For at least one week a month, every month, a large number of us women experience bloating, mood swings, uncontrollable sugar cravings, and feeling, well, just a bit bleurgh. And for many women this is seen as an inevitable part of life. We blame the “time of the month” for irrational outbursts, zero tolerance to anyone/ anything, and the need to ravish chocolate in unlimited quantities; leaving us guilt-ridden but still wanting more! And whilst it may seem to be what our body wants and needs, a sugar binge does nothing to help ease the symptoms of PMS; in actual fact it can make them worse. However, there are food cures that target the underlying hormonal imbalances behind PMS, and can help to get the symptoms under control. Here are my top 6 PMS-fighting foods:
- Spinach is a fantastic source of magnesium, which has a very important role to play in female hormone balance. Studies have shown women who suffer with PMS to have lower blood levels of magnesium compared to women who don’t display any symptoms. In fact, the body’s clamoring for magnesium is thought to play a large part in those intense pre-menstrual chocolate cravings. Just one cup of spinach provides 40% of your daily recommended value of magnesium, and there are many very easy ways to incorporate spinach into your diet. Spinach 3 ways- lightly steam spinach until it begins to wilt, and toss with some pressed garlic, lemon juice and olive oil; sprinkle steamed spinach with some lightly toasted pine nuts or some freshly grated nutmeg; or simply add some baby spinach leaves to your lunchtime salad or sandwich.
- Brown rice contains the trio of magnesium, vitamin B6 and manganese, which work in synch to help ease PMS symptoms. Manganese levels in women are known to fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, and in one clinical study women who ate 5.6 mg of manganese in their diets each day had fewer mood swings and cramps in comparison to those who ate only 1 mg of manganese. Other foods rich in manganese include nuts and seeds, whole grains (buckwheat, bulgur wheat, and oats), legumes, and pineapples.
- Sweet potato is a great source of vitamin B6, which has been found to help ease many PMS symptoms including irritability, depression and mood swings. Vitamin B6 plays a vital part in synthesizing the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) dopamine and serotonin which control mood and behaviour. For a delicious side dish, bake sweet potato and mash with a drizzle of honey, cinnamon and black pepper.
- Salmon is bursting with omega-3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties and may help to ease the pain and cramping of period pains. It is also one of the best dietary sources of vitamin D, which has been found in studies, in conjunction with calcium (also found in salmon), to reduce the symptoms of PMS. It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D through diet alone, so women suffering from PMS are also advised to top up with a supplement.
- Natural yoghurt is rich in calcium, and the findings of one large study found a diet including calcium-rich dairy products lowered the risk for developing PMS by as much as 40%. Have it for breakfast sprinkled with nuts and pumpkin seeds for additional calcium, manganese and magnesium. For those who are lactose-intolerant, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach and kale) all provide an excellent source of calcium.
- Nuts should be your to-go snacks if you have a tendency to suffer from PMS-induced mood swings. Packed full of protein and fibre, they provide a slow-release energy source that will keep “happy hormone” serotonin levels boosted, promoting a feeling of well-being and relaxation. Make up a trail mix of mixed raw unsalted nuts (cashews, almonds, Brazil, walnuts, pistachios), and grab a handful every time you need a pick-me-up.