Cramps, bloating, fatigue and irritability are only four of the 150 premenstrual syndrome symptoms people experience leading up to their period. PMS is the time of the month right before your period starts, when symptoms are frustrating, often debilitating, and downright annoying. Many people who cycle have been taught to hate their period for this very reason; but, there is a lot that can be done to help reduce PMS naturally through the wonders of food. Read on for the best foods to help PMS symptoms.
Related: What to Eat During the 4 Phases of Your Menstrual Cycle
If you need help calming PMS mood swings and pain: eat dark chocolate. Chocolate tends to be one of the most craved foods right before your period starts and it may be for good reason. Dark chocolate (not milk chocolate, unfortunately!) is rich in potassium, magnesium and fiber. These nutrients can help alleviate bloating and pain and calm smooth muscles of the uterus. Dark chocolate also naturally boosts serotonin, your happiness chemical; but like anything, too much of a good thing can be bad and overdoing it on dark chocolate may exacerbate unwanted symptoms.
Carb cravings tend to be heightened during PMS so choosing soothing, sweet and grounding starches like sweet potatoes is a great way to satisfy that craving. Sweet potatoes are naturally rich in vitamin B6, which is needed to help boost the brain-chemical, GABA, responsible for feelings of serenity. Vitamin B6 also helps calm hormones naturally by boosting progesterone levels. Low levels of progesterone, especially relative to estrogen, can worsen PMS symptoms significantly.
Salmon is rich in omega-3s, these are fatty acids that are essential for the body, meaning you can’t make them internally and you must get them through diet or supplementation. Luckily, salmon is brimming with omega-3s that work to dampen inflammation helping ease cramping. Studies found that omega-3s may help reduce depression, anxiety and lack of concentration that often emerge during this time.
Whether grabbing these as a crispy treat, topping them on salads or dipping carrots or crackers into hummus, chickpeas are the ultimate PMS-friendly food. Their high-fiber content helps escort excess estrogen out of the body; which is a good thing, because too much estrogen may lead to breast-tenderness, mood swings, acne and irritability.
Turmeric is the most well known spice for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, so of course, it made the list of top 10 foods to ease PMS symptoms. Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, has been studied to help reduce period pain, fatigue and anxiety during PMS.
Whether you refer to these crunchy seeds as pepita or pumpkin, they are PMS-busting powerhouses. One serving of pumpkin seeds, about two ounces, accounts for almost half the recommended daily intake of zinc. Zinc is needed to boost progesterone and the calming neurotransmitter, GABA. Studies have also found people with low-levels of zinc experience greater PMS symptoms.
Sardines boast a lot of nutrients that help balance hormones like omega-3s, protein, calcium and vitamin D. Research shows that low serum levels of calcium and vitamin D were found to cause or exacerbate PMS symptoms. Whether you love sardines or can’t stand them, these teeny-tiny fish may do wonders for your PMS symptoms.
Broccoli and its many cousins in the cruciferous family, like cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, and kale, all contain a powerful compound called indole-3-carbinol, which helps the liver process estrogen and aids in clearing it from the body. Excess estrogen may be responsible for heightening PMS symptoms, like breast tenderness, cramps and mood swings.
Whether you’re vegetarian or not, including lentils in your diet is a must. This is because lentils are an incredible source of both protein and fiber–helping keep your blood sugar steady; which is important for PMS sufferers. Sugar and carb cravings can be intense during this time and for some, it’s helpful to avoid overly sugary-foods during PMS. Eating fiber and protein-rich foods, like lentils, are quite satiating and may help curb these cravings. Lentils are also a rich source of iron, which may help combat severe fatigue leading up to your period.
Flaxseeds are phytoestrogens — these are estrogen-like substances found in plants. Phytoestrogenic foods help relieve common PMS symptoms, like fatigue, cramping and bloating, by regulating estrogen based on what your body needs. Flax is also rich in soluble fiber, helping eliminate excess estrogen from the body and keeping the gut healthy.
Read more: The Ultimate Salad to Eat After Your Period