Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is just one of those things that has a bad reputation, with very good reason! PMS is a condition that affects your physical health, emotions, and behavior during certain days of the menstrual cycle, usually just before the onset of your menses.
PMS symptoms usually start 5 to 11 days before menstruation and typically go away once menstruation begins. The exact cause of PMS is unknown. However, many researchers believe that it seems to be related to the fluctuating levels of hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, that occur in preparation for menstruation. For this reason, everything that is normal to the rest of the world is ‘ugh’ to anyone suffering from PMS. Bloating, headaches, moodiness, impatience — it only takes one symptom to throw you off your emotional balance and ruin your day.
Don’t worry, we come bearing good news. There are plenty of things you can eat to alleviate the symptoms and effects of PMS, which will also provide you with healthy nutrients, so you can actually kill two birds with one stone!
Foods To Fight: Mood Swings, Cramps, And Cravings
Snack smarter to beat PMS by including these delicious foods to your diet.
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1. Dark Chocolate
There is a whole lot of science behind this inexplicable chocolate craving we women face during our period.
- Chocolate releases “happy hormones” called endorphins that fight anxiety and helps fight the darkest of moods.1
- The key ingredient responsible for all the chocolatey goodness is the cocoa bean but the only glitch is that on its own it tastes very chalky. Adding in milk, sugar, and butter makes it a great sweet-tooth treat, but also makes it the cause of a lot of extra calories. Besides, the benefits of cocoa are also diluted. So to get the most out of chocolate, it’s best to stick to the healthier darker variety.
- Dark chocolate is also super high in magnesium, which helps alleviate cramps. Being a rich source of iron, which is essential for energy, is a good way to refurbish the iron content in your blood since you lose a lot of this mineral through your period blood.
- Dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants as well! This means it purifies your blood, is great for your heart, and gives you healthy glowing skin!2
Usually, the easiest way to know if your chocolate is “dark” or not is to choose one with a 70% or higher total cocoa content. Good quality dark chocolate always has chocolate liquor or cocoa listed as the very first ingredient. Several forms of cocoa may be listed, such as cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and cocoa butter, all of which are acceptable additions to dark chocolate.
Who’re we trying to fool; there is really never an alternative to chocolate. However, most people don’t like dark chocolate as it tastes very bitter. This is why they automatically tend to reach out for the milk chocolate variety. Try not to be one of those people. Dark chocolate, like we mentioned earlier, has a higher content of the original cocoa bean and has no extra sweeteners or fats, which means you won’t put on weight while eating it.
You can, however, melt a few blocks of dark chocolate and use it to dip bananas or strawberries in. These are naturally sweet foods that come with their own benefits (bananas contain potassium and strawberries are rich in vitamin C). Top it off with a handful of nuts and you’ve actually got yourself a dessert packed with nutrients and essential minerals!
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Always make sure to eat a handful of almonds with the brown “skin” left on. Almonds are a fabulous source of magnesium, a mineral which promotes stabilizes hormonal levels. It also reduces irritability, tension, and cramps, helping you wave goodbye to your mood swings.3
If you’re not a fan of almonds, you can go for plenty of other sources of magnesium that will help you with your mood swings and cramps. You could opt for leafy greens such as spinach, beans, and lentils, or roasted sunflower seeds, or even whole grains. Use a mix of these to whip up some fresh salads for quick hunger fixes, or simply add these as a side to each meal!
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Most of us tend to make coffee our best friend, especially when it’s that time of the month. But grabbing a cuppa every time you feel low on energy will only lead to more bloating, and will do you more harm than good by the time your day is over. 4Bring the sunshine back into your life with a wide range of all-natural, herbal teas. Perk up and beat the bloat with a mug and hot water as your weapons of choice.
Some of us tend to suffer from sudden bouts of nausea and experience an annoying bloating feeling in the abdomen region. Your go to for this problem would be ginger tea or even dandelion tea. Sip on some chamomile or peppermint tea to help relieve muscle spasms, cramps, and reduce the tension that leads to anxiety and irritability.
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4. Wholewheat Bread
The next time you have a mad sandwich craving, substitute your white bread with whole wheat bread. Simple carbs like white bread, have a habit of luring you with a brief feel-good high but will eventually, follow that up with a very wicked mood and energy crash.5 Wholewheat bread is instead, chock-a-block with health benefits. It’s high in magnesium content, which helps to reduce muscle tension, and has vitamins B and E that fight fatigue and depression.
When it comes to whole-grain bread, be aware of what you buy. Many breads marketed as whole-grain almost always show that they contain whole wheat flour but are made, in reality, from mostly white flour (also sometimes labeled unbleached or enriched wheat flour). The first ingredient on a pack of whole-grain bread should be whole-grain flour. The best whole-grain breads should have no white flour at all and are hardy, rough in texture, and toothsome. Whole-grain bread may take some getting used to, especially if you’re used to the white variety, —but it’s completely worth it.
If you’re not much of a bread person and lean more towards rice, make yourself a meal out of brown rice, beans, and legumes. Toss in a handful of sunflower seeds into your salads, or satisfy your cravings by making yourself trail mixes full of nuts. A combination of these options will help you get the right dosage of magnesium to prevent you from getting onto the much-dreaded mood swing.
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Don’t shy away from a bowl of yogurt; it can work brilliantly to help you balance your calcium levels during your menstrual cycle. Yogurt is loaded with calcium and Vitamin D, which when consumed in larger amounts, lead to less intense PMS symptoms.6This is because calcium fights depression and anxious feelings in the brain while vitamin D regulates the enzyme that produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps control moods.
Remember that calcium is most effective when you consume enough on a daily basis over a long time, not just when you’re fighting PMS.
In addition to dairy products like yogurt, other sources of calcium include sardines, salmon, and collard greens. Pile your plate with oranges, papayas, and strawberries and drink plenty of lemon-infused water to keep those calcium levels high.
The next time you PMS, tackle your carbohydrate and sweet cravings by eating ample amounts of the foods we just mentioned. Say adieu to cramps, bloating, fatigue, and crankiness and make life a little easier for you and everyone else around!
|↑1||Nehlig, Astrid. “The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance.” British journal of clinical pharmacology 75, no. 3 (2013): 716-727.|
|↑2||Corti, Roberto, Andreas J. Flammer, Norman K. Hollenberg, and Thomas F. Lüscher. “Cocoa and cardiovascular health.” Circulation 119, no. 10 (2009): 1433-1441.|
|↑3||Walker, Ann F., Miriam C. De Souza, Michael F. Vickers, Savitri Abeyasekera, Marilyn L. Collins, and Luzia A. Trinca. “Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention.” Journal of Women’s health 7, no. 9 (1998): 1157-1165.|
|↑4||Papakonstantinou, Emilia, Ioanna Kechribari, Κyriaki Sotirakoglou, Petros Tarantilis, Theodora Gourdomichali, George Michas, Vassiliki Kravvariti, Konstantinos Voumvourakis, and Antonis Zampelas. “Acute effects of coffee consumption on self-reported gastrointestinal symptoms, blood pressure and stress indices in healthy individuals.” Nutrition journal 15, no. 1 (2016): 26.|
|↑5||Pharr, Jennifer R. “Carbohydrate Consumption and Fatigue: A Review.” Nevada Journal of Public Health 7, no. 1 (2012): 6.|
|↑6||Premenstrual syndrome. University of Maryland Medical Center.|