Why a Plant-Based Diet Can Be Good for Periods
- Written by: Reshma Pathare
- A plant-based vegan diet has many health benefits, particularly during menstruation
- Read about how a vegan diet provides the right nutrition and also benefits menstrual health
It is no secret that the food we eat affects all aspects of our life. The menstrual health of a woman is no exception to this. Women are advised to eat nutritious foods during periods as they tend to lose some amount of blood and fluids during this time.
However, it has often been a matter of debate on whether choosing a plant-based diet over a non-vegetarian one can give you the right nutrition during such sensitive times.
To understand, let’s explore the connection between a plant-based diet and menstrual cycle, and a vegan diet and menstrual cycle.
What’s a vegan diet?
A vegan diet is a diet comprising plant-based foods. It strictly excludes any products of animal origin like meat, eggs, milk, dairy products, honey, etc. The vegan diet includes all products obtained from plant origin like fruits vegetables, beans, lentils, algae, nuts, seaweed, etc.
The vegan diet differs from a vegetarian diet as it’s not just meat that is excluded in a vegan diet, it basically excludes any product that is derived from animal origin.
Benefits of a vegan diet for menstrual health
The vegan diet has often been criticized for its lack of animal origin foods that are nutrition-rich. However, in the past decade, more and more people have been sowing the seeds for a plant-based diet . It has been a personal experience of many women that the vegan lifestyle has not only helped them with getting healthier, but has also helped in feeling better about themselves and their choices.
There is definitely a correlation between a vegan diet and periods.
- Some studies have shown that women who followed a vegan diet experienced lighter menstrual flow and fewer menstrual cramps. Maximizing the consumption of nutrient-dense plant-based foods and reducing the intake of processed foods has been beneficial for the overall health of many.
- Eating plant-based food helps in maintaining a healthy weight which keeps away the risks of PCOS and PCOD in many women. Weight management is easier with a vegan diet and this has helped a lot of women have a regular period cycle.
Vegan foods to eat on your period
By maintaining a well-planned and properly balanced vegan diet, it is possible to maintain good menstrual health. If you’re following a vegan lifestyle and are worried about how to get the right nutrition, worry not!
You can get it right by including a wide variety of plant-based foods in your diet. To maintain good harmony between a plant based diet and menstrual cycle, make sure to include the following types of foods in your diet:
Vegetables are a great source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. During menstruation days, the body loses blood and fluids throughout the week. Losing blood can cause a drip in iron levels which may lead to anemia. Many women are already anemic due to poor diet and health. Period days can take this a step further and induce weakness.Eating fresh vegetables can help in staying satiated and nutritionally sound. Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are rich in folate, iron, magnesium, and zinc which help regain lost blood and in managing PMS symptoms.
Fresh fruits are brimming with nutrients and natural sugars that vitalize the body and mind. Consuming fresh fruit can provide you with your daily dose of fiber.Fruits like avocados, musk melon, mangoes, etc. are rich in omega-3 fats which can benefit menstrual health by reducing period pain, cramps, and brain fog.
- Whole grains
Whole grains like barley, buckwheat, oatmeal, ragi, etc. are rich in proteins, minerals, and fiber. Whole grains also contain B vitamins which make them essential in a vegan diet.These proteins and fiber are essential for hormonal balance and can even help in preventing menstrual pain.
Proteins are essential in maintaining good health. They can help us stay satiated for longer hours. Proteins can help in regulating hormone levels which affect both mental and physical well-being during periods.Vegan protein options such as soy, tofu, edamame, seitan, etc. can help in maintaining a balanced diet during periods.
- Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are power-packed foods that can help in gaining energy and in performing daily functions. Red beans are packed with iron and proteins which are great for period days. Lentils are easy to digest can prevent problems like bloating while providing fiber and nutrition.
- Plant milk
Plant milk is usually obtained from nuts, seeds, or beans. Examples of plant milk are soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc.Including this milk in your diet is a great way of packing in healthy fats which help in hormone synthesis and maintaining reproductive health.
Nuts are packed with omega-3 fats, vitamins, and minerals like zinc and magnesium, these components benefit menstrual health by relieving uterine cramps and abdominal pain.Nuts even act as a good source of fiber which can help with period-related bloating.
Seeds like pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds are packed with magnesium and zinc which help to alleviate period cramps.These seeds also provide omega-3 fats which are essential for the reproductive and menstrual health of women.
Understanding phytoestrogens in plants & their benefits in women’s health
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds in plants. These compounds can have several health benefits for women’s health. By eating vegan period food, one can easily get these phytoestrogens and benefit from them.
Here are some ways in which these compounds can benefit various aspects of women’s health:
Relief from menstrual problems
Phytoestrogens have natural estrogen which can help in regulating period problems like severe abdominal aches, menstrual cramps, heavy period flow, and so on. It is advised to see a doctor for any problems related to menstrual health.
Protection from osteoporosis
Estrogen can help maintain bone density. Phytoestrogens can help in the prevention of osteoporosis.
Getting rid of acne
Phytoestrogens are female hormones but they can counter acne-causing androgens in women and relieve or prevent acne from occurring.
For Hypothalamic amenorrhea
Phytoestrogens can help in the treatment of low levels of estrogen and are often considered as an allied therapy for amenorrhea.
Phytoestrogens can help in the reduction of hot flashes and help in other symptoms of menopause.
It is now clear that diet and healthy food is key to good menstrual health. If you are on a vegan diet, the right way to have a happy period is to stay informed and consider asking your doctor about a vegan diet menstrual cycle, and supplements, if any, for a vegan diet during your menstrual cycle.
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- Barnard ND, et al. The Women’s Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS): a randomized, controlled trial of a plant-based diet and whole soybeans for postmenopausal women. Menopause. 2021 Jul 12;28(10):1150-1156.
- Kim K, et al. Urinary Phytoestrogens and Relationship to Menstrual Cycle Length and Variability Among Healthy, Eumenorrheic Women. J Endocr Soc. 2019 Dec 5;4(2):bvz003.