Eat These 5 Foods to Ease Your PMS Symptoms

Fight monthly bloating, mood swings, cravings, and more with these easy additions to your diet.
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Fight monthly bloating, mood swings, cravings, and more with these easy additions to your diet.

Getting your period may be a natural part of being a woman, but it's still a total pain. Bloating, headaches, moodiness, cravings, and fatigue are just some premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms that can make the pre-period week uncomfortable and unpleasant for you—and for anyone who stands between you and the last doughnut hole.

Before the late 1980s, PMS was thought to be a psychological disorder rather than a physiological response to hormonal fluctuations necessary to have children—which surely irritated women beyond normal PMS levels. It's now commonly considered a medical condition. And with evidence about effective dietary treatment options slowly unfolding, it’s apparent that certain nutrients can actually help reduce PMS symptoms.

Here are five foods you should include in your diet, especially when PMS symptoms start acting up.

PMS, nutrition

Art Credit: Haruka Sakaguchi

01. Yogurt

Women with moderate to severe PMS frequently have low calcium levels, which yogurt has in abundance. A large randomized study found that women who consumed 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day had a 48 percent decrease in PMS symptoms (compared with just a 30 percent reduction in the placebo group). Plus, the effect of calcium increased with duration of supplement use. In addition to providing calcium, some yogurts also contain vitamin D, which is associated with less risk of PMS pains.

02. Amaranth

This naturally gluten-free grain packs 479 milligrams of magnesium per cup. The mineral is shown to boost your mood and reduce water retention in women with PMS. When cooked, amaranth grains turn into a thick porridge with a texture similar to chia seeds. They can easily be mixed in with other oats or enjoyed on their own. Other magnesium-rich foods include leafy greens like spinach, nuts and seeds (such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and almonds), beans, lentils, and potatoes.

03. Red Meat

Although red meat often gets a bad rap, it’s a good source of iron, which assists in the production of serotonin—a chemical in the brain that regulates mood and pain sensitivity. Because women lose iron during menstruation, they are at a greater risk for insufficient iron levels. In a ten-year study with more than 3,000 participants, researchers found that women with the highest dietary iron intakes were less likely to suffer from PMS than those with the lowest intakes. Before you down an iron supplement, please note it can be harmful to get too much of the mineral. But your body does a good job at regulating how much to absorb when you obtain iron from food. So instead, incorporate foods with iron, like red meat, lentils, and spinach, into your diet. Even better, pair these foods with a vitamin C-rich food, such as red bell peppers, to enhance iron absorption.

04. Chickpeas

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas can complement a stir-fry or be ground down into creamy hummus to add three PMS-fighting nutrients to your diet: magnesium, vitamin B6, and manganese. Magnesium, as mentioned above, helps fight water retention and bloating. Both vitamin B6 and manganese help with moodiness and irritability, familiar PMS symptoms for many women.

05. Chamomile Tea

When you're stressed and irritable, there’s nothing better than a warm cup of tea. Widely used as a traditional remedy for PMS, chamomile tea may be particularly helpful in alleviating menstrual cramps by relaxing muscle tension. Chamomile tea is also naturally caffeine-free, making it an ideal choice since caffeine can exacerbate PMS symptoms.

In addition to including these foods in your diet, be sure to get enough quality sleep, practice de-stressing methods like mediation and deep breathing, and engage in light exercise (such as yoga) to help manage PMS symptoms. And if you’re really craving that doughnut hole, go ahead and enjoy it. Sometimes the only real remedy for PMS is indulging in a sweet treat.