The Best and Worst Foods for PMSMonday, March 27, 2017
By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN. Originally published by US News & World Report
If you’re among the 85 percent (or more) of women who has at least one premenstrual syndrome symptom – think acne, fatigue, tender breasts, stomach discomfort, headaches, joint and muscle pain, mood swings and trouble concentrating – each month, you may be in the market for relief. Fortunately, there are foods you can eat – and some you should avoid – to help alleviate some of the symptoms. Among them:
1. Best Food: Chickpeas
Research has found that women who have PMS also tend to have lower zinc levels. The findings could be related to the fact this mineral helps control sex hormones. Chickpeas can help keep your levels high, since 1 cup of cooked chickpeas contains 17 percent of the daily recommended amount of zinc. Add chickpeas to salads, soups or rice dishes, or blend them into hummus.
2. Worst Food: Alcohol
Tossing a few back right before your period can increase the breast tenderness associated with PMS and lower blood sugar levels, which can make mood swings even worse for women who experience them. If you do choose to consume alcohol one to two weeks before you get your period (aka prime PMS time), then do so in moderation. According to the 2015 dietary guidelines, moderation for women is defined as a maximum of one drink per day. One drink is 12 fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof liquor (like rum or vodka).
3. Best Food: Greek Yogurt
Yes, I wrote a book on Greek yogurt, but for good reason. This delicious, creamy dairy food is a good source of calcium, a nutrient that seems to fight against PMS symptoms. A study conducted at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, for instance, found that women who ate the highest amount of calcium (about 1,200 milligrams per day) were 30 percent less likely to develop PMS than women who ate less than half that amount (530 milligrams per day). One single-serve cup (5.3 ounces) of plain nonfat Greek yogurt provides 15 percent of the daily recommended amount of calcium (150 milligrams), so eat up!
5. Best Food: Salmon
The same study conducted at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that women who consumed more vitamin D from food had lower levels of PMS symptoms, similar to the women who ate a high-calcium diet. Four ounces of cooked salmon contains 511 international units of vitamin D, which is 128 percent the recommended daily amount.
6. Worst Food: Coffee
Have a coffee addiction? You may want to consider switching to decaf or choosing herbal tea prior to your period, since caffeine can lead to increased breast tenderness and even more irritability. Chamomile tea has been shown to help relieve muscle cramping and may help reduce irritability and anxiety.
7. Best Food: Turkey
Some studies have found that vitamin B6 can help fight symptoms of PMS, including irritability, depression and breast tenderness. Although experts often recommend B6 supplements, why not get the vitamin through food? Three ounces of cooked turkey provides 0.69 milligrams, which is 41 percent of the daily recommended dose.
8. Worst Food: Added Sugar
During PMS, you may be craving sweet foods, including those with loads of added sugar. Why? It may be because shifting hormone levels can lead to a decrease in the feel-good brain chemical serotonin and increase the craving for sweets. But it’s best to fight the cravings, since downing uncontrolled amounts of sugary foods may intensify symptoms and lead to unwanted weight gain.
9. Best Food: Spinach
Another nutrient found to be lacking in women with PMS is magnesium. One study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, for example, found that women with PMS who took magnesium supplements reported being in a better mood than women who did not. I’m all about food first, and spinach is one of the top sources of magnesium: A half cup of cooked spinach provides 19 percent of the daily recommended amount.
Living a healthy lifestyle can also help ease the symptoms of PMS. This includes:
- Getting enough (about eight hours) of sleep each night.
- Coping with stress by talking with friends, doing yoga or relaxation therapy, or seeing a therapist who can help you cope with stress.
- Exercising regularly; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity like brisk walking each week, as well as doing strength exercises two days a week. If you up the intensity, you can dedicate less time to aerobic exercise.