Fatigue, bloating, acne, junk food cravings, restlessness — sound familiar? If you’re a lady, chances are that you’ve experienced one or all of these symptoms at one time or another. Indeed, it is estimated that a staggering 40 percent of women of reproductive age experience some form of PMS — that’s short for Premenstrual Syndrome. The physical and psychological symptoms of this syndrome are typically experienced seven to 10 days before we get our monthly period. This corresponds to the luteal phase of our cycle, the time following ovulation where our hormones start to drop.
For women suffering from PMS, this normal fluctuation in hormones brings about an oversensitive response from neurotransmitters and neurohormonal systems in the body. Serotonin and GABA, two important types of neurotransmitters who help us regulate our mood, food cravings, sleep patterns, and even stress, are impacted the most by the changes in estrogen and progesterone hormone levels during our cycle. In other words, if you’re experiencing PMS, the balance between your hormones and your brain chemicals is out of whack.
Thankfully, it’s possible to reestablish harmony in our hormones and alleviate the symptoms related to PMS by doing one simple thing: tweak our diet. Having a diet generally low in cholesterol, sugar, salt, and caffeine has been linked to a lower incidence of PMS. On the flip side, following a typical Western diet has been shown to augment your risk of having PMS.
Consuming foods rich in vitamins and minerals can significantly help lessen your PMS symptoms, so here are seven foods packed with nutrition that you should add to your diet before it’s that time of the month:
Next time your PMS has you reaching for a sweet treat, choosing berries instead of your usual pint of (vegan) ice cream could make all the difference. Not only are berries packed with antioxidants that benefit your brain and immune system but they’re a powerful ally to combat the symptoms of PMS because they help our bodies get rid of excess harmful estrogen. As a bonus, the phytochemicals contained in berries such as quercetin, ellagic acid, resveratrol also protect you against estrogen-induced breast cancer because of their ability to balance hormones.
Get your fill of nature’s candies by snacking on them as much as you care for or add them to these delicious Berry Coconut Smoothie Bowls, this 3-Ingredient Berry Cereal, or this Superfood Berry Breakfast Bowl. If your cravings for sweets are getting too strong, try these healthy Cashew Date Cream-Stuffed Strawberries. Topped with blueberries, they’re the perfect dessert that will satisfy your hormonal sweet tooth!
2. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are good to keep at hand whenever a salt craving hits. These tiny seeds are delicious and pack a ton of nutritional benefits that will help you alleviate PMS symptoms. They’re rich in vitamin E, B-vitamins, copper, selenium, and magnesium. Their content in B-vitamins, copper, and magnesium is of special significance when it comes to fighting PMS as a high intake of these micronutrients has been linked with a decreased risk of experiencing PMS. This is likely due to their effect on the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA involved in our hormonal cycles.
You can include sunflower seeds in your diet in many ways but some of our favorites include these Garlicky Zoodles With Sunflower Seeds, this Veggie Pizza With Sunflower Seed Cheese, and these Sunflower Seed ‘Rice’ Nori Wraps, You can also check out these 15 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Sunflower Seeds.
Lentils are one of the cheapest and most nutritious foods out there and it turns out that they are also great for preventing PMS symptoms from occurring. How? Well, pulses such as lentils contain a high amount of vitamin B6 which is a co-factor in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood and appetite regulation. Lentils are also a good source of iron whose consumption is linked with a lowered risk of developing PMS because of its theorized effect on serotonin and GABA in the brain.
Not sure what to do with lentils? Check out these beautiful Quick Curried Lentils With Carrots and Chickpeas, this Moroccan Miso, Lentil, and Pumpkin Soup, this Lentil Loaf With Tomato Glaze, and this Chickpea Spinach Stew With Lentils and Quinoa. You can also make any of these 21 Protein-Packed Vegan Recipes for Lentil Lovers.
4. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are a great addition to make to your diet if you’re suffering from PMS because these tiny seeds are packed with a bunch of hormone balancing nutrients. They are high in omega-3s fatty acids which have been found to alleviate both mental and physical symptoms of PMS such as depression, anxiety, bloating, headaches, and even breast tenderness. They also contain calcium, iron, and B-vitamins. These vitamins and minerals can help reduce the severity of PMS symptoms and possibly prevent them from appearing altogether because they are involved in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters that are at the root of hormonal functions.
Not sure what to do with flax seeds? You can include them in smoothies such as this Chocolate Raspberry Protein Smoothies and this French Toast Smoothie or check out these 5 Creative Ways to Use Flax in Your Breakfast. You can also get in the kitchen and try out these Garlic and Herb Flax Crackers and these Baked Falafel Balls With Flax and Tahini Sauce.
5. Portobello Mushrooms
Did you know that portobello mushrooms are one of the only plant foods containing a significant amount of vitamin D? They are, and for this reason, it’s a good idea to include them in your diet if you’re suffering from PMS. Vitamin D along with calcium has been found to play an important role in reducing PMS symptoms because of their involvement in optimal hormonal processes in our bodies. Aside from stimulating the production of serotonin which plays a role in keeping our hormones balanced, consuming vitamin D is also protective against osteoporosis and certain forms of cancers.
Ready to say goodbye to PMS by enjoying the deliciousness of portobello mushrooms? We suggest trying these Cheese and Tempeh Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, these Portobello Mushroom Steaks, this Pineapple Teriyaki Portobello Burger, and this Mushroom Stroganoff. You also have to check out 20 of Our Meatiest, Beefiest, and Most Savory Mushroom Recipes. You won’t regret it!
Eating spinach and a wide variety of greens is not only essential to good health, it’s paramount if you want to get rid of the unpleasant side effects of unbalanced hormones. Spinach is full of antioxidants which help our body get rid of the inflammation caused by an excess of estrogen in our bodies. It’s also a good source of magnesium, a mineral found to have a relaxing effect that can alleviate anxiety and mood swings associated with PMS.
Include spinach in your diet by making this Spinach Salad With Barley Bacon, these Spinach Artichoke Quesadillas, this Artichoke and Spinach Risotto With Lemon Cashew Cream, or this Indian Sweet Potato and Spinach Pie. We also recommend checking out these delicious 20 Recipes So Good No One Will Have to Tell You to Eat Your Spinach!
Avocado is a good source of healthy plant-based fats and as such is a great food to include in your diet to fight PMS. Omega-3s found in avocados are essential to the functioning of our nervous system and reproductive system. Namely, polyunsaturated fatty acids act on pro-inflammatory cytokines (a type of protein secreted by the immune system) to reduce their negative effect on our bodies when it’s close to that time of the month.
Get your healthy fats and balance your hormones with these Cheesy Tempeh Stuffed Avocados, this Spicy Cucumber Avocado Onion Salad, and this Lemon Avocado Chickpea Mash. Check out These 20 Recipes You Won’t Believe Were Made With Avocado for more creative recipe ideas that will help you fight PMS.