Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a major road-block to healthy eating. The cravings can get pretty intense, never mention the fatigue, bloating and low motivation that comes in the same package. All the efforts towards eating better and exercising more gets sabotaged by PMS. This post is for those of you health warriors out there who is determined to stop letting PMS throw you off the track.
One of my favourite tips to conquer the PMS monster is making sure I get plenty of the following key nutrients during a specific window each cycle. This magic window is two weeks prior to the start of the period, called the luteal phase. During this time, the body needs to take on emotional and physical changes due to the natural fluctuations in your hormone levels. These key nutrients help to nourish your body and mind and provide building blocks for your hormones. The more you can get these beautiful nutrients into your body during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, the more your body can take on the changes with ease.
Do you find yourself reaching for that chocolate bar around the time of your period? I confess I had my fair share of chocolate cravings. Although there are many other reasons one might just need a chocolate moment (get tips to support your chocolate cravings for other parts of the month), there is a good reason chocolate craving hits your around the time of your period.
According to USDA database, chocolate is rich in magnesium and the higher percentage of the cocoa, the higher the magnesium the chocolate contains. There are two reasons you might need chocolate when PMS-ing.
Reduce mood swings: this mineral supports healthy levels of progesterone in the second half of the cycle. Progesterone what Dr. Natasha Turner called the “anti-PMS” hormone and maintaining a good level of this hormone keeps you calm, well-nourished, well-rested in the second half of your cycle.
This mineral also help to reduce cramps and headaches: this mineral is also a natural tranquilizer. Muscle spasm in the uterus and restricted blood flow in the brain lead of menstrual cramps and migraine. Studies have shown magnesium works by relaxing muscles and blood vessels.
You see, a little indulgence before your period is not a bad thing at all.
A balanced diet needs to include a reasonable amount of treats.
However, if PMS happens to be asking for a big chocolate bar every day, I have some tasty alternatives that supplies your body with the magnesium so it won’t be demanding that chocolate fix. The Dietary Reference Intake for Magnesium is 400mg for adult males and 310 mg for adult females.
A small dark chocolate bar (80% cocoa) contains 146 mg magnesium
Equal weight of sunflower seeds contains 325 mg magnesium
pumpkin seeds contains 202 mg magnesium
spinach contains 79 mg magnesium
kale 47 mg magnesium
Feel free to mix and match your favourite ingredients when the PMS chocolate craving hits.
Zinc is another nutrients required to build balanced and happy hormones. It works together with other minerals such as chromium, magnesium, calcium to keep your mood and appetite in check. Zinc is also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. If acne gets out of control around that time of the month, try to get in some zinc-rich food in your diet. A recent study has shown that low zinc levels has been proven to be linked with more severe breakouts compare to people with normal zinc levels.
Consider some of these zinc-rich foods: oyster, beef, lamb, sesame, pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas
3. Calcium & Vitamin D
You may have heard these two nutrients are important to build healthy bones, but more recent studies have indicated that they take on other important roles such as keeping PMS at bay. Calcium and magnesium work together to reduce irregular spasm of the uterus and vitamin D behaves like a hormone and help the body to metabolize excess hormones.
Consider some of these dairy-free calcium rich foods: while beans, canned salmon & sardines, dried figs, almonds, kale, sesame seeds.
Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” 20 to 25 minutes of exposure in during the summer is helpful.
During the dark winter months, my favourite Vitamin D supplements:
4. Vitamin B6
This B vitamin is crucial for healthy, balanced hormones . It helps with balance water levels in your body. Fluid retention is linked with B6 deficiency. Getting this nutrient might benefit your PMS symptoms by reducing joint aches and pains, smoothing out the bloated stomach, reducing cramps. Vitamin B6 also help the body metabolize excess estrogen which contribute to keep mood swings in check.
Consider some of these foods high in B6: sunflower seeds, pistachios, chickpeas, chia seeds, salmon, halibut, bananas, Brussels sprouts, spinach
5. Healthy fats
Fats can be our friends. The natural fats from nuts and seeds, salmon, avocado, chia seeds provides the body with building blocks for healthy hormones. They contain a special kind of fat that our body is not able to produce on its own, which is called essential fatty acids (EFA). A recent study have shown women who are given EFA supplements have reduced joint pain, bloating and mood changes. Ancient wisdom has been using nuts and seeds to help women balance their menstrual cycles, reduce menstrual pain and bring back absent periods. Seed oils are naturally high in EFAs. Combining different types of seeds through a women’s menstrual cycle support the body and mind to adapt to the fluctuating hormones levels.
Consider some of these high EFA foods: almonds, walnut, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, salmon, avocado
For lifestyle strategies on beating PMS click here.
What are some of your favourite foods from the PMS-fighting ingredients listed above? If you decide to give them a try, I’m interested to know what are some of your favourites ways to incorporate your PMS-fighting ingredients into your diet. Share and comment below!