019, May 14). Spinach 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Healthline. Retrieved from healthline.com/nutrition/foods/spinach
  16. Robertson, R. (2020, August 19). The 8 Healthiest Berries You Can Eat. Healthline. Retrieved from healthline.com/nutrition/8-healthy-berries