What foods can give a menstruating woman energy?
As a female, your body is quite different from male bodies, considering your menstrual cycles and the capability to carry a baby. It is a privilege men will never experience.
Whilst menstruation is a thing to be celebrated - it signifies that your female body is healthy and fertile - in reality, it may cause you to feel lethargic, drained or unsociable. The good news is that integrating certain foods and nutrients can help prevent these symptoms. Just by following a healthy diet, you can achieve optimum energy levels.
The menstrual cycle
This beautiful yet often unpleasant process occurs monthly in a healthy, fertile female. Regularity confirms that your body is capable of producing and growing a foetus. An absent or irregular cycle, on the other hand, signifies something is wrong, whether it is a result of inadequate nutrition, low body weight, hormonal imbalance or stress.
At the start of each cycle, oestrogen levels rise, helping the uterus lining to grow and thicken. An imbalance of oestrogen and progesterone levels can inhibit a normal cycle and may be influenced by your nutritional and caloric intake.
Risk of anaemia
Considering the amount of blood that is lost during menstruation, women are more likely to become anaemic than men. Anaemia occurs when there are fewer-than-average circulating red blood cells and lower-than-average haemoglobin levels.
Haemoglobin is the iron-containing oxygen-transport molecule in red blood cells. Iron attaches to circulating oxygen and, in iron's absence, haemoglobin function and oxygen transport throughout the body fail.
Anaemia symptoms include lethargy, weakness, pale skin and nausea. Women need about 18 milligrams of iron daily, as approximately 1 milligram of iron is lost for every day of menstruation. Your consumption of folate and vitamin B-12 is also necessary for the release of mature, healthy red blood cells. Increasing your daily intake of iron, folate and vitamin B-12 will help improve your energy levels.
During your period, you may experience cravings for sugar, chocolate and other refined carbohydrates. Your cravings often result from the extra nutrients your body requires, due to an increase in hormone levels and possibly increased insulin release which can reduce your blood sugar, causing you to crave or require more sugar/carbohydrate sources.
Eat healthy fats and cut down on refined carbohydrates and caffeine, which can only make you feel more tired. Sweet cravings can indicate a hormonal imbalance of greater oestrogen than progesterone levels. Vitamin B-6 may also help with premenstrual symptoms, but further study is required.
Now you know which nutrients can improve your energy levels, let’s take a look at where you can increase these within your diet:
- Iron - The best food sources of iron (besides red meat) include wheat, pulses, dark green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, dried fruit, black beans, eggs, blackstrap molasses, dates and pumpkin seeds. To increase your iron absorption, eat an orange or take a vitamin C supplement of approximately 200 to 250 milligrams with your meal.
- Vitamin B-12 - Solely found in meat, eggs and dairy products unless you take a vitamin supplement.
- Folate - Found in many food sources, especially meat, fish, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, legumes and lentils. To alleviate tiredness, avoid tea, alcohol or calcium with your meals, as these inhibit iron absorption.
For more help and advice, visit our women’s nutrition section. Here you can find specific nutrition information for a range of topics, including pregnancy and preconception, PMS, polycystic ovary syndrome and the menopause.
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