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!
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.
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.