Dr Hazel Wallace shares three recipes from her new book, The Female Factor, that will help to balance your hormones and boost your iron levels when you’re on your period.

Period ‘cravings’ are nothing new. From Ben and Jerry’s to a big bar of chocolate or a pizza from that one specific takeaway down your road, many of us will have foods we turn to during our time of the month. But this isn’t just about habit – our nutritional needs are actually different when we’re on our period, and that includes the amount of calories our bodies need and specific nutrient requirements. This is due to a fluctuation in sex hormones including progesterone and oestrogen.

The fact that we have a monthly bleed also puts us at higher risk for iron deficiency. According to 2011 research in the European Journal Of Obstetrics & Gynecology And Reproductive Biology, 15-18% of women are iron deficient. You’re also at a higher risk if you regularly exercise or have heavy periods. 

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So topping up on the mineral is essential, which is why Dr Hazel Wallace, medical doctor, registered dietician and founder of The Food Medic, has shared three recipes from her new book, The Female Factor, that all provide at least 15% of the daily reference intake of iron.

  • Almond butter, raspberry and granola quesadilla

    Almond butter, raspberry and granola quesadilla

    Dr Wallace’s take on the quesadilla is a great source of iron that satisfies any morning sweet cravings you have on your period.


    Serves one

    • 1 large wholewheat tortilla wrap
    • 1 tbsp almond butter
    • Handful of raspberries
    • Handful of granola

    To serve

    • Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt alternative


    1. On one half of the tortilla spread the almond butter. 
    1. Top with the raspberries (squashing them down with the back of a fork), and sprinkle the granola on top. 
    1. Fold over the other half of the tortilla.
    1. Place the folded wrap in a frying pan over a medium heat. 
    1. Toast for 2–3 minutes, until golden on both sides. 
    1. Cut in half, and serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt. 

  • Egg, potato and cashew pesto salad

    Egg, potato and cashew pesto salad

    Hearty, filling food is an absolute must when you’re on your period. And this potato salad provides just that, as well as a great source of brain-loving fats.


    Serves two

    • 500g baby potatoes, washed and cut into 1cm slices
    • Salt and black pepper
    • 2 eggs
    • 250g asparagus, woody ends removed
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 spring onions, chopped
    • For the cashew pesto

      • 80g cashew nuts
      • 4 tbsp olive oil
      • Handful of fresh basil leaves
      • 1 tbsp parmesan (or nutritional yeast)
      • 1 garlic clove
      • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
    • Chicken biryani

      Chicken biryani

      For a quick and tasty dinner, you can’t go wrong with this chicken biriyani. It’s bursting with aromatic spices and it’s high in protein to support aching muscles during your period.


      Serves six

      • 3 tbsp olive oil
      • 1 onion, thinly sliced
      • 1 tbsp whole cumin seeds
      • 4 boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
      • 5 tbsp tomato purée
      • 5 tbsp Greek yogurt
      • 100g frozen peas
      • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
      • 2 red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
      • 1 tbsp garam masala
      • 1½ tsp ground turmeric
      • 350g basmati rice, rinsed until water runs clear
      • 1 litre chicken stock
      • 1 tsp fine sea salt
      • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
      • Large handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped, plus more to garnish
      • 1 lime, cut into wedges
      • Method

        1. Put the oil into a large pan with a tightly fitting lid and set over a medium heat.
        2. Add the onion and cumin seeds and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until translucent.
        3. Add the chicken, tomato purée, yogurt, peas, garlic, most of the chillies, the garam masala and turmeric and cook for another 5 minutes, until sizzling and aromatic.
        4. Stir in the rice, stock and salt (omit the salt if your stock is already salted), bring to the boil, then reduce the heat a little and simmer for 10–15 minutes, until most of the stock has been absorbed. 
        5. Stir frequently to prevent the rice sticking and burning.
        6. Turn off the heat, place the lid on top and leave to steam for 10 minutes.
        7. Stir the butter and most of the coriander through the mixture.
        8. Serve with the remaining coriander and sliced chillies scattered over and lime wedges on the side.

        The Female Factor: Making Women’s Health Count And What It Means For You by Dr Hazel Wallace is available now (£22, Yellow Kite).

        Images: Lizzie Mayson

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